Ash Center Announces 13 Bright Ideas in Government

On April 24, 2013, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University recognized 13 innovative government initiatives as Bright Ideas.

This is the fourth cohort recognized through the Bright Ideas program, an initiative of the broader Innovations in American Government Awards program. Applications are accepted year round for consideration as a Bright Idea; programs must currently be in operation or in the process of launching and have sufficient operational resources. In addition, programs must be administered by one or more governmental entities; nonprofit, private sector, and union initiatives are eligible if operating in partnership with a governmental organization. Bright Ideas are showcased on the Ash Center’s Government Innovators Network, an online platform for practitioners and policymakers to share innovative public policy solutions.

2013 Bright Ideas: In Detail

Business Intelligence Olympiad
City of Charlotte, NC
Charlotte’s Business Intelligence (BI) Community Olympiad Program is aimed at continuously improving the delivery of Business Intelligence to decision makers using measurable best practices. The program embeds BI best practices, establishes delivery benchmarks, identifies areas for training, and drives continuous improvement in BI delivery through biannual head-to-head team competition among analyst teams.

Campaign Against Copper Theft
Columbus Consolidated Government, GA
The Columbus Copper Task Force was created in an effort to apprehend those involved in copper thefts and deter future thefts, which has been a growing epidemic nationwide. Columbus designed a color-code marking system for rental property owners and churches that allows them to identify stolen copper and other scrap metal, gain the cooperation of scrap metal dealers and other agencies in identifying stolen copper, and successfully locate and prosecute suspects.

Election Worker Electronic Resource Guide
Johnson County, KS
Johnson County has matched election worker needs with technology by using electronic aides in election day administration. This initiative evolved from training election workers online to the deployment of an Election Worker Electronic Resource Guide, which includes training presentations, opening and closing checklists, countywide precinct maps, a keyword-searchable soft copy version of the training manual, examples of photo IDs that are acceptable for voting, and a street index guide that is used to direct voters to their correct voting locations.

Elev8 Full Service Community Schools
Alameda County, CA
Safe Passages is a public-private venture in Alameda County dedicated to changing the way government and private providers work together for kids. The collaborative has developed and implemented a premiere Full Services Community Schools Model—Elev8—in Oakland that serves over 3,000 children and their families annually and represents an investment of over $40 million.

Home for Generations
City of Coon Rapids, MN
In order to stabilize neighborhoods in Coon Rapids, the city launched the Home for Generations project to provide feasible and relatable demonstrations of home remodeling techniques. The city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority purchases vacant homes at a modest price; then, with the city’s guidance, local contractors remodel the home using innovative improvement ideas. The community is invited to view the progress, thus demonstrating that home remodeling can be creative as well as affordable.

Kids Pass
City of Davenport, IA
The Discover Davenport Kids Pass opens the doors of every cultural and recreational facility in Davenport to children all summer and provides them with free bus transportation. The program builds social capital, good citizenship, and good health by opening the region’s cultural treasures and recreational assets to every child, at no charge when needed.

Leadership Fayette County
Fayette County, WV
Like much of Appalachia, Fayette County needed a mechanism to encourage youth to return home after completion of their higher education. Leadership Fayette County is a year-round program and curriculum that exposes youth to opportunities, people, and agencies within the county, and provides these youth with leadership tools to enhance their college prospects, and upon completion of their higher education, access to the growing local economy and its future opportunities.

PathNet: A Networked Reengagement System
Puget Sound Educational Service District
PathNet is a systematic coordination of youth-serving organizations and key institutions that support pathways to diploma/credential attainment, postsecondary education, and career training for disconnected and vulnerable youth. Organizations and institutions include community colleges, school districts, community-based organizations, social service agencies, the justice system, and employment training institutions.

Quality of Life and Code Enforcement
City of Lancaster, PA
Employing the latest technology, police, fire, code compliance, and public works personnel have joined forces to measurably improve the quality of life in Lancaster neighborhoods. Armed with handheld computers, enforcement personnel are able to remedy property code violations with a streamlined citation process that expedites code compliance and violation abatement.

Restaurant Letter Grading Program
City of New York, NY
In July 2010, the New York City Department of Health launched its restaurant letter-grading program to deliver accessible information to consumers about restaurants’ sanitary inspection results, motivate restaurants to maintain high food-safety standards, and reduce, over time, illnesses associated with dining out.

Solar Highway Program
State of Oregon
Oregon’s Solar Highway Program has proven that through responsible, innovative public-private partnerships, state departments of transportation can use a plentiful public asset—over eight million miles of right-of-way—to house solar arrays, provide local green energy jobs and revenue and Renewable Energy Certificates to the transportation department, and deliver green energy to the Oregon electrical grid.

Truancy Abatement Program
City of Albany, NY
The Truancy Abatement Program is a multi-agency effort seeking to confront the growing truancy problem and reduce violent juvenile crime. Staff monitor school attendance; provide morning and evening home visits for truant youth, often returning them to school that day; and develop aftercare plans.

Virtual Remote Interpreting Initiative
State of Florida
To address the language-interpretation labor scarcity, rising demand for services, need for multi-language support, and cost inefficiencies both within its own courts and across the state, the Ninth Circuit designed and implemented the Virtual Remote Interpreting Initiative. Using video captured through courtroom security cameras and an audio platform, remote interpreters are now able to securely interact with the court through web browsers from any computer attached to the court’s network.