Local Government Innovation & Redesign

To support local government redesign efforts and recognize the innovative work already underway, the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center has partnered with state associations to create the Local Government Innovation & Redesign Guide and host a yearly Local Government Innovations Awards ceremony.

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Intergenerational Policy Issues

Last week the Humphrey Institute’s Center on Women and Public Policy hosted Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL. She presented an interesting case of the pressing roles that nonprofit organizations play in relationship to government, politics, and public policy. In the question and answer portion of the discussion, I inquired if she thought the multi-faceted approaches (adversarial, supplementary, and complementary roles) that women’s organizations have pursued with government have contributed to or decreased the collective power of the women’s movement. Her answer was intriguing. Neither, and both.

She replied with an example of NARAL, where they treat choice with an integrated and intergenerational lens of policy issues. She spoke of connecting pro-choice perspectives through public school’s provision of sex education, access to birth control, and emergency contraception as relational to women throughout various phases of their lives. She named major constituency groups as "middle-school mama’s" and the "menopausal militia" – equally engaged in choice, but segmented on the specific issue. She argued that people will naturally do this – connect where it affects their lives most. She perceived her role in leading NARAL is to encourage this, and then make connections for women and help them see the overarching policy issue of choice.

Could this be policy innovation, or just another way to frame an issue? When I worked at the YMCA we talked about members involved with programming and membership from cradle to grave. What about if we approached public policy in this manner?

Housing coalitions could be formed among nonprofit organizations working with individuals, families, and retirees. Education advocacy efforts might be focused on early childhood education all the way to higher education. We might see healthcare coalitions that include advocacy efforts to reduce both infant mortality and increase Medicare funding. Is your nonprofit working in an integrated coalition? Share your successes with other pubTalkers…


Kim - This is an excellent question, and an issue I've been thinking of lately. Last summer, I worked at the Department of Human Services within welfare policy. In several of the meetings I was in, the leaders discussed the 'silos' in government, highlighting how disconnected the divisions and government departments are from one another, and how this creates problems in coordinating services for clients. The leaders understand the need to create connections within government to alleviate this bureaucratic problem, yet change is frustratingly slow.

In contrast, the research that I am working on with Jodi Sandfort here at the Humphrey Center focuses largely on nonprofit organizations that are engaged in coalitions to actively work to coordinate services to better serve clients. Specifically the study is researching the Metropolitan Alliance of Community Centers, and the Minnesota Community Action Partnership. These coalitions may share best practices, provide support to each other, and/or engage in lobbying activities to promote policy to better support their clients.

In comparing the silos in government and the power in nonprofit coalition-building, I feel that integrated coalitions are the way to go. No organization is an island unto itself, and if executed correctly, coalitions should provide the best services to clients.

Excellent article, thank you very much

Great post! One concern I have with integrated coalitions is that they often leave minority groups behind -- because these smaller groups' concerns or "connection" to a particular issue does not fit or might even contradict the goals of the broader coalition. I suppose this is part of the ongoing struggle of advocating for social change...

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