Publications

2020

CompStat: New York, NY – 1996 Innovations Winner

This abridgement is based on the case ”Assertive Policing, Plummeting Crime: The NYPD Takes on Crime in New York City” (1530.0). The abridgement of the case divides the story of the change in the New York Police Department into three, roughly chronological parts – the diagnosis of the crime and organizational problems, the development of a new system of practices and incentives and a description of the variety of impacts which the new ”assertive policing” regime appeared to have. The three parts (1557.3, 1558.3, 1559.3) and Epilogue (1557.1) can be used individually or together. They should not be used along with the full case and sequel (1530.0, 1530.1) but should, instead, be considered a substitute approach.

Competition and Costing: Indianapolis, IN – 1995 Innovations Winner

During his successful 1991 bid for the indianapolis mayoralty, Stephen Goldsmith is clear about his preference for privatizing city services. Once in office, however, Goldsmith decides on a different, more complex approach. The inefficiency of publicly-provided services, he reflects, may not be the result of their being public but rather a reflection of the lack of competition over who will provide them. In that light, Goldsmith undertakes a bold experiment: to force city departments to bid against private providers. This case focuses on the first stages of the Goldsmith experiment, a time in which city public works crews must, for the first time, compete against private firms for a pothole repair contract. The case raises core questions as to how to structure public-private competitions to ensure that valid comparison will be possible, as well as how to determine the exact nature of public costs. In addition, it allows for discussion of more theoretical questions as to whether some functions must always be public, while others should be private and still others privately-provided but publicly-financed.

Maine Top 200 Experimental Targeting Program: U.S. Department of Labor – 1995 Innovations Winner

The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, created by Congress in 1970 to curtail what was viewed as a still-alarming level of industrial accidents, had, 20 years later, become a lightning rod for controversy. Its advocates viewed it as a bulwark of the defense of sale working conditions but opponents portrayed it as abusively intrusive, creating bureaucratic nightmares for employers. With that backdrop – and with dwindling manpower and other resources – OSHA officials in Maine, in 1991, try a radically different approach to their task, targeting 200 businesses which data has told them are the state’s most important to bring into compliance. OSHA hopes both to avoid diluting the inspection capacity it has – and to find ways to persuade, rather than to coerce through the law, business to make improvements. The apparent success of the Maine 200 program comes at a time when the new Clinton Administration is eager to find such government ”reinvention” programs it can widely replicate. This case allows, first, for analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the Maine 200 effort as an example of gaining compliance through a new form of enforcement, and, second, for discussion of the complications, and advisability, of taking a small program ”to scale.”

Maine Top 200 Experimental Targeting Program: U.S. Department of Labor – 1995 Innovations Winner

The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, created by Congress in 1970 to curtail what was viewed as a still-alarming level of industrial accidents, had, 20 years later, become a lightning rod for controversy. Its advocates viewed it as a bulwark of the defense of sale working conditions but opponents portrayed it as abusively intrusive, creating bureaucratic nightmares for employers. With that backdrop – and with dwindling manpower and other resources – OSHA officials in Maine, in 1991, try a radically different approach to their task, targeting 200 businesses which data has told them are the state’s most important to bring into compliance. OSHA hopes both to avoid diluting the inspection capacity it has – and to find ways to persuade, rather than to coerce through the law, business to make improvements. The apparent success of the Maine 200 program comes at a time when the new Clinton Administration is eager to find such government ”reinvention” programs it can widely replicate. This case allows, first, for analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the Maine 200 effort as an example of gaining compliance through a new form of enforcement, and, second, for discussion of the complications, and advisability, of taking a small program ”to scale.”

Early Warning Program: U.S. Department of the Treasury – 1995 Innovations Winner

In this case, the federal entity responsible for both safeguarding and insuring the private pension systems of the United States (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation) must deal with one of the nation’s largest and arguably most troubled corporate pension systems – that of the General Motors Corporation. When GM proposes to sell off its Electronic Data Systems subsidiary, regulators at PBGC face a decision. Should they permit the deal to go forward if GM does not address an estimated $20 billion unfunded pension liability? In considering the question, PBGC must decide the extent, and potential justification, for demonstrating regulatory flexibility. Insisting on the letter of the law might scotch a deal which could lead to a significant contribution to GM’s pension liability. Too great a leniency, however – for instance, by allowing the value of GM’s own stock to be applied against pension liability – might jeopardize the interests of thousands of retired auto workers. The case is meant both to raise the issue of public sector negotiations flexibility and to facilitate discussion of the dynamics of public-private negotiations.

Info/California: California – 1993 Innovations Winner

The growth of the kind of new interactive technologies promise to make it more convenient and less expensive for government, like private providers of consumer goods and services, to serve its customers – whether they seek a driver’s license or unemployment compensation. Incorporating such technologies implies change, however, and, as this case makes clear, requires decisions about when and how automated transactions should be the norm. The story of the Info/California decision focuses on competing visions of a new, interactive system which promises to allow Californians to obtain records, licenses and program information of all sorts. For its champion within state government, it makes most sense for a scarce number of interactive terminals to be placed in public areas – supermarkets, malls and the like. He must, however, face a demand by a state agency that a terminal be used to make up for laid-off employees in a place where the public has been accustomed to going for records and licenses. Developed for the Kennedy School’s Program on Strategic Computing, this case allows for discussion of the relationship between mission and technology.

Environmental Cleanup Program: Wichita, KS – 1992 Innovations Winner

Long-undetected groundwater contamination, discovered in 1990, by the Kansas Department of Health and Environmental Protection, has a potentially catastrophic economic impact on downtown Wichita, Kansas. The four-mile long, one-and-a-half-mile wide site centered at the corners of Gilbert and Mosley Streets lies in the heart of Wichita’s central business district. Although it did not provoke health concerns, the newly discovered contamination prompted lenders to cease making any financial commitments in the district. This case focuses on the strategic approach to this crisis taken by Wichita's city manager. Initially faced with two bad alternatives – forcing hundreds of businesses to share in the clean-up cost, or face designation of the area as a federal Superfund site, portending perhaps a decade of legal wrangling – Wichita creates a more palatable way out of the crisis. The case can be useful both for discussions of constituency-building and political strategy, and for discussions of U.S. federalism.

Community Voice Mail: Seattle, WA – 1993 Innovations Winner

The staff of a Seattle non-profit employment and training agency come to a sudden realization in late 1990: the homeless with whom they deal are handicapped not only by a lack of a permanent residence but their lack of a phone. They lack the means to receive calls, schedule interviews and, ultimately, obtain employment. The insight leads the Seattle Worker Center to seek state and, over time, private funds which permit it to set up a successful “community voice mail“ system, through which the “phoneless“ can store and send messages. The case is designed for students of social policy and allows for examination of those factors which led outside funders and, ultimately, the community at large, to embrace the voice mail idea. Additional description of an attempt to replicate the program in Minnesota portrays a less immediately hospitable situation which a non-profit leader must negotiate.

Washington State Workers’ Compensation: Washington – 1992 Innovations Winner

Like many such systems, the Washington State Workers’ Compensation Administration was, in the mid 1980s, in deep financial distress. Worse still, its fiscal problems were matched by deep problems of efficiency and morale, particularly in its crucial Claims Administration Unit, which called into question the agency’s ability to put its house in order. Under intense public and political pressure, a new team of administrators buys time through stopgap financial steps, before turning to the daunting task of internal structural reform, focused on the claims unit. The case provides rich detail of both the political and production operation issues which administrators confronted, including its strategy of breaking a claims log-jam by terminating a long-established ”assembly-line” claims process. Adopted in its place is a new structure which encouraged employees to take holistic responsibility for compensation claims and worker rehabilitation. The case raises the complications of worker morale, union relations and political and business pressures with which administrators coped, knowing that the possibility of privatization was a real alternative. They struggled both to put the department on its feet and to demonstrate a raison d’etre for a public system. Ultimately, their efforts were recognized by an Innovations in American Government program award.

Environmental Cleanup Program: Wichita, KS – 1992 Innovations Winner

Long-undetected groundwater contamination, discovered in 1990, by the Kansas Department of Health and Environmental Protection, has a potentially catastrophic economic impact on downtown Wichita, Kansas. The four-mile long, one-and-a-half-mile wide site centered at the corners of Gilbert and Mosley Streets lies in the heart of Wichita’s central business district. Although it did not provoke health concerns, the newly discovered contamination prompted lenders to cease making any financial commitments in the district. This case focuses on the strategic approach to this crisis taken by Wichita's city manager. Initially faced with two bad alternatives – forcing hundreds of businesses to share in the clean-up cost, or face designation of the area as a federal Superfund site, portending perhaps a decade of legal wrangling – Wichita creates a more palatable way out of the crisis. The case can be useful both for discussions of constituency-building and political strategy, and for discussions of U.S. federalism.

Friends of the Family, Inc.: Maryland – 1991 Innovations Winner

It has become standard practice for major social service agencies to contract with non-profit organizations to deliver tax-supported services. In Maryland, however, the state Department of Human Resources went a step further. It believed in the need for a program, statewide, to provide support for low-income parents with children under three. To get such programs going, however, the Department turned to a non-profit group both to establish ”family support centers” and administer grants directed to them. This case allows for discussion of the appropriate role of government and the non-profit sector in administering and delivering human service programs.

Xport, The Port Authority Trading Company: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – 1990 Innovations Winner

This case takes its place in the ongoing debate over privatization: which functions are best performed by the public sector, which should be reserved to private enterprise? In this instance, a newly-appointed executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey must decide whether or not to continue a fledgling ”public sector trading company” – a program designed to nurture small business exports by identifying overseas customers and acting as middleman in the transaction – all for a fee. Early sales figures are disappointing; organized private opposition has surfaced in the state legislature. But a strong-willed program director is convinced that small exporters are not served by private trading firms and that increasing the volume of small exports will help keep the Port Authority’s facilities busy.

Electronic Benefit System: Ramsey County, MN – 1990 Innovations Winner

When banks in Ramsey County (Saint Paul), Minnesota decide to stop cashing welfare checks, the county faces a crisis. It must continue to provide a way for welfare recipients to receive their benefits. Yet it has exhausted the standard means of doing so. This Innovations in State and Local Government case follows the course of Ramsey County’s decision to adopt a radically different benefits delivery system – the use of an ATM (automatic teller machine) card which will allow welfare recipients to draw down their account at a variety of locations, at their own convenience. Officials in the Community Human Services Department gain acceptance of this idea, however, not because of its innovative quality but because they convince county officials it will provide the service at no increase in cost. This case provides a vehicle for discussion of the nature of public sector innovation and the forces that drive or constrain it. It raises the following question, as well: At a time when information technologies are making everything from mail orders to credit card replacement ”user friendly,” will government find ways to adapt these technologies to aid in delivering its services?

Family Learning Center: Ingham County, MI – 1988 Innovations Winner

During the 1978-79 school year, the state of Michigan turned down Jean Ekins’ application for model-site designation of her Leslie, Michigan Family Learning Center. Ekins had started the program four years earlier within the Leslie public school system to provide an appropriate high school setting for teen-aged parents. Designation carried a $60,000 grant, about twice the center's current annual budget. Ekins believed the money as well as the designation would have lent legitimacy to the center's existence, which the conservative community of Leslie frequently questioned on practical and moral grounds. At the time of Ekins’ application, the center provided services to about 20 students, but many more young parents were on the waiting list, denied services because of a lack of funds. It had become clear to Ekins that, without more money, the center would remain a small, relatively ineffective weapon in the fight to provide educational services to Leslie-area school-aged parents. The case describes Ekins’ efforts to establish the program and focuses on the issues confronting the administrator of a small, financially strapped program on the frontiers of service delivery. The case also addresses the question of how best to expand a successful but limited program: how to gauge degrees of support and opposition; how to balance demands for resources; and where and how to look for potential allies.

Single Room Occupancy Resident Hotel Program: San Diego, CA – 1988 Innovations Winner

When the destruction or conversion of single-room occupancy hotels, or SROs, in San Diego’s downtown seemed to lead to an increase in homelessness, a private real estate developer argued that he could build profitable new SROs if the city would waive or modify key safety and construction standards. In the ensuing debate over the first such SRO, the Baltic Inn, core public housing issues came to the fore: whether regulation was effective and equitable, whether deregulation would serve the poor, and what minimum quality of life society should demand for even the poorest housing consumers. For a different treatment of this issue, see Housing’s Bottom Rung: Single Room Occupancy Hotels in San Diego (C18-95-1293.0 and 1294.0). Housing’s Bottom Rung, the abridged version of Building the Baltic (C16-89-928.0), leaves the dilemma of how best to solve the city’s housing problems to students, rather than describing the route which San Diego actually pursued, as is done in the original case. It describes the decline in single room occupancy hotels for poor single people and early proposals for a preservation ordinance to halt their demolition. The use of the A case first in class, followed by the handout of B, is meant to prompt the realization that careful and imaginative policy analysis can lead in politically unanticipated directions.

Computer Assisted Report Entry: St Louis, MO – 1988 Innovations Winner

This case examines a specific technological innovation and tracks its effect on the procedures of an organization. The Computer Assisted Report Entry (CARE) system adopted by the St. Louis County Police Department is designed to replace what is viewed as a cumbersome, if vital, procedure: the filing of written reports by individual police officers involved in responses to calls and in arrests. CARE replaces what the department believes to be an inefficient system of written reports with a system of telephone reporting. Although viewed positively in the text, the case also invites scrutiny of the long-term, perhaps unforeseen, consequences of such a technological change.

One Church/One Child Minority Adoption Campaign: Illinois – 1986 Innovations Winner

In 1980, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services faced a crisis. Over 700 black children in cook County, including 69 infants, waited for adoption while the agency was unable to find black parents. Director Gregory L. Color, with his deputy gordon Johnson, approached Father George Clements, a black activist Chicago priest in the Baptist community. From those meetings came One Church, One Child, a plan to use pastors of the black churches as spokesmen to reach the community. Coler and Johnson faced several hurdles as they asked a private religious institution to help solve a public agency’s problem. They had to change negative attitudes both in the black community; which had grown to distrust the state agency, and among a staff suspicious of change who would implement the black adoption program. They had to revamp state laws that inhibited the adoption process. And they had to change bureaucratic procedures that had proven ineffective. The accompanying video exhibit brings to life the successful strategy of the One Church, One Child program, focusing on a presentation in a black church designed to encourage adoptions. In addition, the video includes retrospective comments from the program's administrators and vignettes of families who have adopted children as a result of the program. This case will challenge students to examine the assumptions that limit bureaucracies. Available in Spanish translation.

2019

William H. Overholt, December 2019

This is an extensively edited, updated and expanded text of a lecture given for the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School on October 31, 2019. From the origination of “one country, two systems” in 1979 to today, this paper analyzes the history of the unique relationship between Hong Kong, Beijing, and the world.

Legitimacy: The Right to Rule in a Wanton World
Applbaum, Arthur Isak. 2019. Legitimacy: The Right to Rule in a Wanton World. Harvard University Press. Visit Publisher's Site Abstract

Arthur Applbaum, Harvard University Press, November 2019 

What makes a government legitimate? The dominant view is that public officials have the right to rule us, even if they are unfair or unfit, as long as they gain power through procedures traceable to the consent of the governed. In this rigorous and timely study, Arthur Isak Applbaum argues that adherence to procedure is not enough: even a properly chosen government does not rule legitimately if it fails to protect basic rights, to treat its citizens as political equals, or to act coherently.

Richard Pope, November 2019

Looking around the world, we can see a different approach to digital government. One of cross-government platforms that are beginning to break down organizational silos, save money and change the types of services that can be delivered to the public. This playbook is written for practitioners, from public sector product managers to chief digital officers, looking for approaches to implementing platforms in government. 

Pages