Innovation in Improving the Delivery of Services to Citizens
A new report written by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) and the IBM Center for The Business of Government, “Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation: Expanding Ways to Provide Cost-Effective Services," discusses the goals and progress of the Partnership Fund, a program led by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Principally authored by Jonathan Tucker of NAPA, the report summarizes discussions from a high-level Roundtable of leading federal, state, local, academic, and private sector experts, who met at NAPA earlier this year to discuss concrete steps to improve human service delivery and promote successful innovation (see prior blog on the Roundtable).
OMB has constructed an innovative collaborative process to identify, vet, and fund pilot projects. At the heart of the process is the Collaborative Forum, an independent entity led by the states that includes participants from all 50 states, more than 10 federal agencies, and over 65 other stakeholders including advocates, local agencies, foundations, and state associations, such as NGA, NASCIO, NASACT, and APHSA. Forum working groups develop and review pilot project concepts. Pilot projects recommended by the Forum are further refined by a federal agency steering committee before ultimately being proposed to OMB for funding. OMB selects pilot projects and transfers funding to lead federal agencies to implement and evaluate them. Successful pilots can serve as best-practice models and inform future changes to the affected programs, including broader implementation of the innovations tested.
The report highlights longer term opportunities for expanding the goals of the Fund, starting with a high-level vision for serving citizens with several key elements:
- Outcomes-focused programs: Responsible officials at all levels of Government should have more operational freedom to work across programs in defining and achieving outcomes demonstrated through strong evidence and data.
- Client-enabled service delivery: Clients should be provided with tools and information to increase their control over how they access services and measure performance, and at their option, shared use of personal information to deliver service successfully, in a manner consistent with privacy law and policy.
- Shared data and services across programs: Policies and business systems should provide for a more flexible but secure regime for sharing data and services across jurisdictions, thereby enabling greater efficiency and effectiveness in achieving outcomes and meeting client needs.
The Report also emphasizes strategies used by the Partnership Fund that could apply to other cross-program settings:
- Enable cross-jurisdiction innovation. Overly prescriptive requirements can result in duplicative infrastructure and program practices. Law and policy could explicitly encourage or require players across government to col¬laborate on innovative, less burdensome ways to achieve common goals.
- Extend the Partnership Fund’s reach through stronger links to non-profits. Building relationships with non-profit organiza¬tions that have strong ties to federal, state, and local actors can provide additional avenues through which to bring together diverse experts and leaders to undertake assessments and provide techni¬cal assistance.
- Expand the Partnership Fund model to other types of federal programs. Consistent with the Presidential Memo on Administrative Flexibility and OMB Guidance, the Partnership Fund’s collaborative model could be used in areas like workforce development, homeless services, or sustainable communities to incentivize joint pilot programs or identify barriers that could be eliminated to increase efficiency.
Perhaps most important, the Roundtable brought together a network of experts for the Administration and Congress to engage in a continuing dialogue about how to innovate across programs to serve citizens with better outcomes at reduced cost and burden. These experts, with collective government experience across ideological and partisan divides, strongly endorsed the purpose and direction of the Partnership Fund, urged greater attention to move more rapidly, noting that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” They have continued to provide important and ongoing perspectives that have opened the doors for further enhancements; this network of experts itself serves as an additional model to adapt in other settings where cross-boundary collaboration is imperative.