The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized 36 government initiatives as Bright Ideas recipients on March 29. This cohort of Bright Ideas addresses a host of pertinent issues including health care, education, performance management, civic engagement, and service delivery, and represents the creative and innovative programming of school districts, county, city, state, and federal agencies, as well as public-private partnerships. The programs were selected by an evaluation team of policy experts comprised of both academics and practitioners.

Many of the recognized Bright Ideas offer unique solutions to delivering quality health care and education to underserved populations. Washington, D.C.’s Automatic HIV Counseling/Testing Program delivers a wealth of early HIV/AIDS assessment options to district residents, and the Healthy Indiana Plan gives the state’s low-income uninsured adults an alternative care option to Medicaid. Philadelphia’s Project U-Turn is dedicated to increasing school graduation rates through a collective public-private partnership of concerned leaders, while Denver Public School District’s Professional Compensation System is meeting the same goal by rewarding teachers for student academic achievements.

Other Bright Ideas demonstrate the value of partnership among nonprofit, public, and private sectors in improving the lives of citizens. New York City’s Bryant Park Corporation is beautifying and improving the upkeep of city parks by working together with the New York Public Library, city government, and a host of concerned philanthropists and real estate owners. Similarly, Envision Utah is tackling problems of unfettered growth in Utah through shared regional visioning projects to create more neighborly and attractive communities.

Still other Bright Ideas are using cutting-edge technology to engage citizens in civic life and improve performance of service delivery. Kentucky’s Open Door – Transparency Portal is designed to increase government accountability by providing citizens with full access to information on state budgets, expenditures, taxes, and salaries. Boston’s Citizens Connect program empowers citizens to take an active role in beautifying their own neighborhoods by reporting service issues through an easy-to-use mobile phone application.

“Government is struggling to deliver quality services with strapped resources and diminishing budgets,” said Anthony Saich, director of the Ash Center. “These 36 government programs demonstrate that creative solutions to some of our nation’s most intractable problems can be generated and succeed in even in the most challenging of environments.”

Now in its second cycle, the Bright Ideas program is part of a broader initiative of the Innovations in American Government Awards program, which spotlights exemplary models of government innovation and advances efforts to address the nation’s most pressing public concerns.

The Ash Center will be accepting applications and recognizing more Bright Ideas on a rolling basis throughout the year. Bright Ideas will be showcased on the Ash Center’s Government Innovators Network, an online community for practitioners and policymakers to share innovative public policy solutions. Learn more about the Bright Ideas program. Read more about this year’s Bright Ideas recipients.

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