States Compete for Innovation Awards

Four innovative state programs including Iowa's attempt to cut bureaucratic red tape and Washington's budgeting solution are competing for the Oscars of government prizes.

Innovation Awards Finalists

Housing & Conservation Board in the State of Vermont -- a state-supported agency that conserves working farms while supporting development of affordable housing.

 Priorities of Government in the State of Washington -- a budgeting approach that lets public and private-sector executives prioritize state services.

 Charter Agencies in the State of Iowa -- lets government departments volunteer to be accountable for measurable customer benefits. In exchange, the state exempts them from many bureaucratic requirements.

 Laboratory Response Network at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- a collaboration of 140 state and local public health laboratories that test for biological and chemical agents associated with public health emergencies.

 State Forensic Program of Allegheny County, PA -- provides basic needs and mental health services to people released from state prison.

 The Met , short for Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, is a state-funded Providence, R.I., high school that builds individualized curriculum around each student's needs. 

The state-run programs are among 18 finalists competing for an award for the most innovative initiatives in American government. The awards are given annually by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University 's John F. Kennedy School of Government in conjunction with the Council for Excellence in Government.

  • Iowa 's Charter Agencies allow government divisions to have more power over all procurement and decisions about information technology if they agree to be held accountable for producing measurable results. Agencies either must cut spending or generate new revenue to earn administrative flexibility.
  • Washington 's budgeting method, called Priorities of Government , relies on teams of public and private-sector executives who prioritize funding choices based on what citizens need most. "The process helps us make sometimes difficult choices for the benefit of all citizens," Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) said in a statement.
  • "The Met," short for Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, is a state-funded Providence, R.I., high school that builds individualized curriculum around each student's needs. School-based learning is combined with internships and adult mentors in the community.
  • Vermont 's Housing and Conservation Board supports the development of affordable housing while conserving natural areas and historic properties.

More than 1,000 state, county and federal programs entered the contest. The 18 finalists will be judged on novelty, effectiveness in addressing important problems and the potential for replication by other government entities when they make presentations to a selection committee in Cambridge, Mass., May 11. The event will be streamed live over the Internet.

On July 27, five winners of the Innovations in American Government Award will receive a $100,000 grant at a Washington, D.C. , awards ceremony to promote and replicate their innovative efforts. Another $100,000 award for an innovative affordable housing program will be given by the Fannie Mae Foundation.

Also among the contenders is the Laboratory Response Network at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a collaboration of 140 state and local public health labs that test for chemical and biological agents associated with terrorism.

Another finalist is a program that aims to help people with behavioral health diagnoses who are released from Pennsylvania prisons. The Allegheny County State Forensic Program offers face-to-face meetings while in prison, post-incarceration housing, psychiatric treatment and access to bus passes, new clothes and job search assistance.