September 19, 2017
In transforming its public-education structure and bureaucracy, Indianapolis is showing that there is more than one route to excellence.
September 13, 2017
Santa Monica is convinced that it can and should. It's putting a lot of effort into aligning services around that goal.
September 7, 2017
Successful efficiency efforts have several important things in common, as three case studies illustrate.
August 22, 2017
Redesigning a government website should be about more than attractiveness and easy navigation. It's a chance to reengineer underlying processes.
July 18, 2017
A top-down view of transportation is important, but it's crucial to focus on the needs of individuals and underserved communities.
June 20, 2017
Old models for managing urban transportation are insufficient. New options demand that we think in terms of mobility.
May 16, 2017
Behaviorally informed interventions can improve outcomes. Louisville's approach shows the wisdom of starting small.
April 18, 2017
Forget spreadsheets. Visualization is what residents need to be able to drive action on issues.
April 3, 2017
St. Louis is looking at a public-private partnership. If the issues are properly addressed, it's an idea well worth considering.
March 28, 2017
A new initiative aims to identify and codify approaches that make cities more effective.
March 21, 2017
Governments looking for ways to improve efficiency now have access to a rich trove of good ideas and best practices.
March 6, 2017
There are some key questions a city should ask itself before moving forward.
February 22, 2017
Public agencies keep finding creative ways to leverage its power for service delivery.
January 24, 2017
New analytical tools are allowing policymakers to focus on community wellness, not just on treating sickness.
December 23, 2016
There's a lot of capital out there waiting to be deployed, but outdated regulations are standing in the way.
December 21, 2016
We've just begun to tap the potential. What does 2017 have in store?
December 5, 2016
South Bend is leveraging its higher-education assets and better use of data to begin turning things around.
November 16, 2016
As one successful experiment has shown, giving educators the discretion to perform is key.
October 19, 2016
A focus on making data accessible across the enterprise is the basis for organizational wisdom.
September 21, 2016
It enables more efficient and effective government. The obstacles are often more rooted in folklore than in law.
September 2, 2016
Diverting low-level, nonviolent offenders into treatment saves millions of dollars and makes our streets safer.
August 17, 2016
Colorado's robust system for tracking the drug and its effects provides a glimpse of a better system of controls.
August 10, 2016
Mississippi's capital is showing that you don't have to be a Chicago or a New York to make good things happen.
July 20, 2016
Encouraging informed disagreement is the only way a public leader can learn whether an initiative might -- or might not -- succeed.
June 22, 2016
By using data analytics to make decisions about pretrial detention, local governments could find substantial savings while making their communities safer.
May 26, 2016
Philadelphia's former mayor explains the steps his city took to make effective use of data and bring it to bear on performance.
May 18, 2016
Cities are learning to mine this trove of information to predict the impact of future events and significantly improve operations.
April 20, 2016
Indianapolis' longtime mayor worked hard at crafting a big idea for his city, and it paid off handsomely.
April 7, 2016
A project in Philadelphia used a streamlined approach to procurement to get quick results.
March 16, 2016
The city is at the forefront of the emerging concept of mobility management.
February 17, 2016
St. Paul took an unusual path to improving a vital public service, one that holds promise for other city operations.
January 20, 2016
The technology that UPS uses to optimize its routes and achieve big savings shows how powerful data analytics could be across the public sector.
December 21, 2015
Bloomberg Philanthropies is providing a useful roadmap for results-oriented governance.
December 16, 2015
From parking meters to freeway lighting, governments are finding new ways to turn infrastructure liabilities into assets and improve services.
December 4, 2015
Houston's mayor has set the pace for leveraging data-driven management to improve city-government efficiency.
November 18, 2015
Nashville's former mayor led his city as a single, networked entity. His approach is paying off.
October 21, 2015
Providence's new mayor has taken an innovative program for preschoolers launched by his predecessor and expanded it.
September 16, 2015
What began as a niche innovation is creating a wider transformation of government culture.
August 19, 2015
Empowered consumers and data analytics are driving cities to re-think how they protect health and safety.
August 18, 2015
Far more than the public realizes, innovators are making extraordinary efforts in communities across America.
July 22, 2015
The people who deliver services directly to the public know a lot. Denver is setting the pace for tapping that resource.
June 17, 2015
Aiming to get more people into housing faster, the city is breaking down a lot of barriers.
May 20, 2015
A pilot program that brought efficiency to restaurant inspections has broad potential for public health and safety.
April 23, 2015
A new Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative aims to help 100 cities govern more effectively.
April 22, 2015
Directing a city-government "i-team" demands distinctive traits that are unique to the process.
March 18, 2015
Early signs are positive for the latest crop of big infrastructure public-private partnerships.
February 18, 2015
The investment tool is catching on as a better, safer way to invest scarce public resources.
January 21, 2015
Modern metering systems can save money and make water management more efficient. Local officials are finding ways to overcome obstacles to putting them in place.
December 17, 2014
To get a P3 proposal to the finish line, public officials need to keep some important principles in mind.
December 16, 2014
Another 14 cities are about to build their own "i-teams." No longer an experimental approach, it's a proven route to cross-cutting accomplishments.
November 19, 2014
The Oregon city is using a special fund to spark new thinking in its agencies while minimizing financial risk.
October 22, 2014
Mayor Mitch Landrieu has achieved remarkable results quickly with a systemic approach that relies on the effective use of data.
September 17, 2014
Today's most innovative civic leaders are using technology to fulfill the promise of efficient and responsive local government.
August 27, 2014
A new book provides a comprehensive picture of the performance-management practice that has taken the public sector by storm.
August 20, 2014
New tools that make it easy to find and view government financial data are enabling big gains in efficiency and transparency.
July 23, 2014
By investing in customer service and innovation, D.C. Water has done far more than simply rebrand an essential public service.
June 18, 2014
By making all of its data easily and quickly available across agencies, the state stands to save money and improve services.
May 21, 2014
Rather than just building more and bigger pipes, Columbus is taking a greener, more holistic approach.
April 16, 2014
The city's new urban agriculture initiative aims to revitalize distressed neighborhoods with new economic activity.
March 19, 2014
There are many lessons for public leaders in how a New York City park was brought back from chaos.
February 19, 2014
Government-sponsored challenge competitions save money and harness the public's ingenuity to solve difficult problems.
January 22, 2014
The city is using a variety of innovative approaches to leverage the tech sector and diversify a government-dependent economy.
December 18, 2013
The botched rollout of the federal health exchange underlines the need for changes in how governments at all levels handle major technology projects.
November 20, 2013
With a major effort to coordinate the needs of city departments, private utilities and residents, the city is tearing up its roadways less and saving a lot of money.
October 16, 2013
Big data presents not only challenges but also the potential to radically improve what governments do. The need for a point person to manage that information and build strategies for using it is clear.
September 18, 2013
Combining data with new analytics techniques can help governments react nimbly and purposefully. It's hard work, but the potential payoff is worth it.
August 21, 2013
These customer-service systems are evolving into far more than a way to get a pothole filled or graffiti cleaned up.
July 24, 2013
Roads and bridges and utilities should be financed, built and managed as the assets they are.
July 3, 2013
Some cities are finding ways to create the urgency and political will to produce permanent pipelines of innovation.
June 19, 2013
Louisville, Ky., is showing how a performance metrics initiative can transform a government's operational culture.
May 22, 2013
The ever-growing volume of information created and captured by the modern digitized world is an opportunity for government to reinvent itself.
May 1, 2013
Many of the top entrants for Innovations Awards demonstrate that technology applied creatively can shift governments from reactive service delivery to prescriptive solutions.
April 17, 2013
It took just a year for Indiana officials to put together a major public-private bridge project. How did they do it?
March 20, 2013
Small savings can add up to real money--and better services.
March 5, 2013
To realize the most long-term value, governments must take a sensible approach to asset management.
February 20, 2013
All government debt is not the same. Pension debt starves government of the people and tools it needs, but creative borrowing for infrastructure can save more money than it costs.
January 23, 2013
Washington, D.C., is pioneering a system that takes performance and accountability to a new level.
December 20, 2012
The FAA is working to transform the nation's air transportation system in dramatic ways, deploying new technology collaboratively with an array of stakeholders.
December 19, 2012
To Mayor Sly James, the first-in-the-nation Google Fiber project is about a lot more than blazing-fast broadband.
November 21, 2012
Innovative public officials and utility managers are finding cost-effective ways to fix our aging water systems and save billions of dollars in the process.
November 16, 2012
Smart meters are playing a crucial role in speeding the recovery from Hurricane Sandy. They have the potential to do much more.
November 5, 2012
Building on a successful tax break for Twitter, San Francisco's mayor is asking voters to change the way the city taxes businesses that create jobs.
October 17, 2012
Traditional approaches reward activities, not results. Some innovative new approaches aim to turn that around through creative financing.
September 19, 2012
Is the path to excellence paved by continuous improvement, transformation or both?
September 12, 2012
The mayor's chief of staff describes how the city's aggressive pursuit of citizen-friendly tools aims to increase civic participation.
September 6, 2012
Boston's Tom Menino may be an "urban mechanic," but he's taking that concept to new and exciting levels.
August 27, 2012
Value engineering can reduce the costs of capital projects. But it also can save money over the long haul.
August 22, 2012
In dealing with its combined-sewer-overflow problem, Philly is demonstrating a better approach to big infrastructure projects.
July 18, 2012
Enforcing laws and regulations to collect fines isn’t just good for the bottom line. It’s fairer to honest citizens and businesses.
July 16, 2012
San Diego’s mayor explains how financial catastrophe provided the seeds for major structural changes that the city needed to continue providing services.
June 27, 2012
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed explains what led up to voters’ approval of major changes to the city’s retirement system.
June 20, 2012
What happened in San Diego and San Jose is likely to reverberate across the country. And it isn't all bad news for the public workforce.
May 16, 2012
State and local governments are finding ways to cut spending while improving services. There are signs that the federal government is beginning to take notice.
April 18, 2012
Much has been accomplished with the widespread deployment of these citizen-service systems. In the future, they will do much more.
March 21, 2012
To attract the investment they need, cities need entities that can move both quickly and strategically.
February 22, 2012
Citizen volunteers, properly deployed, can extend government’s reach quickly and effectively.
January 18, 2012
Roy Ash, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, is gone, but his legacy is a profound change in the way we manage our governments.
December 12, 2011
Tough times create an appetite for change. Nowhere has that been more true than in government this year.
November 16, 2011
There is no shortage of innovative programs that can go a long way towards maintaining public confidence in our public institutions.
October 19, 2011
As Washington argues about a federal approach to infrastructure, two Midwestern mayors are forging ahead with local solutions that focus strongly on economic development.
September 21, 2011
What if, instead of waiting until problems occur, a city could address them before they happen?
August 17, 2011
Some citizens just want to complain, but a lot them have good ideas for improving their neighborhoods and communities. A new social-media collaboration platform in NYC is helping citizens achieve that.
July 20, 2011
Can dedicated teams deliver new solutions? A new grant program will test the concept in five cities.
June 22, 2011
To increase minority and women contracting, New York City is working to remove obstacles that impede an efficient marketplace for goods and services.
May 18, 2011
Finding a way to redevelop a contaminated site, such as a brownfield, is often the best solution, both environmentally and economically.
April 20, 2011
When public officials fear bad press, it dampens innovation. Here are five principles to help leaders embrace change.
March 16, 2011
Instead of thinking of how they can go green for less, local governments are jumping through expensive state and federal hoops.
February 16, 2011
Actively engaging the crowd, even if it's sometimes rowdy, can actually enhance government's problem-solving ability.
January 19, 2011
Social media is about more than socializing. It is a powerful tool for government to empower and mobilize its citizens.
December 22, 2010
If cities are to see fewer dollars from states in these tough times, then they should see fewer rules too.
November 17, 2010
When work is reduced to a routine, innovative breakthroughs that lead to better, faster, cheaper government become rare.
November 1, 2010
Laws, arbitrary rulings and contracts keep employees locked in an unrewarding work environment.
October 25, 2010
Creating a more efficient government first requires breaking open the internal silos that hamper collaboration and productivity.
October 20, 2010
Is it government's obligation to provide services, or to see that they are provided?
September 22, 2010
Public-sector unions and management mean well, but they often fail to reward those actually doing the work: front-line employees.
August 18, 2010
When public officials seek to totally eliminate risk in the wake of a tragedy, you can be certain they're not thinking about the high cost of no risk.
July 21, 2010
The fiscal crisis demands change. It’s time for a Post-Progressive Era, one predicated on creating public value as efficiently as possible.
June 23, 2010
As the damaged BP oil well continues to spew millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, these four lessons will challenge officials to rethink how risk is mitigated and regulated.
June 15, 2010
A professional, independent municipal CFO can be a strong protector of taxpayer interest. At the same time, they can also be a source of sand in the gears of government.
June 7, 2010
Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson has created COOL, an innovative retail-focused economic development program.
May 20, 2010
Implementing a long-term strategy to address a major problem like crime or illiteracy is a difficult and risky proposition for a mayor.
May 19, 2010
Public officials need to strike the right balance between dealing with the daily emergencies and leading structural improvements in how government delivers essential services.
May 11, 2010
As elected officials contemplate a “new normal” where financial needs and wants will substantially outstrip financial resources for years, it’s worth asking how public executives should organize their administrations to address this systemic challenge.
May 7, 2010
To survive these challenging times, leaders must embrace a relentless commitment to better, faster and cheaper government.
May 1, 2010
The stress on public budgets is real. When public officials say there's nothing left to cut, they really mean it. Truth is, there aren't a...
April 21, 2010
They call it "Opportunity NYC" and it was controversial from the start. New York City sought to incent poor people to improve their behavior by...
April 18, 2010
You've probably seen the scary projections of the latest White House budget that highlight the imbalance between Washington's policy promises and its capacity to pay...
APPLICATIONS ARE DUE APRIL 7, 2010
Wednesday is the deadline to submit a program or nominate an initiative for the Innovations in American Government Award .
March 30, 2010
John O'Leary on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" talks about his recent Washington Post piece, "Can the U.S. Still Tackle Big Problems? Lessons from the Health...
March 24, 2010
This interesting article in the Washington Post by Bill Eggers and John O'Leary lays out some of the challenges associated with getting big things done...
March 23, 2010
For mayors across the country a single budget item threatens their cities' capacity to maintain parks, keep the streets safe, pick up the trash and...
March 17, 2010
Three simple tools are revolutionizing the delivery of city services. The phone, the camera and the GPS, now generally contained in the same device, are...
March 9, 2010
As I write this column I am listening to my iPod and typing on my new Dell computer. Both of these products impressed me from...
February 19, 2010
The recently released federal budget has shed a harsh spotlight on government's tendency to spend today while leaving the bill for our children to pay....
February 11, 2010
February 16, 2010: 3 - 5 pm (EST)
Despite decades of work and billions of dollars, millions of American families remain stuck in a cycle of poverty--often exacerbated by...
February 9, 2010
You may have heard President Obama speak about the need for a new approach to community problem solving, or heard that he's created a White...
February 8, 2010
For decades, public officials viewed voters either as passive recipients of government largesse or as active advocates for special treatment. Getting reelected generally meant launching...
January 25, 2010
You've probably seen the ads touting the notion of "building a smarter city." There is little doubt that the technology revolution around Gov 2.0 holds enormous...
January 24, 2010
The use of 311 systems by municipalities to intelligently respond to citizen inquiries is no longer cutting edge, but neither is its use universal. A column...
Critics call Chicago's privatization of parking meters an epic failure, but could it be it's an epic success?
January 20, 2010
It should have been a relatively straightforward public-private partnership. In exchange for a lump sum, the city of Chicago would turn over the operation and...
January 19, 2010
Over the last five years no city in the United States has more experience in large infrastructure public private partnerships than Chicago, including major deals...
January 13, 2010
I've put together a list of some of my favorite resources and reading materials for those interested in transforming government. Based in part on courses...
January 13, 2010
State and local governments have faced big budget gaps before. Typically, things get tight for a while, then the economy perks up, tax revenues recover,...
January 6, 2010
There is no magic formula for public sector innovation, but there are tools and techniques that can help governments find ways to do things better,...
January 3, 2010
In the good old days, economic slumps were followed by recoveries. To survive lean times, governments tightened their belts, maybe raised some taxes, and life...
December 20, 2009
We've seen what happens when risk isn't accounted for properly. The mortage meltdown has prompted government to address enterprise risk in a more systematic way....
December 16, 2009
Just weeks ago, career criminal Maurice Clemmons walked into a Lakewood, Washington, coffee shop and gunned down four police officers. Although this particular crime could...
December 6, 2009
In a market economy, prices communicate information, helping to shift resources to more efficient uses. Government can take advantage of this through a shared services...
December 2, 2009
Given the day-to-day demands of political leadership, it is hard to focus on innovation. In his article, John O'Leary highlights how the city of Detroit...
November 23, 2009
How can different levels of government and a variety of public agencies work together effectively? That's a challenge with implications for crime, health, and a...
November 18, 2009
In my article below, I look at the recent decision by Indiana to cancel a major contract with IBM. The problem wasn't the shift from...
November 18, 2009
When Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels took office, he inherited a social services department that had distinguished itself only in bad ways. The state's Family and...
November 17, 2009
William D. Eggers and our own John O'Leary have just come out with a new book looking at how government handles large undertakings. "If We...
November 11, 2009
Veterans Day provides an opportunity to consider ways to serve those who have served their country.
Two newly announced federal initiatives can produce opportunities for...
November 5, 2009
News stories from many national reporters suggest the 2009 elections amount to a statement about the Obama presidency. Maybe, but in mayor and governor races local...
November 4, 2009
In Atlanta and Houston, mayoral races failed to produce a candidate with a majority, meaning both cities will have to conduct costly "runoff" elections between...
October 21, 2009
If you outsourced your angels, would more of them dance on the head of a pin?
It's a nonsense question, of course. Here's another: What...
October 20, 2009
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick recently announced plans to lay off up to 2,000 state workers, as the Bay State joins the growing list of states in...
October 20, 2009
All public managers are aware of the Washington Monument ploy--where the agency faced with a deficit threatens to close an iconic or critical public activity...
October 19, 2009
Jonathan Walters of Governing magazine has been writing about state and local innovation for more than 20 years. He recently sat down with John O'Leary, executive...
October 15, 2009
A few years ago Harvard Kennedy School recognized the Department of Justice Global HTML project that simply by defining data protocols dramatically improved the ability...
They will produce better outcomes. But building this 'network of networks' will be complicated.
September 29, 2009
The notion of organizing government services around customer needs has been around for a long time--but mostly in the form of a hoped for goal...
September 23, 2009
Last week, Harvard Kennedy School through its Innovations in American Government Awards Program recognized a group of government programs for their contribution to the public...
September 14, 2009
Anyone looking for inspiration would have found it at the Innovations in American Government Awards dinner, held tonight in Washington DC.
I wish I could...
September 14, 2009
Without innovation there is stagnation. While much of the media focus belongs to those public endeavors that belly-flop, the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and...
September 7, 2009
In honor of Labor Day, we are happy to share with readers a column from Andy Stern, the president of the Service Employees International Union....
August 19, 2009
Private companies think about their "value proposition" all the time. What are we doing for our customers that make them happy to pay our price?...
August 9, 2009
Private investors in the Indiana Toll Road have taken a bath. In April, a $2.5 billion deal to lease Chicago's Midway Airport to a private operator...
August 4, 2009
Municipal "311" systems have transformed the way cities hear about problems like broken street lights and car crunching potholes. But a column by Zach Tumin of...
July 29, 2009
Green is good. But right now there isn't enough of the "green stuff" to go around. Which is why the column by Lynn Scarlett is...
July 22, 2009
Atlanta tried a four day work week. The Santa Clara jail now takes reservations--for visitors, not inmates--greatly streamlining the process. New York City is creating...
July 20, 2009
Contrary to stereotypes, governments innovate. Public officials, and the non-profit and for-profit partners they work with, are continuously developing creative approaches to solving difficult challenges....
Government should help social entrepreneurs find creative solutions. The best way to do that is to remove barriers.
June 18, 2009
In January, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger basically refused to give his State of the State Address during his State of the State Address: "It doesn't make...
Anaheim's mayor found a unique way to reap the benefits of competition to improve city services.
Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone has enacted transformative changes in the management of Somerville, Massachusetts, and has done so by championing the importance of cost and efficiency data for all city services to improve accountability and performance.
Too often, political rhetoric overshadows careful analysis.
Can the president-elect's choice to lead HUD teach a tough bureaucracy how to say yes?
Elected officials are often drawn to goals that can be realized within a single election cycle. Committing to a long-term agenda is always challenging, but it is especially critical in the current environment. Last year, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman exhibited his leadership and commitment to long-term solutions when he launched Invest Saint Paul.
A new award will recognize creativity in urban policy.
Indirect leadership is perhaps the most difficult to harness. But it can be done. Atlanta's mayor, Shirley Franklin, effectively used an indirect leadership strategy when she was determined to improve the services of the city's judicial system and eliminate wasteful practices in the organization.
A particularly dynamic mayor often embodies the personality or tone of a city. How much influence a mayor has is critically dependent upon timing and context, though. When a mayor with a strong personality takes over a troubled city with latent assets, the stage is set for a mayor like David Cicilline to produce dramatic reforms.
What is the government role when private schools produce education for the public?
In nearly every state across the country, families are being forced from their homes, and the American dream of homeownership is turning into a nightmare. Well before the current crisis, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino made preserving and creating affordable housing a priority.
Transforming cities into competitive hubs for economic growth is a top priority for our nation's mayors. Yet, the traditional "firm chasing" and incentivizing efforts frequently fall short. This week, I welcome guest authors Ed Glaeser of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Robert Litan of the Kauffman Foundation to address this issue.
Achievements of recent winners of Harvard's Innovations in American Government Award were recognized, in part, because they are readily transferable to other jurisdictions.
Over the coming months, I will spotlight some of the best and brightest ideas generated by our nation's mayors, county executives and other government leaders. We will examine the critical qualities, including leadership, tenacity and creativity, that enabled these leaders to transform government services.
When implementing a "stat" program, writes Stephen Goldsmith, new officials would be well advised to focus on truly big issues with the goal of turning "performance" into public value.
Spearheaded by the mayor, Seattle has successfully reduced government carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption. These achievements, writes Stephen Goldsmith, are the result of a provocative leader.
Infrastructure repair and maintenance typically do not make headlines, which makes the job of seeking investment extremely difficult. Fortunately, there are some promising approaches.
Managers face two major challenges: how to protect their constituent's values and, of course, how to succeed in their policy goals.
The executive branch has a huge responsibility to assure that third-party providers are held accountable.
Just by going to the polls, it is still possible for the general taxpayer to win out over well organized special interests.
Local, state and federal governments all deliver ever-increasing high-quality government services through third-party providers. To be certain, forming and managing these sophisticated, complex alliances is not easy.
Malfeasance finds its way to the press, and the salutary daily acts simply don't.