Eight Agencies Make Harvard’s Top 25 List for Government Innovation


HUD is recognized for two programs, one to foster economic growth and another to help failing communities.

A group of policy experts, researchers and practitioners singled out nine federal programs for innovation in addressing a host of public challenges, including crime, health disparities, environmental degradation and economic development.

The programs, executed by eight federal agencies, are among 25 named in this year’s Innovations in American Government Award competition by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“Despite diminishing resources, these government programs have developed model innovations that other struggling agencies should be inspired to replicate and adapt to their own communities,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in Government program at the Ash Center, in a statement.

The announcement is especially noteworthy in light of a recent analysis by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte consulting firm that shows federal employees feel they lack sufficient support for innovation from managers and agency leaders. Only 36 percent of feds surveyed said they felt innovation and creativity were rewarded in their agencies.  

“Government is slipping on innovation at a time when its ability to be creative is paramount, given the increasing needs for its services and the reduction in available resources,” the report stated. 

In an effort to highlight those dedicated employees who are beating the odds, Nextgov is now accepting nominations for the Bold Awards, a program that recognizes federal employees who have used technology to implement innovative ideas that make government work better or serve citizens more effectively.

The Partnership for Public Service analysis showed that NASA and the Transportation Department were among the few agencies whose innovation scores had improved over the previous year’s analysis. Both agencies had programs among the nine selected by Harvard’s Ash Center:

Challenge.govGeneral Services Administration

Challenge.gov is the federal government’s online portal for running challenge and prize competitions. Challenge allows the government to crowdsource solutions to problems in a contest format, bringing diversity in solutions and contributors. This is a pay-for-performance model that saves money on key initiatives and broadly drives innovation within and beyond government.

Citizen Archivist InitiativeNational Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives has created a role for “citizen archivists” to help the agency elevate public participation. Citizens can now provide substantive contributions (tags, transcripts, images) that increase access to the records of the federal government.

Consular Team IndiaDepartment of State

Consular Team India swapped stove piping for collaboration among consular sections, a move inspectors suggested made it “the strongest of any large consular operation in the world.” By eliminating duplication and enhancing standardization, the model taps the talents of 340 employees to better serve travelers and our nation’s security and economy.

IdeaHubDepartment of Transportation

IdeaHub is an online community that enables U.S. Department of Transportation employees to build and develop ideas in a collaborative environment. Employees are empowered to rate, improve, and discuss innovative ideas to make the Department a 21st-century agency that is adaptable, creative, and enterprising.


LAUNCH is a public-private partnership focused on identifying and accelerating high-impact ideas or technologies for such global sustainability challenges as clean water, health, energy, and education. NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State Department and NIKE partnered to form LAUNCH to search for innovations that show great promise for making tangible impacts on society.

National Coordination of Health IT, Department of Health and Human Services

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has enabled nationwide progress in electronic health records adoption by changing the way government works—partnering with the private sector to solve problems that neither government nor markets can solve alone.

Neighborhood Revitalization InitiativeDepartment of Housing and Urban Development

The Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative is a federal strategy that aligns and targets efforts of five agencies to revitalize the nation’s most distressed neighborhoods. Through interventions addressing persistent crime, failing schools, crumbling housing and health disparities, NRI tackles the interconnected causes of neighborhood distress.

Re-Powering America’s Land InitiativeEnvironmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Re-Powering America’s Land Initiative revitalizes degraded land by building infrastructure for our clean energy future, while preserving green space. The program turns community liabilities into assets by fostering an unconventional, collaborative network among players in the energy and remediation sectors.

Sustainable Communities InitiativeDepartment of Housing and Urban Development

The Sustainable Communities Initiative is helping 142 rural, suburban, and urban communities link jobs with transportation and housing, foster long-term economic growth, and protect the environment through Regional Planning and Community Challenge grants. The program is a collaboration with the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

A full list of the top 25 programs announced by Harvard is available here.

The programs are semifinalists for the Innovations in American Government Award to be announced this fall. The awards program seeks to promote excellence and creativity in the public sector and highlight models for addressing some of the nation’s most pressing challenges.

(Image via Muemoon/Shutterstock.com)