Stephen Goldsmith is a professor of practice at the Harvard Kennedy School and director of the Innovations in American Government Program. The former deputy mayor for operations for New York City, he previously served two terms as mayor of Indianapolis, America's 12th-largest city.

Goldsmith served as the chief domestic policy advisor to the George W. Bush campaign in 2000, as chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and, from 1979 to 1990, as the district attorney for Marion County, Ind.. His new book, co-authored with Susan Crawford, is The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance. He also is the author or co-author of The Power of Social Innovation; Governing by Network: the New Shape of the Public Sector; Putting Faith in Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work through Grassroots Citizenship; and The Twenty-First Century City: Resurrecting Urban America.

August 19, 2019

The Problem With One-Stop Government

It was a big improvement for permitting and other forms of service delivery, but it's already outdated. The new goal should be no-stop government.
July 16, 2019

Maps That Can Guide a Changing City

The evolving technology of 'digital twins' can provide a dynamic, real-time view of the urban environment and the impact of ideas for improving it.
June 18, 2019

Participatory Budgeting: A Powerful Civic Education Tool

In expanding its program that lets residents vote on public spending, New York City is enlivening democracy and engaging the electorate.
May 21, 2019

Government Employment for Those Who Need a Leg Up

An innovative apprenticeship program is working to bring some of Los Angeles' neediest residents into the city's workforce.
April 16, 2019

Bringing Market Forces to the Transportation Equation

Protecting providers from competition is the enemy of efficiency and integrated mobility. It's an issue that New York City's congestion pricing will address.
March 25, 2019

The Art of Governing Through Questions

Socrates had it right: Dealing with the problems public leaders face requires knowing how and what to ask.
March 19, 2019

A Permanent Place for Data Analytics

In codifying its innovative operation into law, New York City has provided a useful guide for other localities.
February 26, 2019

Development Incentives That Make Sense

The lesson from New York City's experience with Amazon: There are smarter ways to attract businesses than just dangling tax breaks.
February 20, 2019

Data and the Human Side of Criminal Justice

As a project in Long Beach demonstrates, treating people as individuals rather than as statistics can yield big benefits.
January 23, 2019

The Bus System of the Future

Indianapolis is rethinking its approach, seeking new efficiencies that will better serve those from disadvantaged communities.
December 18, 2018

A Data-Driven Approach to Cooling a City

Urban heat islands threaten public health. Dallas is turning to a smart growth strategy -- and lots of trees -- to deal with the problem.
December 6, 2018

What Urban Policymakers Can Learn From the Rideshare Wars

New transportation options that make increasing demands for curb and sidewalk space call for innovative regulatory approaches.
November 20, 2018

One Path to Cutting the Costs of Incarceration

A New York City program is showing striking success at keeping young offenders from returning to jail.
October 22, 2018

Local Government and the Myth That Democracy Is Declining

To maintain voters' favorable opinion and trust, municipal leaders need to keep some things in mind.
October 16, 2018

Distracted by Data

With all the new information governments have available, it's too easy to focus on improving existing processes rather than on better ways to address underlying problems.
September 18, 2018

Getting Smart About Trash

Local governments are turning to data-driven tools to meet growing waste management challenges.
August 21, 2018

One City's Path to Smart City Leadership

As San Jose has shown, it's as much about having the right people and organizational structures in place as it is about technology.
July 24, 2018

Cashing In on the Curb

Smart cities are paying more attention to the fixtures that define their streets, looking to improve mobility and maximize the value of these assets.
June 19, 2018

New Tools for Visualizing a Changing City

As Seattle works to significantly and quickly boost affordable housing, it's finding better ways to engage residents in the process.
May 22, 2018

Cities, Data and the Future of Work

New tools are being put to use to prepare workers for new trades and match them to a changing labor market.
May 1, 2018

What Networked CDOs Can Bring to Their Cities

Chief data officers are not only working to solve their own cities' problems. They're working together to share their approaches among their peers.
April 17, 2018

How New York City Got Its Fleet Under Control

A nearly decade-long effort to consolidate vehicle services and improve operations has saved hundreds of millions of dollars.
April 3, 2018

One City’s Collaborative Approach to Putting Data to Work

The thriving Canadian municipality of Mississauga is harnessing innovative technology and stakeholder buy-in to become a model for connected communities.
March 20, 2018

A Better Way for Cities to Buy

A new online platform aims not only to take some of the risk out of municipal procurement but to make the process smarter as well.
February 20, 2018

What the Trump Infrastructure Plan Gets Right

There are strong arguments for its proposals that would remove barriers to innovative financing and streamline the regulatory process.
January 30, 2018

The Gold (and Silver) Standard for Data-Driven Governance

The cities that achieved the top grades in a new certification program have important things in common.
January 23, 2018

When Old Regulatory Systems Meet New Technology

Boston's CIO has worked to transform traditional bureaucratic procedures to speed the rollout of the latest mobile broadband infrastructure.
December 19, 2017

Bringing the Power of Lean to Education

The Des Moines school district has embraced the continuous improvement approach. It's making a lot of progress toward eliminating wasteful practices and transforming performance.
December 12, 2017

A Do-It-Now Approach to Getting Roads Fixed

Milwaukee's program focuses on quick, cost-effective improvements that give its streets years more service.
December 7, 2017

A Comprehensive Approach to Equitable Procurement in Government

Minnesota's efforts to bring diversity and inclusivity to its contracting and purchasing are setting the pace.
November 30, 2017

Why Every Mayor Should Consider Launching a Policy Lab

As D.C. is demonstrating, it's a way to use evidence and rigorous research to produce better outcomes.
November 21, 2017

Smart Procurement for Smart Cities

Building out digital infrastructure raises a host of complex questions, from avoiding obsolescence to sorting through funding options.
November 15, 2017

How Government Can Tap Internal Resources to Boost Efficiency

Atlanta turned to cross-departmental metrics to craft a shared-services arrangement for transporting detainees.
October 17, 2017

Cities and the Lessons of the Great Amazon Hunt

They need to be nimbler than ever, looking for better ways to leverage local talent and institutions to ensure that their residents are the real winners.
October 5, 2017

How Civic Tech Can Address Urban Inequality

Cities shouldn't just work for their neediest citizens. They also should work with them.
September 19, 2017

The Autonomy a School Needs for Success

In transforming its public-education structure and bureaucracy, Indianapolis is showing that there is more than one route to excellence.
September 13, 2017

Can Well-Being Define What Government Does?

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

The Formula for Operational Excellence in Government

Successful efficiency efforts have several important things in common, as three case studies illustrate.
August 22, 2017

What a Digital City Hall Could Be

Redesigning a government website should be about more than attractiveness and easy navigation. It's a chance to reengineer underlying processes.
July 18, 2017

The Need to Manage Mobility From the Ground Up

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

A Better Way to Manage How We Get Around

Old models for managing urban transportation are insufficient. New options demand that we think in terms of mobility.
May 16, 2017

How Government Can Nurture the Nudge

Behaviorally informed interventions can improve outcomes. Louisville's approach shows the wisdom of starting small.
April 18, 2017

How Government's Data Can Be Truly Useable

Forget spreadsheets. Visualization is what residents need to be able to drive action on issues.
April 3, 2017

A Way to Unlock the Value of an Airport

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

Certifying Data-Driven Government

A new initiative aims to identify and codify approaches that make cities more effective.
March 21, 2017

A Shared Space for Operational Excellence

Governments looking for ways to improve efficiency now have access to a rich trove of good ideas and best practices.
March 6, 2017

Kick-Starting Data-Driven Government

There are some key questions a city should ask itself before moving forward.
February 22, 2017

Social Media's Growing Utility for Government

Public agencies keep finding creative ways to leverage its power for service delivery.
January 24, 2017

The Nexus Between Data and Public Health

New analytical tools are allowing policymakers to focus on community wellness, not just on treating sickness.
December 23, 2016

Federal Inefficiencies that Stifle Innovation in Infrastructure

There's a lot of capital out there waiting to be deployed, but outdated regulations are standing in the way.
December 21, 2016

7 Likely Technology Breakthroughs in 2017

We've just begun to tap the potential. What does 2017 have in store?
December 5, 2016

The Power of Partnerships in Economic Rebirth

South Bend is leveraging its higher-education assets and better use of data to begin turning things around.
November 16, 2016

Innovation in Education: Unleashing the Talent

As one successful experiment has shown, giving educators the discretion to perform is key.
October 19, 2016

The Need for Governing Intelligence

A focus on making data accessible across the enterprise is the basis for organizational wisdom.
September 21, 2016

Why Data Sharing Should Be Government's Default

It enables more efficient and effective government. The obstacles are often more rooted in folklore than in law.
September 2, 2016

Why We Need to Move Away From Jailing the Mentally Ill

Diverting low-level, nonviolent offenders into treatment saves millions of dollars and makes our streets safer.
August 17, 2016

Managing Marijuana: the Role of Data-Driven Regulation

Colorado's robust system for tracking the drug and its effects provides a glimpse of a better system of controls.
August 10, 2016

The Big Power of Data in a Small City

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

A Key Efficiency Ingredient: Dissent

Encouraging informed disagreement is the only way a public leader can learn whether an initiative might -- or might not -- succeed.
June 22, 2016

The Billions We're Wasting in Our Jails

By using data analytics to make decisions about pretrial detention, local governments could find substantial savings while making their communities safer.
May 26, 2016

Infusing Government with a Data-Driven Culture

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

Social Media's Place in Data-Smart Governance

Cities are learning to mine this trove of information to predict the impact of future events and significantly improve operations.
April 20, 2016

The Power of Vision in Urban Governance

Indianapolis' longtime mayor worked hard at crafting a big idea for his city, and it paid off handsomely.
April 7, 2016

Engaging Entrepreneurs to Solve Urban Problems

A project in Philadelphia used a streamlined approach to procurement to get quick results.
March 16, 2016

L.A.'s Testing Ground for Transportation Efficiency

The city is at the forefront of the emerging concept of mobility management.
February 17, 2016

In Snow Removal, a Model for Change

St. Paul took an unusual path to improving a vital public service, one that holds promise for other city operations.
January 20, 2016

What a Brown Delivery Truck Could Teach Government

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

A New Standard for What Works in City Government

Bloomberg Philanthropies is providing a useful roadmap for results-oriented governance.
December 16, 2015

Cashing In on the Public Right of Way

From parking meters to freeway lighting, governments are finding new ways to turn infrastructure liabilities into assets and improve services.
December 4, 2015

What Good Data and Good People Can Accomplish

Houston's mayor has set the pace for leveraging data-driven management to improve city-government efficiency.
November 18, 2015

The Leadership of a Truly Connected City

Nashville's former mayor led his city as a single, networked entity. His approach is paying off.
October 21, 2015

How a Good Idea Can Survive a Mayoral Transition

Providence's new mayor has taken an innovative program for preschoolers launched by his predecessor and expanded it.
September 16, 2015

How New York City Is Mainstreaming Data-Driven Governance

What began as a niche innovation is creating a wider transformation of government culture.
August 19, 2015

A Gathering Revolution in Regulation

Empowered consumers and data analytics are driving cities to re-think how they protect health and safety.
August 18, 2015

Why Trust in Local Government Should Be Even Higher Than It Is

Far more than the public realizes, innovators are making extraordinary efforts in communities across America.
July 22, 2015

Good Ideas From Government's Front Lines

The people who deliver services directly to the public know a lot. Denver is setting the pace for tapping that resource.
June 17, 2015

San Francisco's Holistic Approach to Helping the Homeless

Aiming to get more people into housing faster, the city is breaking down a lot of barriers.
May 20, 2015

Chicago's Data-Powered Recipe for Food Safety

A pilot program that brought efficiency to restaurant inspections has broad potential for public health and safety.
April 23, 2015

A $42 Million Bet on Cities and the Power of Data

A new Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative aims to help 100 cities govern more effectively.
April 22, 2015

The Special Skills an Innovation Team Leader Needs

Directing a city-government "i-team" demands distinctive traits that are unique to the process.
March 18, 2015

The Growing Evidence That P3s Are Delivering Value

Early signs are positive for the latest crop of big infrastructure public-private partnerships.
February 18, 2015

Utah Applies Social Impact Bonds to Early Childhood Education

The investment tool is catching on as a better, safer way to invest scarce public resources.
January 21, 2015

Getting Smart About the Water We Use

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

A 5-Part Test for Public-Private Partnerships

To get a P3 proposal to the finish line, public officials need to keep some important principles in mind.
December 16, 2014

Doubling Down on the Innovation-Team Model

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

How Portland Is Tackling the Innovation Dilemma

The Oregon city is using a special fund to spark new thinking in its agencies while minimizing financial risk.
October 22, 2014

How New Orleans Is Winning a War against Murder

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has achieved remarkable results quickly with a systemic approach that relies on the effective use of data.
September 17, 2014

The Core Features of the Data-Powered City

Today's most innovative civic leaders are using technology to fulfill the promise of efficient and responsive local government.
August 27, 2014

An Essential Guide to the ‘Stat’ Revolution in Government

A new book provides a comprehensive picture of the performance-management practice that has taken the public sector by storm.
August 20, 2014

City Finances and the Promise of Data Visualization

New tools that make it easy to find and view government financial data are enabling big gains in efficiency and transparency.
July 23, 2014

Culture Change at the Waterworks

By investing in customer service and innovation, D.C. Water has done far more than simply rebrand an essential public service.
June 18, 2014

How Indiana Is Supercharging Data for Efficiency

By making all of its data easily and quickly available across agencies, the state stands to save money and improve services.
May 21, 2014

Water Infrastructure That Delivers More Public Value

Rather than just building more and bigger pipes, Columbus is taking a greener, more holistic approach.
April 16, 2014

Milwaukee’s Push to Turn Vacant Land into Urban Farms

The city's new urban agriculture initiative aims to revitalize distressed neighborhoods with new economic activity.
March 19, 2014

A Quasi-Governmental Recipe for Efficiency

There are many lessons for public leaders in how a New York City park was brought back from chaos.
February 19, 2014

Unleashing a Community of Innovators

Government-sponsored challenge competitions save money and harness the public's ingenuity to solve difficult problems.
January 22, 2014

How Washington, D.C., Is Working to Nourish Its Hidden Assets

The city is using a variety of innovative approaches to leverage the tech sector and diversify a government-dependent economy.
December 18, 2013 Lessons from a Fiasco

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

Chicago's Better Way to Dig Up the Streets

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

The Importance of Chief Data Officers

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

Data Analysis and the Promise of Speedy Government

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

The Breathtaking Promise of 311

These customer-service systems are evolving into far more than a way to get a pothole filled or graffiti cleaned up.
July 24, 2013

Unlocking the Value of Infrastructure

Roads and bridges and utilities should be financed, built and managed as the assets they are.
July 3, 2013

How Some Cities Are Creating Permanent Pipelines of Innovation

Some cities are finding ways to create the urgency and political will to produce permanent pipelines of innovation.
June 19, 2013

LouieStat: Performance Improvement Done Right

Louisville, Ky., is showing how a performance metrics initiative can transform a government's operational culture.
May 22, 2013

Big Data and Even Bigger Efficiencies

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

When Data Drives Innovation

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

Infrastructure at the Speed of Light

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

Building a Culture of Efficiency in Government

Small savings can add up to real money--and better services.
March 5, 2013

Maximizing the Value of Infrastructure

To realize the most long-term value, governments must take a sensible approach to asset management.
February 20, 2013

Public Debt and the Quest for Efficiency

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

Giving Citizens the Tools to Grade Their Governments

Washington, D.C., is pioneering a system that takes performance and accountability to a new level.
December 20, 2012

A Reinvention Drama in the Air

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

Kansas City, Google and the Leveraging of Public Value

To Mayor Sly James, the first-in-the-nation Google Fiber project is about a lot more than blazing-fast broadband.
November 21, 2012

Water Infrastructure and the Gush of Creativity

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

How a Smart Grid Can Get the Lights Back on Faster

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

Taxes that Keep Businesses in Town

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

Financing Efficiency in the Delivery of Social Services

Traditional approaches reward activities, not results. Some innovative new approaches aim to turn that around through creative financing.
September 19, 2012

Disruptive Change, and How to Make It Happen

Is the path to excellence paved by continuous improvement, transformation or both?
September 12, 2012

Boston's Pioneering Way of Innovating

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

An Old-School Mayor on the Forefront of Innovation

Boston's Tom Menino may be an "urban mechanic," but he's taking that concept to new and exciting levels.
August 27, 2012

The Bottom-Line Benefits of Greening a City

Value engineering can reduce the costs of capital projects. But it also can save money over the long haul.
August 22, 2012

Value Engineering: Saving Money While Enhancing Quality of Life

In dealing with its combined-sewer-overflow problem, Philly is demonstrating a better approach to big infrastructure projects.
July 18, 2012

Collecting What Government is Owed Efficiently -- and Equitably

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

A Mayor’s Roadmap for Reforming Pensions

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

How to Reform Pensions at the Ballot Box

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed explains what led up to voters’ approval of major changes to the city’s retirement system.
June 20, 2012

Public Pensions and the Verdict of the Voters

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

Efficiency Lessons from Our City Halls and Statehouses

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

311’s Coming Transformations

Much has been accomplished with the widespread deployment of these citizen-service systems. In the future, they will do much more.
March 21, 2012

Supercharging Economic Development in Indianapolis and New York City

To attract the investment they need, cities need entities that can move both quickly and strategically.
February 22, 2012

Government’s Underappreciated Resource

Citizen volunteers, properly deployed, can extend government’s reach quickly and effectively.
January 18, 2012

The Man Who Put the 'M' in OMB

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

Out of Desperation, Innovation

Tough times create an appetite for change. Nowhere has that been more true than in government this year.
November 16, 2011

Proof That Government Can Work

There is no shortage of innovative programs that can go a long way towards maintaining public confidence in our public institutions.
October 19, 2011

Creative Mayors and the Infrastructure Puzzle

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

The Coming Era of Preemptive Government

What if, instead of waiting until problems occur, a city could address them before they happen?
August 17, 2011

Grassroots-Powered Innovation

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

Supercharging Structural Innovation

Can dedicated teams deliver new solutions? A new grant program will test the concept in five cities.
June 22, 2011

Better Contracting, Greater Diversity

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

Groundbreaking Environmentalism

Finding a way to redevelop a contaminated site, such as a brownfield, is often the best solution, both environmentally and economically.
April 20, 2011

Fostering an Innovation Culture

When public officials fear bad press, it dampens innovation. Here are five principles to help leaders embrace change.
March 16, 2011

Weighing the Value of Green Outcomes

Instead of thinking of how they can go green for less, local governments are jumping through expensive state and federal hoops.
February 16, 2011

The Wisdom of the Crowd in New York City

Actively engaging the crowd, even if it's sometimes rowdy, can actually enhance government's problem-solving ability.
January 19, 2011

More Than Social Networking

Social media is about more than socializing. It is a powerful tool for government to empower and mobilize its citizens.
December 22, 2010

Mending the City-State Relationship

If cities are to see fewer dollars from states in these tough times, then they should see fewer rules too.
November 17, 2010

Breaking Job Routines

When work is reduced to a routine, innovative breakthroughs that lead to better, faster, cheaper government become rare.
November 1, 2010

How Rules and Contracts Demean Public Workers

Laws, arbitrary rulings and contracts keep employees locked in an unrewarding work environment.
October 25, 2010

Silo Busting in NYC

Creating a more efficient government first requires breaking open the internal silos that hamper collaboration and productivity.
October 20, 2010

Defining the Role of Government

Is it government's obligation to provide services, or to see that they are provided?
September 22, 2010

How Rules Demean Public Workers

Public-sector unions and management mean well, but they often fail to reward those actually doing the work: front-line employees.
August 18, 2010

The High Cost of No Risk

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

Fewer Rules, More Results

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

Lessons from the Gusher in the Gulf

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

Fiscal Watchdog: D.C,’s Independent CFO Yields (Uncomfortable) Benefits

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’s COOL Approach to Growing Jobs

Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson has created COOL, an innovative retail-focused economic development program.
May 20, 2010

America's Innovative Leaders: Mayor Robert Duffy

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

Government Through the Crisis

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

Leading a Culture of Cost Savings

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

Making Government Better in Angry Times

To survive these challenging times, leaders must embrace a relentless commitment to better, faster and cheaper government.
May 1, 2010

Cutting Costs Without Cutting Benefits

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

Social Innovation Knocks

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

Taking Care of the Goose:

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...

Innovations Award Application Deadline: Wednesday, April 7

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 . Administered by
March 30, 2010

Getting Big Things Done in Government

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

Fixing What's Broken

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

The High Cost of Hidden Pension Promises

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

Phone + GPS + Camera = Revolution

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

Monopsony and Social Innovation

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

Burdening the Future: It's Not Just the Feds

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

Webinar: Fighting Poverty

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

Innovations and Social Edge: Join the Conversation

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

The New Political Reality

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

Digital City

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

Executing on a Good Idea

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...

Successful 'Fiasco': Chicago's Parking Meter Mishap

Critics call Chicago's privatization of parking meters an epic failure, but could it be it's an epic success?
January 20, 2010

Chicago's Meter 'Fiasco'

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

More on Chicago Parking Meters

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

Reading List on Transforming Government

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

Red-Ink Tsunami: Why Old Ideas Can't Fix the New Government Perma-Crisis

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

Mindful Innovation

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

Welcome to 2010 -- Are You Ready?

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

Taking Aim at Systemic Risk

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

Crime, Punishment and Data

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

How Paying a Price Can Cut Your Costs

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

Dedicated to Transformation

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

Collaboration Isn't Easy

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

Contract Cancelled, but Outsourcing Wasn't the Problem

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

The Hazards of Bold Reform

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

Tackling Our Biggest Problems

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--Better Ideas for Vets

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

The Lessons of the 2009 Elections

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

Expensive Elections

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

Outsourcing, Insourcing, Rightsourcing

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

Massive shortfalls in Massachusetts

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

Tough Choices

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 on the Culture of Innovation

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

Making Data Sharing Possible

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...

The Difficult Path to Electronic Health Records

They will produce better outcomes. But building this 'network of networks' will be complicated.
September 29, 2009

Putting Citizens First

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

Information for Innovation

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

Some Good News for a Change

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

Six Public Innovations Honored

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

For Labor Day, a few words from organized labor

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

Better at Doing What?

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 Funding for Public Infrastructure

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

311 Systems Just Scratching the Surface

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

Going Green, Saving Green

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

Innovative Government Shouldn't Be an Oxymoron

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

Innovation Amidst Crisis

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....

Political Space for Innovation

Government should help social entrepreneurs find creative solutions. The best way to do that is to remove barriers.
June 18, 2009

California: State On Hold

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 Curt Pringle

Anaheim's mayor found a unique way to reap the benefits of competition to improve city services.

Somerville's Joseph A. Curtatone

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.

Prudent Privatization

Too often, political rhetoric overshadows careful analysis.

The Ascension of an Innovator

Can the president-elect's choice to lead HUD teach a tough bureaucracy how to say yes?

St. Paul's Christopher B. Coleman

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.

Can Local Governments Prevail?

A new award will recognize creativity in urban policy.

Atlanta's Shirley Franklin

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.

King County's Ron Sims


Providence's David N. Cicilline

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.

Private Schools, Public Education

What is the government role when private schools produce education for the public?

Boston's Thomas M. Menino

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.

Hope to Be the Next Silicon Valley? What Every Mayor Should Know

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.

Denver's John Hickenlooper


Innovative Ideas for New Mayors

Achievements of recent winners of Harvard's Innovations in American Government Award were recognized, in part, because they are readily transferable to other jurisdictions.

Lessons from Our Best

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.

Chasing the Wrong Goals Faster

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.

One Mayor's Provocative Leadership Lessons

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.

Managing Infrastructure Investment

Infrastructure repair and maintenance typically do not make headlines, which makes the job of seeking investment extremely difficult. Fortunately, there are some promising approaches.

Privatization: Transformation or Efficient Obsolescence?

Managers face two major challenges: how to protect their constituent's values and, of course, how to succeed in their policy goals.

Governing By Network: What about Accountability?

The executive branch has a huge responsibility to assure that third-party providers are held accountable.

The Fight for Urban Accountability

Just by going to the polls, it is still possible for the general taxpayer to win out over well organized special interests.

Crisis Breeds Innovation

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.

Management Matters!

Malfeasance finds its way to the press, and the salutary daily acts simply don't.