Making government work better, both at home and abroad, is the goal behind a $50 million endowment grant awarded today by the Ford Foundation to the Kennedy School of Government (KSG). It is the largest single donation KSG has ever received and the largest single endowment ever made by the Ford Foundation.
The grant will establish the new Institute for Government Innovation based at the School. The Institute is designed to encourage dynamic new government programs in the United States and overseas.
Joseph S. Nye Jr., Dean of the Kennedy School, says the Ford Foundation’s contribution will invigorate the School’s central mission of training public leaders and working to resolve public policy problems.
“For too long, our culture has focused excessively on the failures of government and helped create a distrust in government,” Nye says. “This contribution is an investment in public service which is so vital to the nurturing of healthy democracies throughout the world. Hopefully, this institute will help inspire a renewed passion among our youth to work in the public sector for the betterment of society as a whole.”
The new Institute for Government will incorporate the Innovations in American Government program already at the KSG. This program, launched by the Ford Foundation in partnership with the Kennedy School in 1985, has had a long string of well-documented successes.
Alan Altshuler, Ruth and Frank Stanton Professor in Urban Policy and Planning, who served as program director from 1988 to 1999 and now serves as its interim faculty chair, says the new institute will carry forward with the program’s mission, while expanding its reach worldwide.
“There’s a tendency for many excellent innovations to occur in government today, but not to spread beyond their initial jurisdictions,” Altshuler, who will be faculty chair of the new Institute, explains. “The goal of the new institute is to create a broad, global community for sharing information about innovation and best practices in government that will engage practitioners, students, scholars, and journalists.”
The institute will continue to sponsor an annual awards competition, spotlighting visionary government programs, which traditionally has attracted hundreds of entries from across the country, with winners earning $100,000.
Previous award winners include “Wisconsin Works,” which reduced the state’s welfare rolls by 77 percent over two years by requiring welfare recipients to work while also providing them with health care, child care, transportation, and training; and “Florida Healthy Kids Inc.,” which developed a national model for providing health insurance for children through a simple program based in local schools.
“Innovations winners demonstrate that the people involved in government can be on the leading edge of change,” says Gail Christopher, executive director of the Innovations in American Government program – and executive director of the new Institute as well. “It is critically important for the health of our democracy that people begin to believe in their government and the Innovations program has been a powerful tool in helping bring that about.
“Innovations is now recognized as this nation’s premier public sector recognition program … and this is an effort now to bring together that success in the form of an institute,” Christopher continues. “We will continue the awards program, but it will be part of a broader mission and agenda. One of the primary purposes of the new institute is to connect this global network of innovators.”
The Ford Foundation has been the driving force behind that global network, launching similar awards programs in many other countries, including The Galing Pook Awards, in the Philippines; the Public Management and Citizenship Programme, in Brazil; and the Impumpelelo Innovations Award Programme, in South Africa.
“The rich array of programs that have won Innovations awards proves that people in government at all levels have creative ideas for solving problems,” says Susan V. Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation. “The new institute will help public managers share this kind of information and promote innovative thinking in governments around the world.”
In addition to serving as an international portal for information and resources, the new institute will also help define a research agenda, provide research fellowships for graduate students, host conferences and training sessions for practitioners, and produce relevant new publications, all with the goal of leveraging Ford’s 15-year investment in the Innovations program.
For more information, visit the Innovations Web site at http://www.innovations.harvard.edu