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Shared problems demand shared solutions

Apr. 14, 2014 - 12:52PM   |  
By DAN BLAIR   |   Comments
Dan G. Blair serves as President and CEO of the National Academy of Public Administration. Previously, Dan served as Chair and Commissioner of the Postal Regulatory Commission and OPM Deputy Director and Acting Director. Prior to his executive branch appointments, Dan served in senior staff positions on the civil service and postal oversight congressional committees in the U.S. House and Senate.
Dan G. Blair serves as President and CEO of the National Academy of Public Administration. Previously, Dan served as Chair and Commissioner of the Postal Regulatory Commission and OPM Deputy Director and Acting Director. Prior to his executive branch appointments, Dan served in senior staff positions on the civil service and postal oversight congressional committees in the U.S. House and Senate. (File)

Between sequestration, employee furloughs, and the government shutdown, federal departments and agencies have had to struggle to maintain their service delivery. And the feds are not alone. State and local governments have been right there with them, thanks to balanced budget constraints, shifting demographics, and fallout from federal dysfunction. In short, governments at all levels have been struggling. Governments at all levels need bold, innovative thinking to deliver their programs and services in a fiscally challenging environment.

Many federally-funded initiatives are administered at the state and local levels. It stands to reason, then, that innovative thinking about service delivery happens more readily when federal, state, and local governments collaborate with one another. Beginning in 2011, the organization I lead—the National Academy of Public Administration—has worked with the Office of Management and Budget to bring government executives together to share ideas about what they're doing that others could do too to provide a high level of service in difficult times.

This innovative project convened over nine hundred representatives from federal, state, and local governments and other key stakeholders to brainstorm ideas, all focused on “doing better with less.” Key themes emerging from OMB’s Collaborative Forum's discussions included:

■ Focusing on Evidence and Outcomes

■ Using technology to improve performance

■ Harnessing innovation

This is not the only such collaboration. We recently worked with OMB to convene performance stakeholders from federal, state, private sector, non-profit and academic partners to brainstorm how to improve the coordination of their activities in order to accelerate the progress of evidence-based initiatives. This group has committed to leverage stakeholder relationships, take full advantage of available data, to inculcate a learning process, and to institutionalize the value of outcome-based activities throughout the program lifecycle.

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Additional collaboration is needed to address the challenge of overlap and duplication in the federal government, as highlighted in a recent Government Accountability Office report. In fact, Comptroller Gene Dodaro’s message to Congress highlighted collaboration as a way to reduce duplication and overlap. Doing so will not only achieve financial benefits for the federal government, but also reduce burdens on state and local governments and improve service delivery.

Innovation requires collaboration and dialogue across a wide range of stakeholder groups. With fruitful collaboration across all levels of government, government has an opportunity to become more efficient and a more effective steward of taxpayer dollars. As the nation grapples with its long-term fiscal challenges, venues like the Collaborative Forum will become even more important in creating innovative ways of delivering services to the American people.

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