Better, Faster, Cheaper

Performance Management on the Front Line

There are plenty of theories and models and policies and scorecards for managing performance in government. Measuring the impact of social services is particularly difficult, but with pressure increasing to spend public dollars efficiently, some service providers are figuring out how to accomplish that effectively.

In a new research report for the IBM Center for the Business of Government, Patrick Lester, director of the Social Innovation Research Center, details how Youth Villages, a nonprofit providing child-welfare services in Tennessee, measures and manages frontline performance, and how this ties back to its success in meeting the state's performance-based contracting approach. READ MORE

The Unceasing War Over Teacher Tenure

A new study documenting that Boston teachers earn nearly 30 percent more than their counterparts in cities including Buffalo, Cleveland, Denver, New Haven and Syracuse drew a predictably harsh response from the head of the Boston teachers' union. But the study's most important recommendation didn't make the headlines.

Education Resource Strategies, the Watertown, Mass.-based nonprofit that conducted the study, urged Boston to "prioritize or explore basing compensation increases primarily on [a teacher's] contribution rather than seniority." Judging from challenges to teacher-tenure laws that are making their way through the courts in several states, some people are less concerned with the fact that the average Boston teacher earns $88,564 in annual pay and $18,645 in benefits than with the fact that teacher compensation and job security appear to be largely unrelated to job performance. READ MORE

The Power of Vision in Urban Governance

Mayors make their way into office by inspiring the public to believe that a brighter future is in store. Every mayor wants to be a "visionary leader," but they don't just wake up one morning with a vision. To craft an original and feasible vision for a city -- one that holds the promise of effective, efficient government that builds a city and inspires its populace -- public officials need help.

For this reason, one of the first things that I did when I became mayor of Indianapolis was to spend a day with downtown economic development experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology working on the vision for Indy. Much of that vision had been set by my predecessor, Bill Hudnut, early in his the first of his four terms as mayor, and also with the help of MIT. His vision to make Indianapolis the nation's capital for amateur sports did not form by chance, and was eventually thought to be one of the most transformative in the country. Recently, I asked Hudnut how he came up with the extraordinary ideas he brought to the city, and I was struck by his response. READ MORE

When Government Oversteps the Advocacy Line

Two important lessons jump out from the recent case of a survey produced by the Seattle area's Sound Transit that appears to have violated state law by attempting to gauge what elements of a proposed $50 billion expansion plan voters would approve, rather than just assessing needs. The first is the importance of maintaining a divide between government agencies and advocates. The second is the equally important attribute of taking responsibility for mistakes and acting to correct them.

In March, Sound Transit released a $50 billion draft expansion plan. Public feedback is being gathered this month on the details of the plan, and the transportation agency's board will then determine exactly what will be included in the ballot initiative that will go before Seattle-area voters in November. READ MORE

Engaging Entrepreneurs to Solve Urban Problems

Too often, innovative ideas in the public sector never see the light of day due to regulations and oversight designed for a different era. While procurement regulations are intended to ensure accountability and minimize risk, the process leaves little room for experimentation or creative engagement with entrepreneurs. Philadelphia's FastFWD initiative tackled these challenges directly by opening up new mechanisms for entrepreneurs to co-create solutions with the city.

FastFWD, an initiative of former mayor Michael Nutter's administration, was a winner of the 2012-2013 Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, a competition that encourages cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major problems and improve city life -- and have the potential to spread to other cities. FastFWD used a business accelerator to connect interested entrepreneurs with staff from eight city departments for collaborative thinking and development. The initiative resulted in nine pilot projects, and two full contracts, with positive public-safety impact. READ MORE