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What Does 'Innovation' Mean In Local Government? A New America Foundation Report Tries To Figure That Out

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, April 5 2013

High profile politicians such as Gavin Newsom might talk a lot about public-private partnerships, e-government and civic engagement projects, but the most important innovations in the minds of government workers are those that change their bureaucratic processes to improve the way they deliver their services while reducing their costs, according to a recently released report from the New American Foundation.

This and other findings are available in a new report from NAF's California Civic Innovation Project. It's highly doubtful that this report tells anyone in local governments anything they don't already know, but it should be of interest to those outside of it who are constantly trying to reform it.

The survey's goal was to figure out what "innovation" means in local government, and what the drivers and processes for innovation are. As the report points out, the subject is of interest since local governments often interact more directly with their communities and constituents than their state and federal counterparts. (Also, they're often more limited in the extent of the kinds of projects that they can do because of resource constraints.) However, the report also finds that pressure from elected officials and legislative mandates are bigger drivers of change then direct input from the community.

The report is based on surveys of California city managers, county administrators, and deputies. CCIP partnered with the California division of International City/County Management Association (Cal-ICMA) and the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) to distribute the survey.

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