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John O'Leary  |  Contributor

Email : jpoleary@deloitte.com

John O'Leary heads state and local government research for the Deloitte Center for Government Insights. Before joining Deloitte, he served as vice president of communications for a $600 million digital transformation effort at a leading financial services firm. He also served in several senior leadership roles in Massachusetts state government, including as chief human resources officer.

O'Leary was a distinguished research fellow with the Harvard Kennedy School and is the co-author of the best-selling 2010 book "If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government."

O'Leary received his undergraduate degree in materials engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his master's degreee in manufacturing engineering from the University of Massachusetts.

Management & Labor

Driving Change: Go Big or Go Home

Forget incremental improvement, create a team focused solely on change.

December 2, 2009
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Creating Cross-Boundary Teams

Instead of a single government entity trying to solve a problem, cross-boundary collaboration allows a whole group of players to tackle tough policy challenges.

July 6, 2011
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Municipal Benchmarking: The Holy Grail

Good municipal benchmarking doesn't provide all the answers, but it helps us ask all the right questions.

June 21, 2011
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Management Insights

The Power of Cross-Boundary Collaboration

It helps government officials create public value by connecting, innovating and executing.

June 15, 2011
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Better Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

Don't wait for disaster to strike -- or for feds to arrive -- to prepare for a catastrophe.

June 8, 2011
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Finance

Homeownership with a Happy Ending

Massachusetts helps marginal earners become first-time homeowners.

May 31, 2011
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The Lottery Winner and Food Stamps

How do you determine economic need?

May 26, 2011
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Obama, the Zoo Lady and Job Security

As new technologies, priorities and budget realities take hold, public leaders have to insist that the public workforce embrace changes that promote efficiency.

May 19, 2011
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The Ugly Side of Transparency

When information is delivered by the media, it can not only be a big, embarrassing dose of ugly, it can also be a distorted picture.

May 16, 2011
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The Complexity Conundrum

When it comes to dealing with the unexpected, government struggles. In order to address the nation's greatest public challenges, government needs to destroy its bureaucracies.

May 4, 2011
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Accountability, Bureaucracy and Ideology

Is public-sector accountability a pipe dream, or an excuse to gut government?

April 25, 2011
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CEOs in Government

Can the Donald Trumps of the world translate their private-sector successes to the public sector?

April 18, 2011
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Prevent the Project to Nowhere

The humble project plan can help avoid the anguish that comes with a poorly envisioned project.

April 6, 2011
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The IT Gap

Innovation potential exists when technologies outstrip management's ability to put them to good use.

March 28, 2011
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Progressive? Not Anymore.

BFC Contributor Stephen Goldsmith's column in the Wall Street Journal outlines how the legacy rules of the Progressive Era are crippling government operations.

March 18, 2011
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On, Wisconsin! The War on Collective Bargaining

Unless we get past the political food fight, we won t get to the important issues that are at stake.

March 8, 2011
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Self-Service Savings

The theory seems to be that automation is a bad thing because it eliminates good jobs. Inefficiency, however, simply isn't good public policy.

March 2, 2011
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Social Impact Bonds, Policy Debutante

The idea behind Social Impact Bonds is fairly simple. Instead of paying for effort, governments pay only for measureable results.

February 28, 2011
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Do Budget Cuts Drive Efficiency?

Will spending cuts lead to greater efficiencies? Or merely a reduction in services?

February 15, 2011
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Legislative Leaders Facing the Crisis

State legislatures are on the front line of government and have a profound impact on how innovative state government is or isn't.

February 7, 2011
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Fair Pay for Public Employees: A Question of Efficiency

Designing a compensation system that is both fair and promotes efficiency is a real challenge.

February 2, 2011
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In NYC, 'Simple' Won't Come Easy

In his State of the City address, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a major push to streamline government operations.

January 20, 2011
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Efficiency by the Numbers

Has the 'by the numbers' approach worked in practice? Not surprisingly, the answer is yes in some instances and no in others.

January 5, 2011
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Innovative Reading

Reading suggestions for public officials looking to get up to speed on innovative management.

December 22, 2010
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Rewarding Efficiency in New Jersey

It is one of the enduring conundrums of public budgeting: How do you feed success and starve failure?

December 21, 2010
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Social Media Boom and Bust

Gov. 2.0 has led to some real enhancements. The focus on results must continue for Gov. 2.0 to deliver fully on its potential.

December 14, 2010
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The Courts vs. Efficiency

Courts exist for a reason, but over-reliance on the bench for operational oversight can produce more due process than is due.

December 9, 2010
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Free Your Data

Evidence is mounting that unlocking your raw data is a great way to enhance public services at very little cost.

December 8, 2010
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Owing the Government, Money for Nothing

Many government agencies can and should do a better job of making sure that those who owe government money, pay it.

December 2, 2010
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The Future Can Wait

We are all for innovation, but finding new and creative ways to kick the can down the road is not what we had in mind.

November 23, 2010
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Cornered in the Corner Office

Hopefully, the current crisis will encourage thoughtful reexamination of even the most politically difficult policy reforms.

November 15, 2010
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Corrections Cost Correction

The high cost of incarceration is spurring new thinking around every aspect of prison policy.

November 9, 2010
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Privatization Ideology

The blazingly obvious truth about privatization is that in some cases, it leads to better services and lower costs; in other cases, it doesn't.

November 3, 2010
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Turning Around Challenged Cities

A new initiative looks to revive some of the nation's most challenged urban areas.

November 2, 2010
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Idiocy by Committee

If groups are so wise, why are committees so moronic?

November 1, 2010
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The Cost of Blind Justice

When it comes to putting scarce resources to use, we need to better understand costs and trade-offs.

October 21, 2010
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Boston's Wicked Bus Applications

This “wiki” approach of allowing outsiders to work out solutions to public problems is a growing trend in better, faster, cheaper government.

October 7, 2010
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Inefficient Government Rules and Regulations

Rules are part of the public-sector terrain, but they can be the most frustrating aspect of government.

October 6, 2010
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Social Media in the Public Sector

More and more government agencies are using social media tools to disseminate information, to share ideas and to communicate with the general public.

October 4, 2010
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'Those Idiots!': Bureaucracy and the Fundamental Attribution Error

We need to question each and every rule, regulation, and law that limits people from exercising their good judgment.

September 28, 2010
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Parking Meter Wars

The economics of meter privatization are rather straightforward. The politics of meter privatization, however, are another matter entirely.

September 27, 2010
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Today's Management Challenges Echo the Past

A memo from a 1970 Office of Management and Budget official still resonates four decades later.

September 20, 2010
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Labor Pains: Repairing the Management-Union Relationship

There are no magic bullets, but one approach to consider is the establishment of a joint labor-management committee.

September 8, 2010
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IT Cost Reduction Comes with Risk

The fiscal situation and IT push within the Obama administration is sending a signal across all levels of government that a sea change is coming.

August 31, 2010
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Selling (Out) the Future

In government, when times get tight, public officials turn to the sale of assets—the equivalent of selling the family jewels.

August 26, 2010
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Too Many Governments?

It’s too early to call it a movement, but state and local officials are beginning to ask hard questions about the multiplicity of government agencies.

August 25, 2010
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Management Insights

Overload: Streamlining Governments

Too much government? Maybe. Too many governments? Definitely.

August 25, 2010
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Management Insights

Serious Cost Cutters Only, Please

This column is for those public leaders who are looking to make structural changes that will bend the cost curve of government down.

August 18, 2010
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Tips for Serious Cost Cutters

Learn how to make structural changes that will bend the cost curve of government down.

August 18, 2010
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Goal Erosion: When Goals Don’t Matter

What does it mean for government when political leaders routinely set unrealistic goals that go unrealized? Goals lose their power to guide and inspire.

August 17, 2010
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Management by Audit

An independent review offers not just oversight, but insight.

August 4, 2010
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A Terrible Thing to Waste

The saying may have its merits, but getting out ahead of a crisis is more sustainable and attainable.

July 28, 2010
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Rhee Turns DC Schools Upside Down – or Upside Right?

What Michelle Rhee has done in Washington, D.C., is not to turn the schools upside down, but to turn them upside right.

July 27, 2010
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New Jersey Governor Releases Privatization Report

Most interesting is the report’s call for a centralized entity whose sole purpose is to promote competitive efficiency within state government.

July 22, 2010
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Finding and Spreading Good Ideas

Two new how-to guides for public innovators could prove very useful for public officials who need to find better, faster, cheaper ways of getting the job done.

July 15, 2010
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Louisville Links Schools and Community Programs

Software and a swipe card break down information silos

July 12, 2010
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Fiscal Crisis? Let the Games Begin

Games and simulations can be important tools as governments around the globe grapple with the grim reality of their fiscal situation.

July 8, 2010
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The 5% Solution: The Dreaded “Across the Board” Cuts

The ultimate blunt weapon in the battle of the budget: across the board 5 percent cuts. But do they spur government to greater efficiency or inefficiency?

July 7, 2010
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Debt, Deficits, and the Road to Fiscal Sustainability

States, cities and many nations around the globe are facing an existential threat in the form of a massive fiscal imbalance.

July 1, 2010
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Stadiums and Economic Growth—or Not

Some governments are building stadiums they don’t need with money they don’t have.

June 18, 2010
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Sandy Springs Outsources (Almost) Everything

The earliest days of Sandy Springs, Ga., provide a fascinating (and rare) instance of a community having the freedom to create a government on a blank canvas...

June 17, 2010
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Iowa's Ban on Red Tape

Babak Armajani of the Public Strategies Group looks at the experience of the Iowa Charter agencies, an experiment in bureaucracy managed by results rather than red tape.

June 10, 2010
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The Bureaucrat and the Telescope

NASA, James Webb, and networked government...

June 9, 2010
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From Data to Transparency in D.C.

The District of Columbia has emerged as a transparency leader.

June 3, 2010
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The Danger of Missed Warnings

Working in a high-risk environment, like a space shuttle or an oil rig, it is easy to grow complacent. What can managers do to avoid the complacency trap?

June 2, 2010
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Los Angeles Offers A Lesson in Job Growth

Rather than throwing money at companies, encourage more business-friendly operations at City Hall, especially towards industries in which you have a natural advantage.

June 1, 2010
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The Case for a Total Overhaul

The sobering fiscal reality of our current circumstances are creating an environment more open to a fundamental rethinking of government’s roles and responsibilities.

May 28, 2010
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The Key to Public School Turnarounds

How do you fix a dysfunctional school? It starts from the top, with strategies for training and mentoring great leaders, preparing them for...

May 25, 2010
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The Art of Cultural Transformation

Getting the rank and file to think differently and embrace change can be a daunting task.

May 21, 2010
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Don’t Go There! – OPM begins “Telework” Pilot

The OPM initiative is a big invitation to get to work -- in your bathrobe, if you want to.

May 18, 2010
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Learning from Home

Massachusetts is about to join a growing virtual-school movement that may soon transform public education.

May 14, 2010
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California Wants to Attract Jobs – But What About Retention?

With all the focus on encouraging new business, what about keeping the ones you have?

May 13, 2010
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States in State of Shock

A budget crunch often offers an opportunity to introduce cost-saving efficiencies that would otherwise be too politically difficult to achieve. This blog entry was going...

June 19, 2009
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Paper or Plastic?

Sometimes the best technology isn't the latest gee-whiz gadget, but something that's been around for a while. Sometimes the best cost-savings ideas aren't the result...

July 20, 2009
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Obama, Goldsmith Meet Urban Entrepreneurs

In July, President Barack Obama held a meeting in the White House, bringing together some of the nation's most distinguished social innovators. Stephen Goldsmith, who...

July 20, 2009
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Obama, Goldsmith meet urban entrepreneurs

In July, President Barack Obama held a meeting in the White House, bringing together some of the nation's most distinguished social innovators. Stephen Goldsmith, who...

July 22, 2009
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Don't Panic: Innovate!

Engulfed by a tidal wave of red ink, governments across the nation are struggling to keep their head above water. The temptation, says Professor Stephen...

July 23, 2009
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State Government: Transformed or Transfixed

A great column above by John Kamensky and Jonathon Breul of the IBM Center for the Business of Government makes a compelling case that state...

July 28, 2009
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$2 Million Worth of Software for $50,000

Vivek Kundra, the former Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia, decided to turn everything on its head. Instead of waiting for a FOIA (...

August 5, 2009
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Taking Reservations at the Jail

The Santa Clara County Department of Correction had a problem. The system couldn't handle the daily onslaught of those coming to visit the more than 4,500...

August 12, 2009
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Fighting Crime with Zeroes and Ones:

When you say "infrastructure" most people think roads, bridges, and tunnels. That's fine. But these conduits of physical goods were more crucial to the economy...

August 17, 2009
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Foreclosure Nation: Who Mows the Lawn?

Today, the word "foreclosure" evokes an unfortunate reminder of the nation's economic meltdown, particularly the speculation and collapse in the real estate market. For city...

August 13, 2009
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Digital Crime Fighting

It was William Bratton who brought criminal justice into the information age, launching New York City's CompStat under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He's stepping down now...

August 17, 2009
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Missions and Measures: Two Paths to Greater Effectiveness

Two articles below include two totally different takes on how New York is dealing with the problem of homelessness. Steve Goldsmith writes here about "the...

August 28, 2009
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Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

The dog days of August are upon us, and everybody, including President Obama, is on vacation. But government never stops working--sort of. Both Chicago and...

August 26, 2009
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5 Reasons Why the Feds Shouldn't Bail Out CA

Even before California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger began issuing IOU's in July, some pundits (Michael Maiello, for one) were calling on President Obama to bail out...

August 31, 2009
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Where Less is More Efficient

The idea first arose during the days of $4-a-gallon gasoline in the summer of 2008. But now, even with energy prices way down from their peak,...

September 2, 2009
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Made in the Shade

The latest article by Lynn Scarlett highlights something everybody can love -- an innovation that is not only good for the environment but saves money...

September 14, 2009
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Furlough Fever!

Reduced hours for public employees as a money-saving tool is all the rage. But is it effective? We recently ran an article on Atlanta's experiment...

October 5, 2009
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Utah's 4 Day Work Week - The New Wave?

Since August 2008, Utah state employees have been working just four days a week and it doesn't look like the three day weekends are going to...

October 5, 2009
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King County, Washington - Furloughs Make for Extra-Long Long Weekends

The situation was dire. In the fall of 2008, King County Washington, the state's most populous county which includes the city of Seattle, was facing an...

October 6, 2009
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Changing the Channel

When you buy a ticket from JetBlue, it costs you an extra $15 to book a flight over the phone compared to doing it yourself over...

October 7, 2009
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Fixing Arizona

Like many states, the Grand Canyon state is facing some tough choices. An article below from the Goldwater Institute offers their ideas for some reforms...

October 12, 2009
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Minnesota Misery

Like many states, the North Star State is facing tough times. The state's Department of Management and Budget says spending has been reduced in real...

October 19, 2009
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Outsourcing Agnosticism

The best public administration occurs when the public sector takes direction from political leaders, but doesn't allow politics to stand in the way of performance....

October 21, 2009
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Finding the Clarity

If the data is buried in a computer, it doesn't do much good. Only when data is "mined" can actionable information emerge. In their article,...

October 27, 2009
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Fixing Public Pensions

Public employee pensions can be huge budget busters, as a previous article explored. In today's column, Bill Eggers explores ways to dig out from the...

November 1, 2009
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Email in the News

In LA, the city has just signed a contract with Google to handle email for 30,000 city employees, a $7.25 million deal that is the largest of...

October 28, 2009
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Democracy on the Cheap

What if they held an election and nobody came? That pretty much happened in New York City in September. According to the New York Times, "...

November 4, 2009
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Ending the Misery in Michigan

Michigan is home to the nation's highest unemployment, and faces a gaping $2.8 billion budget hole. Northwood University's Keith Pretty and Timothy Nash offer five policy...

November 15, 2009
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Murky Transparency

The movement toward open government is well underway, with the Obama administration leading the charge. The effort is praiseworthy, but the implementation is proving dicey....

November 24, 2009
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Last Call for Deadbeats

Locating parents who are negligent on their child support payments just got a little easier with an innovative approach used by Virginia's Division of Child...

November 30, 2009
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Driving Change: Go Big or Go Home

A city official once compared managing in City Hall to driving a bus, with one difference. "Every seat is equipped with a brake, so lots...

December 2, 2009
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Finding Deadbeats

The problem of child support enforcement is a big one. This column highlights Virginia, which found a creative idea that uses a relatively low-tech approach...

December 1, 2009
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Pick It or Ticket

Wilmington had a problem. Sanitation-related complaints were flooding its Division of Licenses & Inspections (L&I), as neighborhoods were being dragged down by trash left outside...

December 9, 2009
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Connecting the Dots on Crime

The recent tragedy in Washington state has focused attention on sharing information about criminals between states. As Professor Goldsmith points out in his article, data...

December 16, 2009
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A Little Nudge Will Do

When government wants to discourage something, the instinct is to criminalize that behavior. But small infractions often get lost by prosecutors and courts that have...

December 10, 2009
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Tell a Story, Spread an Idea

When it comes to spreading an innovative practice, it helps to be able to tell a good story. This interview with Sandford Borins, a Professor...

December 29, 2009
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Innovation by Design: Improving Customer Service

Oftentimes, customer service improvements occur only after very public and very embarrassing failures. Consider the IRS. In the late 1990s, a series of televised Congressional...

January 6, 2010
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California Groundhog Day

The writer Edward Albey noted: "There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California." The ongoing problems of...

January 4, 2010
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NY Lt. Gov. Ravitch: Stimulus Funds Driving States Over a Cliff

An article in today's Wall Street Journal tells a grim tale of the unintended consequences of federal stimulus funds. According to Richard Ravitch, the Democratic...

January 8, 2010
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Transforming Government in the Red Ink Era

Steve Goldsmith has weighed in with why old ideas won't work with the current fiscal crunch, making the case that the circumstances are unprecedented and...

January 13, 2010
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New Thinking in the Era of "Permacrisis"

In his column on "e21" -- a site that looks at economic policies for the 21st century -- Professor Steve Goldsmith argues that the budget...

January 11, 2010
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AZ Looks to Close Budget Gap

Not only is Arizona turning assets into cash through a sale-lease back approach, but Governor Jan Brewer's budget proposal is full of difficult cuts. The...

January 18, 2010
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Chicago's Meter Privatization

Chicago's parking meter privatization is a fascinating study in media coverage and the public perception of public policy. The story has a lot of moving...

January 20, 2010
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Nominate a Public Sector Hero

The Partnership for Public Service is accepting nominations for its "Service to America" medals, looking to honor the very best of the nation's federal work...

January 27, 2010
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5 Great Cost Saving Ideas

In the good old days, economic slumps were followed by recoveries. To survive lean times, governments tightened their belts, maybe raised some taxes and waited...

February 3, 2010
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Strange But True Tales of Privatization

Those in favor of privatization have a new slogan: "Privatization saves puppies." It's true. When Kansas City privatized its animal shelter, it knew it would...

March 3, 2010
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The Big Reset - States Cope with the "New Normal"

The National Governors Association's Center for Best Practices has just come out with a new study called "The Big Reset," which provides guidance for states...

March 18, 2010
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Does Privatization Work for Cities?

It is an age-old debate: Can competitive outsourcing help struggling cities stretch scarce tax dollars? In this 8 minute video from the John Stossel show, Stephen...

March 21, 2010
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Fighting Poverty through Social Innovation

How do you nurture the best approaches to getting communities out of poverty? How can we abandon strategies that don't yield results, and grow the...

March 22, 2010
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Book Review: Improving Government Services Through Unified Communication

First off, this 87-page book is available free as a download, so it has an endearing quality right off the bat. Secondly, it offers a...

March 25, 2010
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Put Your City or County on the 311 Map

I've complained before that established, proven technologies such as 311 aren't being adopted fast enough. Well, if you live in one of the many locations still...

March 24, 2010
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Public Employees Making Government Better, Faster, and Cheaper

During this time of fiscal crisis, public employees are developing new and creative ways of helping the public and taxpayers save money while preserving quality...

March 30, 2010
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What is the Role of Big Citizenship in Social Innovation and Change?

In this column from the National Conference on Citizenship blog, Stephen Goldsmith weighs in on the role of social innovation in fostering approaches to big...

April 5, 2010
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Putting Trust in People: How Ordinary Citizens can Help Solve Social Ills

What can be done to catalyze and grow innovations that promise transformative social progress? In this interesting column from the Case Foundation blog, Stephen Goldsmith...

April 1, 2010
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Government's Prize-winning Strategy

Want a solution? Try offering a prize. To spur innovation, the federal government is turning to competitions and crowdsourcing. When Charles Lindbergh flew across the...

April 7, 2010
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New Column on Leadership: The Federal Coach

In a unique collaboration, The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service produce The Federal Coach, a leadership column and blog hosted by Tom...

April 9, 2010
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The Future of IT in the Public Sector

In this 5-minute video, Professor Jerry Mechling of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government looks at the future of technical innovation. He argues that what we've...

April 15, 2010
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Steve Goldsmith to Bring "Better, Faster, Cheaper" Approach to New York City

It has been clear for some time that the innovative, cost-saving approaches highlighted at this site are in high demand among public officials. So it...

May 4, 2010
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D.C.'s Newest Superhero: 'Sweepercam'

There is nothing so mundane as street sweeping. So how did the District of Columbia generate cost savings, bring in additional revenue, streamline operations and...

May 5, 2010
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Doing Less with Less

An article from today's Wall Street Journal documents the trend in government cutbacks: In Los Angeles this week, the mayor proposed closing most city offices...

April 27, 2010
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Government Bashing:

Anger at government and its employees is in the news, amped up in part by a bad economy and fueled by broad dissatisfaction with politicians....

May 3, 2010
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