Campus & Community

Ash Institute honors city, state, federal programs with Innovations Awards

4 min read

The Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) recently announced the winners of the 2008 Innovations in American Government Awards. These six government initiatives — consisting of one city, three state, and two federal programs — were recently honored at an awards gala and reception at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. Innovations Award winners will receive $100,000 toward replication of their initiative.

Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona delivered the event’s keynote address on the unique position of states in generating and spreading innovative practices nationwide. Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation director Anthony Saich and Innovations in American Government Awards director Stephen Goldsmith made opening remarks. Multiple dignitaries and past Innovations Award winners were in attendance. The event concluded with the first screening of the “2008 Visionaries,” a PBS-produced documentary featuring all six winners’ innovations.

The following government programs were honored as 2008 Innovations in American Government Award winners:

Acquisition Fund — city of New York, New York

Division of Youth Services — state of Missouri

Getting Ready: Keeping Communities Safe — state of Arizona

Global Maritime Domain Awareness — U.S. Department of Transportation

Intelligence Community Civilian Joint Duty Program — Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Learn and Earn — state of North Carolina

“For over 20 years, the Innovations in American Government Awards has been at the forefront of identifying government initiatives with the strongest potential for improving the lives of citizens,” said Goldsmith. “Each of today’s winners produced a new, bold way of addressing a previously intractable problem.”

The 2008 Innovations Award winners offer solutions to some of the nation’s most pressing challenges and enhance policy research at Harvard and academic institutions worldwide. The Acquisition Fund of New York City makes housing more readily available and affordable to disadvantaged residents by providing affordable housing developers and nonprofits with faster access to equity and predevelopment capital. North Carolina’s Learn and Earn program also seeks to level the playing field for disadvantaged populations. Through an intensive curriculum of project-based learning, Learn and Earn helps underperforming high school students jump-start their college educations and better prepare for today’s competitive workforce. The Division of Youth Services (DYS) in Missouri offers youth a similar fast track towards future academic and economic success. The program rehabilitates juvenile delinquent youth through a therapeutic group approach in small, homelike settings. Much like Missouri DYS’s humane approach to rehabilitation, the Arizona Department of Corrections’ Getting Ready: Keeping Communities Safe program offers a more therapeutic real-world re-entry initiative that is already resulting in notable drops in violence and recidivism in its prison population. For those who enroll with the program, prison life parallels life outside, with opportunities for job training and educational achievement.

This year’s federal Innovations winners encourage both cross-collaboration and knowledge sharing. The Intelligence Community Civilian Joint Duty Program of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence requires intelligence officials to complete a period of duty outside their parent agency. By working in one of the 16 outside intelligence community agencies, the program hopes to develop leaders with a broader sense of the inner workings of American intelligence. The Global Domain Awareness program of the U.S. Department of Transportation encourages similar collaboration. Its global vessel traffic monitoring system offers unprecedented levels of visibility into transit and port activity, tracking in real time the movements of more than 10,000 vessels from over 40 nations.

“From juvenile justice to the security of our global waters and prison re-entry, these government programs demonstrate creative, novel solutions to our nation’s most pervasive challenges,” said Saich. “Such innovations prove instrumental to our work at the Ash Institute, informing and enhancing scholarly research in our classrooms and driving policy and legislative changes at the state and federal levels.”

Since 1986, the Ash Institute’s Innovations in American Government Awards Program at Harvard Kennedy School has honored 187 federal, state, and local government agencies through Ford Foundation support. In highlighting exemplary models of government innovation, the program drives continued progress in improving the quality of life of citizens and encourages scholarly research and teaching cases at Harvard University and institutions worldwide. Many award-winning programs have been replicated across jurisdictions and policy areas, and have served as harbingers of today’s reform strategies or as forerunners to state and federal legislation.

The Roy and Lila Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs, and government innovations awards, the institute fosters creative and effective government problem-solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens. Applicants for the 2009 Innovations Awards are encouraged to apply at