The Innovation Guide

Over the next decade, Minnesota cities, counties, and schools face challenges as difficult as anything we’ve faced since the Great Depression. These challenges include the down economy, rapid demographic changes, and the continued slump in the housing market just to name a few.

It's important for Minnesota officials to find new and better ways to deliver public services in the midst of these difficult times. Navigating the New Normal: A Minnesota Local Government Innovation and Redesign Guide is designed to help public officials do that.

The Innovation Guide covers:

  • Why Minnesota local governments need innovation and redesign to
    succeed in today’s uncertain fiscal climate.
  • What innovation and redesign really is.
  • A five-step approach to achieving innovation and redesign.
  • Eight factors leading to successful implementation.
  • Seven innovation and redesign tools local governments can use.

View an overview summary of the Innovation Guide (pdf)

The Innovation Guide was a collaborative effort of the League, the Association of Minnesota Counties, and the Minnesota School Boards Association, along with Jay Kiedrowski of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

The guide is intended to be read online and features numerous links to case studies and examples of redesign in practice. It is segmented into shorter sections to improve readability and allow you to target specific innovation topics of interest. You can download the full guide here or choose only the sections that are most relevant to your organization.

The guide, first published in 2011, was updated in January 2013 with new examples of innovation from around the state.

Access the full, updated Innovation Guide

Read more about and access each section of the guide:


Introduction and Implementation (pages 1-23)
The first four sections of the guide provide an overview of innovation, definitions, and the
five-step redesign model.

This guide is not a road map but a compass, intended to assist local elected and appointed officials in finding new and better ways of delivering needed local public services. It is not about line-item budget changes; it is about rethinking the problems that confront local governments and rethinking whether the traditional solutions are working. This requires taking risks in an environment not known for risk-taking.

View the Introduction and Implementation section (pdf)

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Charges, Incentives, and Targeting (pages 24-29)
A tried and true approach to redesign is aligning economic incentives to make policies more effective. If a person has an incentive to do something, he or she is more likely to do it. Similarly, if a person has a reason not to do something, he or she is less likely to do it. For example, a higher sewer hook-up fee can result in less development because of the additional financial burden. Economic incentives may be related to paying for government or a government service, or they may be related to internal incentives to make the organization more productive. They may also be related to targeting fees or services to citizens most in need.

View the Charges, Incentives, and Targeting section (pdf)

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Collaboration (pages 30-35)
Collaboration may be viewed as a continuum of inter-organizational relationships among organizations working together to solve problems: from cooperation to coordination to collaboration to partnership to consolidation.

View the Collaboration section (pdf)

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Competitive Contracting (pages 36-39)
Competitive contracting starts with the idea that it is the government’s responsibility to decide what public services will be provided and who will pay for those services.

View the Competitive Contracting section (pdf)

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Prevention (pages 40-43)
Prevention is an obvious approach to public problems. While we're familiar with thinking about prevention when it comes to health care or public safety, we may not realize that many of the activities of government can also be classified as prevention. However, prevention is often not utilized fully, because there can be great political pressure on government to enact action-oriented solutions and respond reactively rather than proactively. In spite of this, preventative solutions to public problems should be considered as a transformative way of thinking about local government activities. For example, squad cars policing a neighborhood may not be as effective at deterring crime as an active neighborhood community watch program would be—and they are certainly more expensive.

View the Prevention section (pdf)

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Community Responsibility (pages 44-46)
There are frequent examples of people doing things out of a sense of responsibility that may not be in their best economic interest. Can that sense of self-responsibility be developed and nurtured to provide public goods? The local community (churches, civic groups, businesses, interested people, etc.) often provides services that government does not provide directly:

  • Food shelves
  • Counseling
  • Temporary assistance
  • Volunteer firefighters
  • Volunteer teaching assistants
  • Roadside pick-up of trash

View the Community Responsibility section (pdf)

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Consumer Choice (pages 47-49)
Rather than contracting for service provision for citizen consumption, government can again decide what service is needed and then let any certified provider compete directly for the citizen’s service. In this case, the funding is granted to the provider based on the number of eligible citizens who are provided the service.

View the Consumer Choice section (pdf)

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Performance Accountability (page 50-58)
In the age of knowledge and information, we should regularly collect data regarding organizational performance and analyze it. This is extremely important because innovation and redesign is nearly impossible without adequate performance management data. How does a local government know if an innovation was a success unless specific outcomes were projected at the outset and results gathered at the end? Performance measurement is critical to quality management of local governments in the information era.

View the Performance Accountability section (pdf)

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