October 2009

State News: August 2009



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Tools to Transform Government

By Jennifer Burnett, CSG Senior Research Analyst
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—along with the recent economic downturn—is prompting states to consider new ways to make government work better.
“When President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, he also laid out the highest expectations government has ever had for transparency,” said Beth Blauer, director of Maryland’s innovative StateStat. “Maryland has embraced this mandate not only with how we are tracking ARRA but for how we are managing our day-to-day operations and achieving results for our citizens.”
Maryland isn’t alone in transforming government, and state leaders will get the chance to learn more about transformative strategies during The Council of State Governments Annual Meeting in La Quinta, Calif. Blauer is one of several speakers during a half-day session Nov. 12 that will cover transformative practices to attain better success in delivering services to citizens – results-focused governance.
Blauer and Richard Leadbeater from the Environmental Systems Research Institute will discuss Maryland’s successes in managing for results. Maryland has been successful using StateStat as a way to reach citizens, provide comparative information to agency managers and executive branch officials, and ultimately, to improve performance in key areas of interest to citizens.
StateStat is our tool for Marylanders to not only keep tabs on our progress but to hold us accountable. We look forward to sharing our experiences with our colleagues from across the nation and to learn how we too can improve our own process,” said Blauer.
Another key ingredient to improving state performance is citizen participation.
Tom Campbell, a senior associate for AmericaSpeaks, a Washington, D.C.-based organization aimed at getting citizens more involved in government, will engage members in a discussion about the tools state leaders need to connect with citizens and other stakeholders in a way that is meaningful, energetic and democratic.
“My goal for this session is to promote methods that can turn civic engagement from a limited obligation to a trusted tool in the development of policy and measuring success of government,” said Campbell.
Moving forward in the new fiscal reality requires state leaders to recognize and understand the most effective methods to measure and manage performance that drive them toward their goals.
“Sound measurement turned into meaningful information is a catalyst for real progress,” said Jane Kusiak, executive director of Virginia Performs.
But government must be measuring the right thing in order to make that progress. Kusiak, Robin Campbell of Washington State’s Government Management Accountability and Performance, or GMAP, and Robert J. Sparks of Florida Performs will discuss measuring what matters to achieve the desired goals. They will explore ways to define successful delivery of state services and positive outcomes and the best ways to create a more citizen-centric, accountable and transparent decision-making process.
When the goals and criteria are set, states need effective tools to communicate how well they are doing in reaching those goals. Christopher Hoenig, president and CEO of the State of the USA Inc., will show how an innovative Web tool, currently in development, can help states with that measurement during the half-day session in La Quinta. The new Web tool is designed to provide quality and reliable performance measurement data at the state, regional, national and international level on the most important issues ranging from health and education to the economy and the environment. State of the USA is a new nonprofit organization that strives to assemble high-quality measures and data that can be used by Americans to educate themselves about the progress of the United States, according to the organization’s Web site.


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