93% of Local Governments Cite Savings as Top Motivator for Innovation; 85% Cite Lack of Funding as Biggest Barrier

National survey examined local government innovation and change, performance data analytics, public engagement, regulation of the sharing economy, and infrastructure financing.

ARTICLE | Apr 19, 2017

Contact: Michele Frisby, Dir., Public Information, mfrisby@icma.org; 202-962-3658

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Realizing potential budget savings is the most significant factor motivating local governments to implement new practices or initiatives, while the availability of funding is the most significant barrier to such innovation, according to a survey of local government chief administrative officers conducted by ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, in partnership with the Arizona State University Center for Urban Innovation and the Alliance for Innovation (AFI).

The Innovations and Emerging Practices in Local Government 2016 Survey explores various topics related to public sector innovations—including innovation and change, performance data analytics, public engagement, regulation of the sharing economy, and infrastructure financing—as well as newly emerging issues and practices affecting local government management.

Potential for budget savings led the way (92.9%) as the most significant factor motivating new practices or initiatives in a local government, followed by the potential for increased customer satisfaction (87.6%), and the potential for increased productivity (84.2%).

“Innovation is the key to creating thriving communities around the world,” said ICMA Executive Director Marc Ott. “And local governments must be the driving force behind that innovation. To facilitate the adoption of innovative, leading practices, it is critical that we quickly document success stories and disseminate them to local governments.  The results of the Innovations and Emerging Practices survey provide us with invaluable, quantitative information that local government leaders and their staffs can use to think strategically about how they can deliver services and improve their operations.”

Survey respondents were asked to indicate where executives in their local government organizations learn about successful new practices or initiatives for potential implementation. The responses varied greatly depending upon the area. For example: 

  • Performance data analytics—Nearly 60% of respondents indicated that they learned about innovation in this area from their professional associations.
  • Public engagement—Nearly 75% of respondents cited the news media as the source of information of innovation in this area.
  • Regulation of the sharing economyProfessional associations once again were cited most often (36%) by respondents as a source of information in this area.
  • Infrastructure financingExternal consultants were cited by nearly 49% of respondents as the source of information about successful new practices or initiatives in this area.

“The survey results provide timely insights into how local organizations are changing in the midst of technological advances and citizen expectations,” Karen Thoreson, president of the Alliance for Innovation said. “While the extensive survey data provides a platform for viewing local government change from the 10,000-foot level, the deeper dives into the adoption of leading practices provide rich intelligence on what trends are on the front burner for local government leaders.

Other highlights of the ICMA/ASU/AFI survey results include: 

  • Performance Data Analytics—Nearly 60% of responding governments reported that they do not currently collect performance data to assess the quality of service provisions. The most commonly cited reasons why included lack of staff capacity to collect (38.6%) or analyze (29.6%) the data and the fact that the governing body has not requested such data (28.9%).
  • Public engagement—Town hall meetings were the citizen engagement tool most commonly identified as successful in meeting participation goals, with nearly 72% of respondents rating them as successful or very successful, followed by strategic planning meetings (64.7%) and social media (64.4%).
  • Regulation of sharing economy—The vast majority (95.7%) of respondents do not have legislation in place regulating the sharing economy (i.e., Urber, AirBnB, Lyft, etc.), but 11.5% of respondents reported that they are currently pursuing such legislation.
  • Infrastructure financing—While municipal bonds will continue to be the central option for how local infrastructure is financed, local governments are using a combination of traditional and alternative approaches to finance their public infrastructure investments. Read more about this topic in “Infrastructure Financing: A Guide for Local Government Managers,” issued by ICMA and the Government Finance Officers Association.

Dr. David Swindell, director, Center for Urban Innovation, Arizona State University, had this to say about the survey results: “The information from the local government emerging practices survey provides a data-driven foundation for practical policy and guides our future research into how we can help local governments adopt new successful practices as they adapt to ever-changing technological processes in their communities.”

The survey results will be discussed on Thursday, April 20, 2017, from 1:30-2:30 p.m., as part of AFI’s Transforming Local Government Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Innovations and Emerging Practices in Local Government 2016 survey was mailed (with an online option) to the chief administrative officers of a sample of 5,450 U.S. local governments with populations of 250,000 or greater, plus one in three local governments selected at random from among communities with populations less than 250,000. Responses were received from 599 local governments, for a response rate of 11 percent.

To read the complete results of the ICMA survey, go to: http://bit.ly/2osI69e.

About ICMA
ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, advances professional local government worldwide through leadership, management, innovation, and ethics. ICMA is second only to the federal government in the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data focused on issues related to local government management. Through expansive partnerships with local governments, federal agencies, nonprofits, and philanthropic funders, the organization gathers information on topics such as sustainability, health care, aging communities, economic development, cybersecurity, and alternative service delivery, as well as performance measurement and management data on a variety of local government services—all of which support related training, education, and technical assistance. Learn more about ICMA’s survey research activities.

About the ASU Center for Urban Innovation
Arizona State University’s Center for Urban Innovation seeks to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods, cities, and urban regions by promoting innovation in governance, policy, and management; engaging in basic and applied research; and supporting innovative education and training through critical research and community involvement. The Center is the focal point for research on urban affairs in the School of Public Affairs and the College of Public Service & Community Solutions, ranked #4 in city management and urban policy by US News and World Report. The Center is part of a unique partnership that brings ASU together with the Alliance for Innovation and ICMA.

About the Alliance for Innovation
The Alliance for Innovation inspires innovation to advance communities with the help of its partners, Arizona State University and ICMA. Guided by research and real-world experience, the Alliance has an impact on organizations and communities, changing the way local government performs. AFI is accessible and valuable to all levels of an organization.


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