Feather O'Connor Houstoun

Feather O'Connor Houstoun

Contributor

Feather O'Connor Houstoun, who has held positions at every level of government, is a senior adviser to the Wyncote Foundation on public media and journalism and a former president of the William Penn Foundation. She was a member of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission from December 2011 to October 2016.

Houstoun served as Pennsylvania's secretary of public welfare during Gov. Tom Ridge's administration, New Jersey state treasurer under Gov. Tom Kean, chief financial officer of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, and in a number of senior positions with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In turning its bail system around, New Jersey has shown a capacity for evidence-based policy innovation that's likely to serve as a national model.
Timely housing assistance is crucial, but it can be tricky to overcome institutional barriers.
It can catalyze government to take risks, move quickly and pay attention to neglected issues.
The spread of an innovative program piloted in Philadelphia is the result of persistence, rigorous study and evaluation, along with efforts to avoid common pitfalls.
By engaging residents on issues of climate and weather, it demonstrates how program design can be improved and strengthened.
It's called 'service design.' The idea is to combine behavioral science with a participatory approach to making public services work better.
The accelerating move away from punitive detention recognizes a critical factor: Adolescent brains are different.
Reorganizing a government's agencies and services -- whether consolidating them or breaking them up -- isn't easy. There are some important things to keep in mind.
When a program is dysfunctional, the problem is often in the pipes and valves it flows through.
Instead of working to solve problems like underfunded pensions, too often we spend our time and energy pointing fingers.