By Michael Koss, reprinted from the Kansas Government Journal July 2012 issue
There was a poster hanging in my high school weight room that said “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” For me, the first part has always seemed to be the more difficult of the two. It’s sometimes hard to connect that first step with long-term goals, even if those goals are extremely important.
Local governments have to deal with motivation too. With so many employees performing so many different tasks, it can be hard to motivate all of them to contribute to one over-arching goal. One of the better solutions I’ve heard to this problem came from the City of Olathe.
Olathe used to have an employee incentives program that paid employees for finding ways to save the city money. If an employee came up with a strategy to deliver a service for less than the city currently spent providing that service, and the strategy could be easily implemented, that employee received 10% of the savings. By offering rewards to each individual, the City was able to motivate all employees to contribute toward its goal of decreasing expenses. Financial rewards work well because they motivate people with immediate pay-offs for their efforts. That’s why it’s not surprising some local governments are also starting to offer monetary rewards to non-employees to solve problems and improve conditions within the community.
Issues often arise in cities that require creativity and sophisticated solutions. In 2008, after Hurricane Ike devastated Texas’s coastline, the City of Houston, Texas organized a contest to pay for ideas that dealt with the massive amount of tree debris left by the storm. A group of faculty and students at Rice University won the $10,000 first-place prize
by proposing the debris be converted to biomass charcoal, a process that reduces greenhouse gases and creates a commodifiable fertilizer. The second and third place winners received $5,000 and $2,500 respectively, but the City also received hundreds of other free ideas, giving them an abundance of options on how to deal with the debris. With a price tag of $17,500, the useful ideas generated by the contest substantially outweighed the resources devoted to it.
While contests are great solutions to difficult municipal problems, they can also be used to attract residents and businesses. In the fall of 2011, the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania offered $100,000 to the winner of their Experienced Dreamers contest, which invited individuals from across the country to relocate and expand their business in the city. After two rounds of judging, five entrants’ were presented to the public for an online vote. The winner was Tess Lojacono, the owner of Fine Arts Miracles, a self-started business that teaches fine art to residents of assisted living and nursing homes. The contest not only brought a new business, jobs, and community service to the city, but also attracted many new residents by giving national attention to the city’s high quality of life.
Chattanooga, Tennessee is taking a more hands-on approach to business creation with its public contest, offering their business accelerator and $300,000 in prizes and seed money to the group that comes up with the most viable business plan. Beginning this August, the finalists will face-off in a 14-week contest, and the City hopes their accelerator will develop Chattanooga’s newest start-up company.
While some cities demand tight control over their public contests, some are finding the best strategy is to donate under-utilized public resources to community foundations that manage the competitions. For example, in Birmingham, Alabama, the City donated a one block, city-owned surface parking lot to a community foundation, which supplied the prize money and solicited ideas for the space. After almost 3,000 people submitted more than 1,100 ideas, the City awarded $50,000 to the creator of the best idea, a multi-use facility devoted to entertainment and social engagement.
Although public contests can be large, ambitious endeavors, small-scale competitions can also be used to create great communities. Here in Kansas, the City of Stafford partners with the Kansas PRIDE Organization to put on a “best yard” contest. Each month, PRIDE judges the yards within the City, and each winner gets a $10.00 utility credit and a picture of their yard in the local courier. During the holidays, the City encourages residents to decorate for Christmas by offering the same utility credit to residents that have three or more strands of lights outside of their house. By making small investments in these public contests, Stafford’s city government helps create a beautiful community its citizens can be proud to be a part of.
The success of these public contests hasn’t been lost on national leaders. In March, 2010, the White House directed agencies to identify and carry out challenges, and asked them to address legal, regulatory, technical, and other barriers to the use of challenges and associated prizes. Shortly thereafter President Obama ordered the establishment of Challenge.gov, which “empowers the U.S. Government and the public to bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on our nation’s most pressing challenges,” (http://challenge.gov/about). The website creates forums for the public to post and vote for solutions to agency-identified issues. The top ideas receive monetary or non-monetary rewards only if the challenge is solved. The site isn’t just a great example of how cities can organize their own contests, but many of the challenges also deal with municipal issues, so local officials should consider participating.
City residents want to live in excellent communities, but sometimes they need a nudge to contribute to their betterment. These residents aren’t just customers, they’re also assets. By using public contests to tap into their collective knowledge and skills, cities can attract jobs, find cost effective solutions to difficult issues, and increase the overall quality of life within their communities.
Michael Koss a student in the KU MPA program and serves as the Membership Services Manager for the League of Kansas Municipalities. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (785) 354-9565.
I have to admit that growing up in Kansas I was never really interested in government or politics. Political jargon and discourse were incomprehensible and bewildering. Candidates spoke in vague generalities or made emotional appeals that simply did not register on my attention/interest radar. But through the years (though it’s only my fourth time being old enough to vote in a presidential election), and now as an MPA student, the puzzle started to piece together. This particular election year coincided with the awakening of the policy analyst in me as I was enrolled in Public Policy and Administration. We discussed topics related to policy development/implementation/frameworks, agenda settings, forming coalitions, and knowing your stakeholders. We also discussed characteristics of being a great leader in the public service arena. Obviously, there is no leadership position and responsibility loftier than the POTUS.
So, as I began habitually to watch broadcast news and other media reports, the significance and consequences of foreign and domestic policies became dramatically apparent. Every aspect of our lives is steeped in policies and their effects. We depend upon government to operate efficiently for our safety, protection, health, livelihood, and progress. It is the duty of government to create/revise policies that effectively address broad citizen concerns and needs. During any election cycle, and pointedly in the recent presidential election, we are boldly solicited, “Vote for me because I have the answers” and “If you elect me, I will fix everything.” Of course, in our representative democracy, no one person assumes praise or blame for the course of our nation. What has become most annoying, however, has been the hardened stance of party “leaders” that has produced the “brinkmanship” we suffer. Who is willing to compromise/negotiate for the greater good? I WANT to believe that elected officials are working for the wellbeing of our country and not for their own narrow/rigid/personal policy agendas. Whose foundation for arguments/position consists of cold facts, credible evidence, and consensus opinion?
Comments Delivered by Terri Callahan, Program Director, Kansas Certified Public Manager(R) Program At Graduation, On November 16, 2012
Terri Callahan congratulates graduating class
Congratulations, Class of 2012! You deserve this celebration and recognition for the time commitment and hard work you have put forth over the past year.
The Kansas CPM program started in 1993. As graduates of the CPM class of 2012, you have the honor of closing out the decade by being the 19th CPM class. So it seems fitting that as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Kansas CPM program next year, we take time to reflect on the history of the CPM program and the last two decades.
I would like to share the story of a public manager from the State of Georgia named Ken Henning. No, you will not see Ken Henning’s name in the history books, but Ken had an idea, a vision. He did not let boundaries or obstacles stop him from moving forward with his vision. He knew how to inspire others to join on his journey.
I love this definition of a leader by John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Ken Henning was this kind of leader. As a leader he saw a need and moved forward with enlisting others to join his vision. He wanted to see a national professional certification designation for public managers similar to a CPA designation with training and education that would foster and encourage the highest possible levels of competence and ethical practice by managers in all levels of government.
He is now jokingly called the “Father of CPM.” In 1976, The Governor of Georgia, George Busbee appointed the Georgia CPM Board and the Georgia CPM program was born. In 1979, the National Certified Public Manager Consortium was established to preserve the standards for the Certified Public Manager designation with six charter states.
CPM Class of 2012 at Kansas Statehouse
I share this story, because it is a story of one public manager with a vision, a vision to make a difference, and he took action and persevered through many challenges to make CPM a reality. It is amazing to me that today the CPM concept has grown to 41 CPM programs with thousands of CPM graduates across the US.
As I listened to your Capstones, it struck me that all of you as public managers, like Ken Henning and other leaders, have a vision, a new idea, a new way of doing business, and a new approach to providing services. I enjoyed hearing each of your Capstone presentations, because they reflected the purpose, passion, and perseverance each of you bring to public service and the people we serve. Thank you!
I want to close with a quote and challenge to all public managers and CPM graduates from Ken Henning (from 2003):
“That the Certified Public Manager Organization, from its inception to the present, has not only survived but has grown for three decades, is a remarkable achievement. Substantial opportunities, but also some significant challenges, lie ahead of us. If all Certified Public Managers will approach the future with determination to play an increasingly important professional role in our society and internationally, the future will be marked by a 50th anniversary of the CPM concept.”
I would like to add a twist to Ken’s challenge: What more can we accomplish together if we as public managers take on the challenges of our future with determination and dedication?
Once again, please join me in congratulating the Class of 2012!