Harvard honors innovative programs

compass innovation

The contest platform at the General Services Administration, an idea generation service at the Department of Transportation called IdeaHub, and a participatory program at the National Archives and Records Administration were named among the Top 25 Innovations in Government by the Ash Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

A large number of programs with a social media or participatory angle stood out this year, said Steve Goldsmith, the director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Kennedy School.

The GSA program, which aggregates prize programs and contests being held by government agencies, stood out because "it brought together the elements of the most successful initiatives," including crowdsourcing and a pay-for-performance model of governance.

When he was a deputy mayor in New York City, Goldsmith launched an idea generation plan that drew 2,000 ideas from citizens in two weeks. "The breadth of the ideas was quite dramatic," he told FCW. Down the road, it will be interesting to see what happens, "when prizewinning ideas bump up against established contracts and vendors," he said.

NARA's Citizen Archivist Dashboard invites people to add to the national historical record by adding metatags to existing documents, transcribing video and audio records of government events, sharing their old photographs and even taking a hand in transcribing weather records from Arctic ship logs. This initiative doesn't just foster civic engagement, Goldsmith said, but it "dramatically expands the resources of the National Archives to accomplish one of their core missions."

IdeaHub is used by employees of the Department of Transportation to submit and collaborate on new ideas. This effort appealed to Goldsmith because it introduces an innovative impulse into a culture that is frequently hostile to bottom-up innovation. "It's not just the ability to break through the hierarchy with your idea," he said. "It's the willingness of the department to allow collaborative commenting on those ideas."

A full list of the programs honored is available here.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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