Implementing a department-wide innovation strategy: An interview with Bryan Sivak, Chief Technology Officer, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – Episode #58

How can public agencies at the federal, state or local levels spur innovation to tackle tough problems and find ways to better achieve their missions? To gain insights, we’re joined by Bryan Sivak (@BryanSivak), the Chief Technology Officer at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Under his leadership, HHS launched its IDEA Lab in 2013, which has already catalyzed more than 100 innovation projects. Prior to his current role, he was the Chief Innovation Officer to Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia and a technology entrepreneur in the private sector.

As Bryan explains, the three main strategies of the HHS IDEA Lab are:

  • Supporting innovators from within the department, e.g., the HHS Innovates initiative that identifies and celebrates internal innovation by employees
  • Bringing new ideas and concepts into the department, e.g, the HHS entrepreneurs and HHS innovators-in-residence initiatives that bring in innovators from outside the department to help tackle important challenges
  • Mobilizing communities of practice to work on discrete challenges or ongoing, cross-cutting initiatives that require creative thinking and new solutions, e.g., the HHS Health Data Initiative

Bryan also provides broader advice for public leaders who want to strengthening a culture of innovation in their agencies. The clip of this portion of the interview is available here.

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Six ways government can use incentive prizes to spur innovation: An interview with Jesse Goldhammer, Principal, Deloitte Consulting – Episode #57

Incentive prizes — also known as prize competitions or challenges — are increasingly being used to spur innovation and address key challenges by public agencies at the federal, state and local levels. A recent report published by Deloitte Consulting, The Craft of Incentive Prize Design: Lessons from the Public Sector, provides insights and advice, including discussing six main outcomes, or goals, that different incentive prizes are designed to address: 1) attract new ideas; 2) build prototypes and launch pilots; 3) stimulate markets; 4) raise awareness; 5) mobilize action; and 6) inspire transformation.

Joining us to discuss the report is one of its co-authors, Jesse Goldhammer. He is a Principal with Deloitte Consulting.

Web extras: Jesse Goldhammer discusses how incentive prizes are used to mobilize action [click here] and inspire transformation [click here]. He also provides advice about crafting incentive prizes [click here].

Additional resource: In a related Gov Innovator interview, Jenn Gustetic of NASA discusses that agency’s use of prizes and challenges [click here].

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Boosting the Life Chances of Young Men of Color: An interview with Dan Bloom, Director of Health and Barriers to Employment Policy Area, MDRC – Episode #56

Despite progress in many areas, young men of color still face many obstacles to success in terms of education, employment and other areas. Today, there is growing momentum through government and other efforts to improve outcomes for young men of color, including New York City’s Young Men’s initiative and the Obama Administration’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. A recent report by the social policy research firm MDRC titled Boosting the Life Chances of Young Men of Color reviews what we know about interventions to improve the outcomes of young men of color that have been shown to be effective through rigorous research.

To discuss the report’s findings, we’re joined by Dan Bloom who, with Christopher Wimer, authored the report. Dan is the Director of the Health and Barriers to Employment Policy Area at MDRC.

Web extra: Dan Bloom discusses a promising area for future rigorous evaluation: strategies for exposing disadvantaged high school students to the labor market [click here]

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Using logic models, a key building block of results-focused programs: An interview with Tom Chapel, Chief Evaluation Officer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Episode #55

Just like mapping out a journey before embarking on a trip, logic models provide a type of map for programs about where they want to go and how they plan to get there. To learn more about logic models and how they can be useful to programs and public managers, we’re joined by an expert on the topic, Tom Chapel. He’s the Chief Evaluation Officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The interview provides an overview of:

  • Why a clear program description is important
  • What logic models are and how they’re used
  • How the CDC is using logic models to clarify grantee proposals
  • Advice to program leaders and public managers about using logic models

Web extra: Tom Chapel discusses some additional key terms often used in logic models. [click here]

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Using predictive analytics and rapid-cycle evaluation to improve program design and results: An interview with Scott Cody, Vice President, Mathematica Policy Research – Episode #54

What are predictive analytics and rapid-cycle evaluation and how can public agencies and programs use them to improve program delivery and outcomes? To explore these questions, we’re joined by Scott Cody. He’s a Vice President of Mathematica Policy Research and the co-author, with Andrew Asher, of a recent paper “Smarter, Better, Faster: The Potential for Predictive Analytics and Rapid-Cycle Evaluation to Improve Program Development and Outcomes,” published by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution.

Web extra: Scott Cody provides two suggested steps for public agencies that want to strengthen their ability to use predictive analytics and rapid cycle evaluation. [click here]

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Why successful performance measurement starts with considering purpose: An interview with Bob Behn, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School – Episode #53

Why measure performance? As Bob Behn of the Harvard Kennedy School notes, performance measurement is not an end in itself. Instead, it can be helpful in achieving specific managerial purposes such as to evaluate, control, budget, motivate, promote, celebrate, learn and improve. As a result, public managers need to think seriously about why they want to measure performance before choosing what to measure.

To learn more, we’re joined by Bob Behn. His article “Why Measure Performance? Different Purposes Require Different Measures” (also summarized here) was recently named one of the top 75 most influential articles by the journal Public Administration Review. He’s a lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School and the faculty chair of the executive education program Driving Government Performance. He’s also the author of the new book, The PerformanceStat Potential.

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Children’s executive functions and evidence-based activities that improve them: An interview with Adele Diamond, Professor, University of British Columbia, Vancouver – Episode #52

 Executive functions (EFs) are a critical factor in determining people’s success in school and on the job, as well as their mental and physical health. Moreover, the core executive functions (self-control, working memory and cognitive flexibility) form the foundation for higher-order executive functions, such as reasoning, problem solving, and planning. Importantly, research shows that executive functions can be improved, including for young children, which can bring a lifetime of benefits.

To learn more, we’re joined by one of the leading experts, Adele Diamond (@DrAdeleDiamond). She’s a Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and one of the founders of the field of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. She earned her B.A. from Swarthmore College and her Ph.D. from Harvard.

Because this interview is longer (30 min) than most, here are links to specific segments if you prefer:

  • Why inhibitory control is important, click here.
  • Why working memory is important, click here.
  • Why cognitive flexibility is important, click here.
  • Strategies to strengthen exec functions in children, click here.
  • Implications of the research for education policy and practice, click here.

Further reading:

  • Dr. Diamond’s survey article on activities and programs that improve children’s executive functions.
  • study (referenced in the interview) by Terrie Moffit et. al that draws on data from over 1,000 children born in one city in a single year and tracked until age 32.
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Avoiding performance perversity: An interview with Donald Moynihan, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison – Episode #51

An increasing number of real-life examples have shown the potential for performance measures to create perverse behavior within public agencies and programs. How can public leaders and managers structure performance measures and incentives, and take action, to try to avoid so-called performance perversity?

To gain insights, we’re joined by Donald Moynihan. He’s a Professor at the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of the book The Dynamics of Performance Management. He also authored a recent LA Times opinion piece on the problem of performance perversity within public agencies.

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Massachusetts’ juvenile justice Pay for Success initiative: An interview with George Overholser, CEO, Third Sector Capital Partners – Episode #50

In January 2014, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced its juvenile justice Pay for Success (PFS) initiative aimed at reducing recidivism rates among youth. In doing so, it became one of the first jurisdictions in the U.S. to launch a PFS initiative, also called a Social Impact Bond.

To learn more, we’re joined by one of the leading experts on Pay for Success approaches, George Overholser (@goverholser). He’s the CEO and co-founder of Third Sector Capital. He’s a co-author of two recent reports about the Massachusetts project, including a project brief and a summary of lessons learned so far. He’s also the co-author of the lead chapter of the issue of Community Development Investment Review that focuses on PFS financing.

As background, the Massachusetts PFS initiative is a partnership between the Commonwealth, the service provider (Roca, Inc.), the intermediary (Third Sector Capital Partners) and commercial and philanthropic funders. If the initiative proves to be successful based on an independent, rigorous evaluation, success payments will come from the Commonwealth, which has committed up to $27 million for this seven-year project, and from the U.S. Department of Labor, which awarded the Commonwealth a first-of-its-kind PFS grant of $11.7 million in 2013.

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Applying insights from behavioral economics to improve social services: An interview with Emily Schmitt, Research Analyst, Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation at the Administration for Children & Families, HHS – Episode #49

In 2010, the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project. Its purpose is to adapt and apply insights from behavioral economics to the design and implementation of social service programs and policies, with the broader goal of improving the well-being of low-income children, adults, and families. It is the first major opportunity in the U.S. to apply a behavioral research lens to programs that serve poor families. The project is led by the social policy research firm MDRC, in partnership with behavioral science experts across the U.S.

The BIAS project uses a four step approach to address challenges or bottlenecks in social programs — an approach that any state or local social service agency (or any public agency in general) could also use.:

  • Define: identify problems of interest with the program or agency
  • Diagnose: gather data, create a process map & identify drop-off points, and hypothesize bottlenecks
  • Design: brainstorm behaviorally informed interventions that have the potential to address bottlenecks
  • Test: pilot the behavioral interventions using random assignment or other experimental framework

To learn more, we are joined by Emily Schmitt (@epschmitt) who is the point person for the project. She is a Research Analyst at the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation within ACF, which is the office that is funding the project.

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