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 Innovation tonight announced the winners of the 2009 Innovations in American Government Awards. This year's award winners demonstrate creative approaches to some of our nation's most pressing issues, including economic development, education, mental health, health insurance, government transparency, and water scarcity.

As the Director of the Innovations in American Government Awards, it was my pleasure to recognize these programs and to encourage the dissemination of their innovative practices with public officials around the country. The Innovations Award winners will be featured in an upcoming documentary that will be available on public television showcasing the winners' innovations.

Ash Institute Director Anthony Saich perhaps put it best when he said, "These programs are leading by example. The Ash Institute is delighted to highlight their good work, and help them promote their innovative practices."

The following government programs are 2009 Innovations in American Government Award winners:

· Commonwealth Health Connector Authority - Massachusetts

· Data Feeds: Democratization of Government Data - Washington, D.C.

· Higher Education Initiative - Kingsport, TN

· Mapping Evapotranspiration - Idaho

· New Leaders for New Schools - Chicago Public School District

· Wraparound Milwaukee - Milwaukee County, WI

Chosen from an initial pool of nearly 700 applicants, the 2009 Innovations winners underwent several rounds of rigorous review and on site evaluation. The National Selection Committee chaired by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend made the final decision after reviewing 16 government finalists at a spring forum event at Harvard Kennedy School. Made up of a host of academics, practitioners, and former public officials, the National Selection Committee determines winners based on four criteria: Significance, effectiveness, novelty, and transferability.

The Higher Education Initiative of Kingsport, Tennessee, has revitalized a formerly depressed rustbelt region by improving the academic outcomes of its residents and adapting curricula to meet the workforce needs of the medical technology, healthcare, and information technology industries now moving to the area.

New Leaders for New Schools of the Chicago Public School District shares Kingsport's emphasis on academic achievement. The program recruits and trains high caliber principals to lead historically underserved and underperforming urban schools. The program reports improved proficiency scores and higher high school graduation rates of students.

Much like the New Leaders program, Wraparound Milwaukee addresses the gaps in support to underserved youth. As the country's first government-operated managed care program for emotionally disturbed youth, the program's individualized treatments allow youth to stay at home with their families instead of in arguably ineffective residential institutions.

While Milwaukee's program focuses health care efforts on a select population, the Commonwealth Healthcare Connector Authority of Massachusetts increases access to health insurance for all Massachusetts citizens, a central mandate of the state's health reform law of 2006. The state's innovation is a key focus of the national healthcare debate as the country explores ways to expand access and reduce costs to health care.

Other Innovations winners demonstrate creative uses of technology to encourage government's effectiveness. Idaho's Mapping Evapotranspiration program enhances the understanding of agricultural water usage in the state through the development of satellite technology. This information is integral to settling water demand conflicts and preserving wildlife habitats.

Accurate, real time data is also a cornerstone of the District of Columbia's Data Feeds: Democratization of Government Data . Instead of producing edited, static reports detailing data that is outdated by press time, D.C.'s program is the first government initiative in the country to make virtually all current city government data available in real time, online, and in its raw form. The program reports increased civic awareness and improved government accountability to citizens

Like the Better, Faster, Cheaper web site, the Innovations in American Government Awards Program is dedicated to spreading the best in government practices. Since 1986, the Innovations Awards Program has recognized over 400 public sector initiatives that benefit citizens, and I'd like to take this chance to express my gratitude to the Ford Foundation, which is a founding donor of the program.

Congratulations again to this year's winners. And if you are aware of a public program worthy of note, please encourage them to apply for next year's competition.