Better, Faster, Cheaper

Public Higher Ed’s In-State/Out-of-State Dilemma

There is no greater driver of economic opportunity than education, and public colleges and universities are a symbol of that opportunity. They educate nearly three quarters of America's more than 20 million college students at a fraction of the cost of many private universities, providing access to higher education for many who couldn't otherwise afford it and easing the often crushing burden of student-loan debt.

But public higher education is not immune to either competitive pressures or basic laws of economics, and these two forces, driven in part by declining state financial support, can combine to conflict with the core mission of providing in-state students with affordable, high-quality higher education. As it gets harder for students to get into one of the state institutions their parents' tax dollars support, those taxpayers and their elected representatives are noticing, and they don't like what they see. READ MORE

Social Media's Place in Data-Smart Governance

Cities can produce great value from social media, but only if they start talking a little bit less about themselves and start listening more to their residents. It's become common for public officials and city agencies to have active Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even Snapchat accounts through which they broadcast information and gather feedback. But municipal use of social data shouldn't be limited to a communications team telling voters about city hall's daily accomplishments.

Good listening can take the shape of encouraged feedback, but it can also work on a more ambient level. In urban areas, geo-tagged posts across a variety of platforms form dense clusters of valuable information. Much of it is noise, but location-based social media data presents an opportunity. It can be developed into predictive models that enable decision support and should be a vital part of any data-smart government's analytics toolkit.  READ MORE

What More Funding Can and Can’t Do

Schools and public pension systems don't have much in common. But as Detroit's public schools teeter on the edge of bankruptcy, it's clear that at least one rule applies to both: Problems that aren't addressed in a timely manner grow exponentially worse.

Illinois is the poster child on the pension side. Even though it was clear not long after World War II that the state's pension system wasn't sustainable, it was not until 2013 that elected officials passed a reform plan. But in 2015 the state Supreme Court unanimously struck down the desperate solutions that had been enacted by the legislature and governor, ruling that they violated the state's constitution. READ MORE

The Budget-Cutting Tool Every State Should Have Handy

The recovery from the Great Recession has largely been a half-hearted one, and few see the economy improving dramatically in the near future. These realities present challenges for state and local governments that will likely require a range of responses, but giving governors the line-item veto should be seen as low-hanging fruit for the six states that don't have it.

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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