Celebrating creativity, Humphrey School recognizes 10 state government projects with annual innovation awards

Solar panels on the roof of the Minnesota State Capitol building.

Image courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Administration's Office of Enterprise Sustainability.

In state government agencies around Minnesota, employees are finding creative ways to deliver services to Minnesotans with greater impact and at a lower cost — such as an anti-bullying effort for fourth graders that is taught by people with developmental disabilities; an interactive tool that helps consumers find the sales tax rate in any location in Minnesota; and a streamlined process for state agencies, local governments and schools to buy solar energy.

Those agencies are being recognized for their creativity by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs through the 2019 State Government Innovation Awards. The awards, organized by the Humphrey School in partnership with the Bush Foundation, recognize 10 projects that find innovative solutions to address the needs of Minnesota residents. 

For the second year, one of the top awards recognizes a collaboration involving a state government agency and one of Minnesota's federally recognized tribes. The Department of Natural Resources, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council worked together on a project to improve the recognition, understanding and protection of Minnesota’s Tribal Nations’ cultural places and practices. 

Jay Kiedrowski, senior fellow at the Humphrey School and one of the award judges, said the 76  submissions were evaluated for their creativity, sustainability and cost effectiveness.

”We had a record number of submissions this year and they were high quality,” Kiedrowski said. “The winners demonstrated real innovation that will serve the state well.”

It is worth noting that Minnesota’s state government formally supports innovation and efficiency through its Office of Continuous Improvement, which was established in 2007. Its mission is to empower employees and improve the effectiveness of state government services. 

“There are innovative, thoughtful and sustainable improvements happening every day in state government,” said Alice Roberts-Davis, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Administration. “These State Government Innovation Awards awards amplify some of the best work from dedicated state team members to better serve their fellow Minnesotans.”

The state awards, now in their sixth year, were inspired by the Humphrey School’s annual Local Government Innovation Awards, which recognize schools, cities, townships and county government entities for their programs and projects. The winners will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony on August 8. 

The 2019 State Government Award winners are:

  • Department of Administration – Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities: Ambassadors for Respect - Anti-Bullying Effort for Fourth Graders
  • Department of Natural Resources, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota Indian Affairs Council: Tribal Cultural Landscapes and Natural Resources Management
  • Department of Revenue: Sales Tax Rate Map
  • Department of Transportation – Bridge Office: Bridge Beam End Reconstruction
  • Department of Administration, Office of Enterprise Sustainability: Solar Possible
  • Department of Administration, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: Sustainable Procurement Program Charter
  • Minnesota Housing: Minnesota Housing’s Phase II EnergyScoreCards
  • Department of Human Services – Disability Services Division: Employment First Dashboard 
  • Department of Natural Resources – Parks and Trails Division: Parks and Trails for Everyone – The Minnesota Great Outdoors Website
  • Department of Natural Resources – Section of Fisheries: Lake Superior Steelhead Genetics Projects

Of the 10 overall winners, the top four will receive a professionally produced video to use to share the story of their work with others. They are:

Department of Administration – Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities: Ambassadors for Respect — Anti-Bullying Effort for Fourth Graders
Ambassadors for Respect is an anti-bullying program for fourth graders taught by people with developmental disabilities, who have themselves been bullied. Ambassadors for Respect teaches children to address bullying at an early age, and to reflect on their own behavior if they are being hurtful toward others. The program includes active learning activities such as shredding derogatory words and slurs in a paper shredder. The fourth graders also commit to carrying out acts of kindness with each other. More than 3,064 students have been reached. The program is impactful, because while the students are learning anti-bullying skills, the presenters are learning leadership and presentation skills that in some cases have turned into employment.

Department of Natural Resources, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Minnesota Indian Affairs Council: Tribal Cultural Landscapes and Natural Resources Management
In 2018 the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) asked the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC) how it could improve the recognition, understanding and protection of Minnesota’s Tribal Nations’ cultural places and practices. DNR partnered with MIAC, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, the University of Minnesota Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative, and the State Historic Preservation Office to create a recurring annual workshop called Tribal Cultural Landscapes and Natural Resources Management. Over the last two years 60 state, county, federal, tribal, industry, and private natural resources managers and educators have attended the workshop. The workshop serves the tribal communities, land managers, the historic preservation community and the people of Minnesota by enabling better informed and more responsible natural resources management.

Department of Revenue: Sales Tax Rate Map
The Minnesota Department of Revenue’s Sales Tax Rate Map is an interactive tool that helps customers find the state and local general sales and use tax rate for any location in Minnesota. Rates can be found by entering an address into a search box or clicking on the map. The web-based map was designed for all Revenue customers, including approximately 5.5 million consumers who buy goods or services and 200,000 sellers that sell goods or services in Minnesota. In the first six months after release, the Sales Tax Rate Map was viewed almost 40,000 times with users completing more than 80,000 searches.

Department of Transportation – Bridge Office: Bridge Beam End Reconstruction
During a 2013 bridge project to repair minor beam end deterioration and substructure deterioration, it became obvious that deterioration at some beam locations was well beyond traditionally accepted repair scenarios. It then became necessary to design a solution that could be implemented quickly in the field, with materials readily available. The designed repair was installed and monitored to ensure its performance. After three years, the Metro District replaced the bridge due to other issues at the site. The repaired beams were salvaged and tested alongside beams of the same design that did not have condition issues. The testing revealed that the beam repairs exceeded the strength of the good condition beams. These results gave MnDOT confidence that this repair design is a valid approach to extend the life of bridge beams in poor condition and avoid the cost of replacing them. A single beam replacement means additional traffic interruption and costs at least 30 times the cost of the repair.

To learn more about the State Government Innovation Awards, as well as the individual award winners and their innovations, visit sgia.umn.edu.

The awards ceremony and reception is August 8, at 4 p.m. at the Minnesota History Center. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required

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About the Humphrey School of Public Affairs
The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota is ranked as one of the country’s top 10 professional public policy and planning schools. The School is long noted for equipping students to play key roles in public life at the local, state, national and global levels and offers six distinctive master’s degrees, a doctoral degree, and six certificate programs. Learn more at hhh.umn.edu.

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University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
07/10/2019