9 reasons to be optimistic about government innovation

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challenge.gov (Image: challenge.gov)

Earlier this week, troubling news emerged that government innovation is overall on the decline. However, just yesterday, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, part of the Harvard Kennedy School, released the Top 25 Innovations in Government, nine of which are from U.S. government agencies.

The eight agencies – the General Services Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, State Department, Transportation Department, Health and Human Services Department, NASA, Environmental Protection Agency and Housing and Urban Development Department – created innovative programs that are changing the status quo in government. HUD deserves special recognition for having more innovative programs than any other federal agency on the list.

Winning programs include: challenge.gov by GSA, the Citizen Archivist Initiative by NARA, Consular Team India by the State Department, IdeaHub by the Transportation Department, LAUNCH by NASA, the National Coordination of Health IT by HHS, the Re-Powering America’s Land Initiative by EPA, and the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative and Sustainable Communities Initiative by HUD.

Here are a few program highlights:

Challenge.gov is the federal government’s online platform for challenge and prize competitions. The portal allows government to crowdsource solutions to important initiatives via contests, saving taxpayer money and driving innovation. Another online community program, IdeaHub, allows Transportation Department employees to collaborate online and develop ideas together. The platform also allows employees to rate, improve and discuss the innovative ideas derived from their collaboration.

LAUNCH is a public-private partnership, created by NASA, with USAID, the State Department and NIKE. The partnership seeks to identify and accelerate high-impact ideas or technologies and to search for innovations with the potential to make tangible impacts on society. HHS also launched a public-private partnership, the National Coordination of Health IT, to work with industry to address gaps in national electronic health record adoption.

HUD, the only federal agency with two innovative programs, launched the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative to bring together agencies to address the nation’s most distressed neighborhoods. The NRI helps troubled neighborhoods by addressing the multifaceted causes of their decline such as crime, failing schools, inadequate housing and health disparities.

HUD’s second innovative program, the Sustainable Communities Initiative, uses Regional Planning and Community Challenge grants to help rural, suburban and urban communities link jobs with transportation and housing and foster long-term economic growth while protecting the environment.

Though not named outright by the Ash Center’s Top 25, the U.S. Army recently received recognition for its innovative research, joining companies like Apple, DuPont and General Electric on the 2012 Top100 Global Innovators list.

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Agencies, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Transportation, Departments, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), General Services Administration (GSA), Government IT News, Marines, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), open government, State Department
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