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Ash Center for Democratic Governance announces 2015 Bright Ideas.

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recently announced the organizations chosen for its 2015 Bright Ideas program. This year's cohort of 124 innovative programs includes programs from all levels of government--school districts; county city state, and federal agencies; as well as public-private partnerships--that are at the forefront in creative response to issues familiar to many parts of the country including revitalizing local economies, disaster response and preparedness, community policing, and dealing with outdated infrastructure.

One of the innovations recognized is the City of Roanoke's Lean Management Program. Through a partnership approach with Virginia Tech, the City of Roanoke implemented a Lean management program to find efficiencies for local government operations, integrating performance improvement as part of the government culture and allowing staff to deliver value-added services to citizens at lower costs. With Virginia Tech, the city created a training program to teach groups of city employees Lean and Lean Six Sigma principles. Virginia Tech students in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department also conduct Lean projects with city departments as part of their curriculum.

The Bright Ideas program demonstrates that seemingly intractable problems can be tackled by small groups of dedicated, civic-minded individuals. Making government work better doesn't always require massive reforms and huge budgets, and in fact, an emphasis on efficiency and adaptability can have further-reaching effects than large-scale reforms.

Many Bright Ideas programs focus on using data analytics to improve policing, criminal justice, and public safety. In the City of New York, the Risk Based Inspection System allows the fire department to prioritize building inspections based on risk, as quantified through past inspection information and incidents of fire, reducing the number of injuries and death to the public and first responders. The DNA Hit Integration Program from San Diego County, California, provides prosecutors with real-time access to information on DNA hits related to their current caseload, making both prosecution and exoneration more efficient and timely.

This year's Bright Ideas also featured a number of programs focused on engaging citizens in government processes that affect their lives, seeking their input and ideas to ensure that government is meeting the needs of those it serves. For instance, the Citizen Survey Data for Performance program from Kansas City, Missouri, uses survey data of community feedback on city departments and their operations at their monthly KCStat meetings, where departments share their progress with the mayor and answer questions from the public who interact via livestream, social media, and in-person attendance.

Many Bright Ideas programs use technology to increase efficiency and improve service for constituents. In Shawnee County, Kansas, residents planning visits to the Motor Vehicle office can register for a spot in line using their smartphone or computer, and receive alerts as their turn approaches to avoid long and frustrating lobby waits. The City of Chicago, Illinois, takes the relationship between citizens and technology one step further with its Civic User Testing Group, a set of Chicago residents who test civic apps and help make software that improves the quality of life for residents through beta testing and providing feedback to developers.

In the spirit of the Bright Ideas program, several initiatives selected for recognition are themselves fostering innovation in government, such as the Employee Innovation Challenge of the City of Hamilton in Ohio, a contest that encourages city employees to submit ideas and work across departments to improve processes and address local challenges, increasing employee engagement. At the North Carolina Innovation Center, state employees, students, and private partners collaborate to test new technology systems before making substantial investments. And, in the State of Washington, the Innovation Exemption policies remove procurement rules for purchases intended to introduce new technologies and ideas to state government.

Information about all 124 Bright Idea programs is available at http://
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Title Annotation:News & Numbers
Publication:Government Finance Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2015
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