State Programs Win Innovation Awards
By Kathleen Murphy, Staff Writer
A New York anti-drug plan and a program to help rural Ohioans get college educations have won a good government prize that rewards successful new approaches to tackling society's problems.
The awards are given annually by the Institute for Government Innovation at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in conjunction with the Council for Excellence in Government.
The winners, announced Thursday from among 1,000 applicants, each receive a $100,000 grant to promote and replicate their innovative efforts.
The New York Division of Parole won for its partnership with Manhattan's multicultural Loisaida community. The program, La Bodega de la Familia, aims to decrease drug use and reduce re-arrests among paroled drug offenders. It teams parole officers with the families of offenders in an effort to change the culture of community supervision.
"The idea that government, particularly law enforcement, could partner with families that are under criminal justice supervision is very innovative and cost effective," said Carol Shapiro, founder of New York's La Bodega de la Familia . "Families are around when government, like a parole officer, is not. Families know first when a loved one is going to relapse, hanging out with the wrong folks or not going to work."
Ohio's consortium of 10 colleges and universities won for helping rural Ohioans get college educations and reversing assumptions about who is "college material." The consortium, the Ohio Appalachian Center for Higher Education (OACHE), awards grants to colleges and Appalachian schools for projectssuch as field trips to see life as a factory workerthat help promote college attendance.
"A field trip to a smelly factory might make students think about applying to college instead. It's a different way of looking at promoting college for students," said Wayne White, OACHE executive director.
"The OACHE project has let schools become more involved in helping students expand their horizons. Unless a student sees college is an option, all the scholarships in the world won't motivate them to go to college."
Another prize-winner with state ties was Vermont's Energy Investment Corp., a private nonprofit group that contracts with the state's Public Service Board and delivers energy efficiency services. The program called Efficiency Vermont has statewide responsibility to deliver rebates for buying energy-efficient products and provide financial assistance for building energy-efficient homes.