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Reason Foundation

Innovators in Government Offer Cutting-Edge Models for Reform

Reason's Innovators in Action 2008 profiles leaders in government management, transportation, school choice

Leonard Gilroy
September 25, 2008

Innovation is all too rare in government. On one hand, policymakers and bureaucrats have a vast array of sound policy ideas at their disposal. But many of these ideas never see the light of day due to institutional inertia or political considerations. At the same time, government officials often take policy actions without a clear sense of purpose (i.e., what are we aiming to solve?) or realistic expectations of outcomes and unintended consequences. In a time of a record-setting federal deficit, tightening state and local budgets, over $1 trillion in unfunded infrastructure needs, looming fiscal disasters in public pension and entitlement programs, rising congestion in our transportation systems and poor educational performance, we need innovators in government now more than ever.

Reason Foundation's new publication, Innovators in Action 2008, showcases a set of innovative policymakers and practitioners who have successfully bridged the gap between ideas and action. In their own words, they describe the whats, whys and hows of their innovations in such areas ranging from transportation finance, state fiscal reform, school choice, federal management, and urban mobility.

Several lessons emerge from these essays and interviews:

Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs said, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." Not content to merely follow in the footsteps of those before them, each of these innovators offers an example of bold leadership, a willingness to embrace change and results-oriented action. And each of these innovators has been a change agent with a direct role in improving the delivery of public services.

The reformers featured in Reason's Innovators in Action 2008 are not interested in working within the constraints of what is, but instead are focused on the possibilities they can create by breaking from the confines of the status quo and turning toward new policy tools and paradigms. Hopefully, the examples and experiences offered by these innovators will inspire and guide reform-minded officials at all levels of government.


Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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