Campus & Community

KSG recognizes five innovative initiatives

3 min read

The Institute for Government Innovation at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) has announced that five initiatives have won 2001 Innovations in American Government Awards for their outstanding creative problem solving. All the winning programs received $100,000 to help communicate their efforts to citizens and other governments nationwide.

The 15th annual Innovations in American Government Awards recognize high-quality, problem-solving government programs at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels. The goal of the program is to foster replication of the best ideas to meet the challenges facing governments.

“This year’s winners demonstrate the power of innovation that drives our nation forward. They offer solutions to longstanding challenges in education, health care, economic development, and public safety,” said Gail Christopher, executive director of the institute.

The following five initiatives where chosen from 15 finalists.

The National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS), established by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), created guidelines that empower staff at 163 VA medical centers to report adverse events and close calls involving patients. Such incidents are traditionally underreported for fear of punishment. With this change in medical culture, VA health care professionals have made systemic improvements that have prevented mistakes from recurring, thereby saving lives.

The OK-First Program uses state-of-the-art computer technology to provide local public safety workers in Oklahoma with up-to-the-minute information about severe weather. This information enables police, firefighters, and emergency management personnel to make life-saving decisions quickly and effectively, and to broadcast timely emergency warnings to citizens about tornadoes, high winds, wild fires, and other weather-related hazards.

Ho-Chunk, Inc., chartered by the Winnebago Tribe, has diversified the economic platform for Native Americans in Nebraska. By reinvesting profits from its gaming enterprises, Ho-Chunk developed many new businesses, including hotels, shopping centers, gas stations, manufacturers, and a Native news Web site. This initiative has increased employment, decreased poverty, and sent the tribe’s annual revenues from $150,000 in 1990 to more than $50 million today.

Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) helps educationally disadvantaged students in California to excel in math and science. Teachers, parents, industry leaders, and higher education staff team up to provide the academic support and positive reinforcement that students need to pursue these subjects in post-secondary institutions, including community colleges and universities. Eighty-five percent of high school graduates who participate in MESA attend college; the state average is 50 percent.

The Toledo Plan is a unique teacher peer review method that mentors and evaluates teachers in Toledo, Ohio, public schools. Before this initiative began, the assessment process often sparked conflict between teacher unions and administrators. The new teacher-to-teacher approach is less confrontational, and fosters better teaching.

“These initiatives demonstrate that, with innovation and diligence, governments can meet even the greatest challenges,” said Stephen Goldsmith, faculty director of the program at the KSG. “And it’s vital that we capitalize on this type of public sector creativity in order to strengthen our nation, especially during these difficult times.”

The awards are administered in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government. For more information on this year’s Innovations in American Government program winners, visit