Safe Routes to School Program Recognized for Innovation in Government

AUBURN, WA — The Auburn School District Transportation Department’s “Partnership Approach to Safe Routes to School” program has been declared a Top 50 Program of the 2008 Innovations in American Government Awards competition, administered by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School.

Selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 applicants, the “Partnership Approach to Safe Routes to School” program represents the best in government innovation and will be competing for a $100,000 award.

The “Partnership Approach to Safe Routes to School” innovation addresses two common large-scale problems: transportation inefficiency and childhood inactivity. The core of the innovation is the partnerships formed between the school district and community residents and professionals, which are hardly a traditional element in school transportation plans. The purpose of the partnerships is to increase the practice of walking and cycling to school by creating safer school walking/cycling routes for the Auburn School District’s 14,500 students. The program has proven itself—providing safe walk routes to 20 percent of the district’s student body population. And because more children are walking/cycling to/from school, the transportation department is eliminating unnecessary routes within walk areas—saving the district money on personnel and fuel costs—and helping to increase childhood fitness.

Finalists will be announced on June 3, 2008. On June 12, 2008, finalist programs will make presentations on their initiatives before the National Selection Committee, chaired by David Gergen. The event is free and open to the public. The winners of the 2008 Innovations in American Government Awards will be announced and honored at an awards gala and reception in September of 2008.

Established in 1985 at Harvard Kennedy School by the Ford Foundation, the Innovations in American Government Awards Program is designed to improve government practice by honoring effective government initiatives and encouraging the dissemination of such best practices across the country. Over its 20 year history, the Innovations in American Government Program has honored 181 federal, state, and local government agencies.

Many award-winning programs are now replicated across policy areas and jurisdictions, serving as forerunners for today’s reform strategies and new legislation. Such programs also inform research and academic study at Harvard Kennedy School and other academic institutions around the world. In the midst of widespread cynicism in government, the Innovations in American Government Awards Program provides concrete evidence that government is working to improve the quality of life of citizens.

Each of the Top 50 programs underwent several rounds of rigorous evaluation from a committee of practitioners and policy experts from Harvard Kennedy School as well as renowned institutions nationwide. Selected programs address a number of important policy areas including health and social services; management and governance; community and economic development; education and training; criminal justice; transportation and infrastructure; and the environment.

Representing a range of jurisdictions from across the country, the Top 50 Programs include seventeen cities/towns, four counties, six federal agencies, three school districts, nineteen states, and one tribal government. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maine have multiple programs represented in the Top 50.

“The 50 best innovations for the 2008 Innovations in American Government Awards demonstrate effective solutions to some of our nation’s most pressing issues,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Awards Program, Harvard Kennedy School. “From child welfare reform and improvements in homicide case review to promotion of our nation’s parks, these programs are improving the way we live our daily lives.”

“We commend the innovative initiatives of these Top 50 programs,” said Gowher Rizvi, director of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation. “In their path to finding new ways for doing the public’s business better, these programs are paving the way for nationwide—and even global—reform strategies.”

About the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation

The Roy and Lila Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, publications, leadership training, global network, and awards program—developed in collaboration with a diverse, engaged community of scholars and practitioners—the Ash Institute fosters creative and effective government problem-solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens. The Ford Foundation is a founding donor of the Institute. Additional information about the Ash Institute is available at www.ashinstitute.harvard.edu. Applicants for the 2009 Innovations in American Government Awards are encouraged to apply at www.innovationsaward.harvard.edu.

For more information contact Amy Spence, Auburn School District public information officer, at 253-931-4713.