Lessons from the Harvard Innovations in American Government Awards

I’ve been privileged this week to attend the finalist presentations for the Innovations in American Government, part of a team from Michigan representing the Public Spaces, Community Places program. It’s inspirational to meet and learn public sector leaders from around the country. These finalists are tackling tough issues, such as: drug addiction, voter participation, financing clean energy, early childhood education and partisan gerrymandering. See more information about every project at the Harvard Ash Center’s site.

While it’s a diverse set of topics and institutions, I heard some themes could be applied across any local government:

  • Act quickly while the circumstances are ripe – things can change quickly in democratic institutions. Staff from New York City used as their motivation, while working toward universal preschool for four-year olds, the statement “You’re only four once!”
  • Use existing resources creatively, such as people’s smartphones (the Wisconsin A-CHESS addiction prevention app) or public hearing videos & transcripts (like California’s Digital Democracy project)
  • Find ways to stretch public dollars, like Connecticut’s Green Bank…and our very own Public Spaces, Community Places program!