Seven state-run programs in areas such as education, public safety, and the environment are among 15 policy initiatives competing for five $100,000 awards for being the most innovative programs in American government.
The awards are given annually by the Institute for Government Innovation at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in conjunction with the Council for Excellence in Government. The 15 finalists were chosen from 1,300 applicants, and each will receive a $20,000 grant.
The five grand prizes, funded through a Ford Foundation endowment, are given to publicize and replicate the winning programs in other jurisdictions. In the 15 years since the competition started, programs such as voice mail for the homeless, an initiative to eradicate sweatshops, and an effort to help the uninsured gain health coverage have won awards and taken root elsewhere.
State-run programs competing for the top prizes this year include:
Other finalists for the government innovation awards include city-run programs such as Chicago's effort to provide senior citizens with a place to exercise and an initiative in LaGrange, Ga., to provide free Internet access to all cable television households in its jurisdiction. Federal-run programs eligible to win include a child welfare initiative, a Veterans Affairs program to prevent health-care errors, and a site for government information called FirstGov.gov.
Administrators of this year's finalist programs will describe their programs to a panel of experts led by U.S. News & World Report columnist David Gergen in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 17. The winners will be announced the next day.