A respected national publication is praising the work of South Bend’s city government as an example of good government practices.
Harvard Business Review called cities such as South Bend “hotbeds of innovation.” The authors say that these cities are driven at least partially out of fiscal constraints facing municipalities but also out of a commitment among front line bureaucrats to better serve their communities.
The efforts are bottom-up innovations that start with city employees using inventive ways to improve delivery of services to city residents and more efficiently manage internal processes.
The authors conclude that businesses could learn a thing or two from the public sector: “For companies trying to convey a strong sense of purpose to their workers, there is much to be learned here.”
The report cites the city’s efforts under Mayor Buttigieg — who himself is a graduate of Harvard — to streamline tax abatement petitions, which used to have a 22 page application but is now only 4 pages.
“What’s more, they made it so that those seeking tax relief now fill out a common online application, which allows the city to track their progress, monitor delays, coach them through any hiccups, and help them hit all deadlines,” the Harvard Business Review article says.
Other efforts at streamlined government cited in the report include the simplification of accounting approvals, improved tracking of housing tax credits, and faster fund transfers.
Harvard Business Review also looked at Louisville, Kentucky, which is taking a data-based approach to governance. It is part of a broader performance management movement in public policy that relies on technology, data, and new ways of looking at problems to improve outcomes for communities. They also examined the use of technology to improve government services and civic engagement, such as through the reporting of potholes using a mobile app.
South Bend Voice reached out the mayor’s office for other examples of innovation taking place in South Bend city government. We will have their response in an article tomorrow.