Against the Odds
by Lora Engdahl
In the spring
of 1998, the Florida Commission on Government Accountability reported
that the state addressed juvenile crime through "a fragmented
array of nearly 200 activities spread across 23 state entities."
The commission’s report continued:
crime reduction has become everybody’s business but no one’s responsibility.
No one agency, no one governor’s policy unit, no one legislative
committee oversees the state’s juvenile crime-fighting operations
. . . . Accountability for results faces obstacles of dispersed
authority, lack of shared goals and a failure to measure common
spent $1.245 billion in 1997 for prevention and has no measurable
results for $473 million of those dollars."
Justice Accountability Board, a legislative agency, proposed creating
a cabinet-level department to pool funding streams and coordinate
the state’s myriad juvenile justice efforts, but the proposal failed
to generate much interest in the state legislature. For now it’s
business as usual.
experience shows, the drive toward accountability produces recognition
that governments need to work across political and geographic boundaries
because public problems cross those boundaries. Most observers agree
that governance requires intergovernmental partnerships, yet such
partnerships — if they make it beyond the idea stage — are much
more likely to fail than their counterparts in the private sector,
report researchers at Harvard University. Why, and what can be done
about it, is the subject of a growing body of research at Harvard
and elsewhere. While some barriers match expectations, there are
Hard to Handle
collaboration could include agencies of the same level of government
(such as state agencies), federal agencies and state agencies, local
governments in the same region — and the infinite variations in
between. With about 3,300 county governments, 3,700 city governments,
50 state governments and the federal government’s more than 100
agencies and departments, the universe of possible partnership is
infinite. Further, partnerships differ from one policy area to another.
where researchers seem to be looking at the broad category of intergovernmental
partnerships per se is that place where intergovernmental
efforts and information technology (IT) intersect. Many intergovernmental
efforts involve technology for it is IT that allows agencies to
share information and make programs and services "seamless"
in the citizen’s eyes. Indeed, it is citizen impatience with stovepipe
governments that is driving much of the activity.
are most prevalent in areas where "both the supply side and
the demand side is high," says Jerry Mechling, director of
the Program on Strategic Computing and Telecommunications in the
Public Sector at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
area is policing, dating back to Law Enforcement Assistance Administration
grants two decades ago. These grants made policing at the local
level the most computerized function and made foundation-setting
experimentation possible. On the demand side, "crime shapes
itself around the economy and economies are now multi-jurisdictional,"
says Mechling. "Criminals go where the money is and the government
needs to follow."
federal funding is helping spur statewide criminal justice initiatives
such as the just-underway $10 million Kansas Criminal Justice Information
System (CJIS), a partnership among state and local governments to
create an integrated Internet-based system that includes a criminal
history system, juvenile justice information system, incident-based
reporting, automated fingerprint identification system and automated
statewide telecommunications and record assessment. Eighty percent
of the funds come from the feds through the National Crime History
Improvement Program and Bryne funds. A special appropriation administered
by the Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance
Office, is also helping create the North Carolina Criminal Justice
Information Network (CJIN), established by legislation in 1996 and
run by a board that will hire an executive director in 1999. The
system will allow statewide information sharing, electronic fingerprinting,
statewide coverage for mobile data terminals in law enforcement
vehicles and other capabilities. Jointly purchasing equipment such
as fingerprinting systems for the partners has already produced
cost savings of $750,000.
area of activity is in human services, with welfare reform creating
an impetus in the demand (though the federal government is not funding
significant R&D into computer systems), says Mechling.
area of high activity is in general citizen information services,
driven too by high demand and the payoff for governments from such
highly visible customer service initiatives.
from studying IT-related intergovernmental partnerships are relevant
to intergovernmental partnerships in general, suggests Mechling.
School of Government produced Standing in the Way of Tomorrow,
a two-part report on barriers to partnerships for the Intergovernmental
Enterprise Panel (IEP), an entity established as a subcommittee
of the federal Government Information
Technology Services Board (GITSB)
commissioned studies on the barriers to intergovernmental collaboration
from the National Governors’ Association and Public Technology,
Inc., (PTI). Not surprisingly, one problem identified in the PTI
study and also emphasized by other researchers is the compatibility
issue. Government entities that collaborate need to be able to communicate.
But because agencies and programs have their own funding sources
and budgets, they develop isolated communications systems that can’t
problem isn’t in the hardware or software itself. Growing use of
Internet and Intranet technologies and other platform-neutral data
protocols are starting to bypass the need for shared protocols.
When the ECLIPS (Eliminating Legal and Policy Barriers to Interoperable
Government Systems) program of the Ohio Supercomputer Center studied
barriers to interoperable systems, interviewees "repeatedly
identified hardware and software problems of sharing data as modest
when compared to such problems as identifying opportunities for
sharing, aligning data definitions and providing political and economic
incentives for the sharing of information."
technology compatibility was not among the top four barriers Harvard
identified, which were: 1) funding constraints, 2) lack of trust
and cultural conflicts between jurisdictions, 3) resistance to collaboration
(skepticism) and 4) lack of political empowerment.
these barriers have confronted Clackamas County and its partners
in the Oregon Pathways project, featured in the Harvard reports
and in Intergovernmental Solutions, an online newsletter
produced by the Office of Intergovernmental Solutions (OIS), a federal
department that tracks global trends in government technology. Oregon
Pathways is a built-from-scratch service intended to eventually
allow human service clients to get the same kind of eligibility
screening and case management regardless of the agency they have
County Department of Human Services Director Jono Hildner explored
the idea in 1994, he found little in the way of prototypes because
"when push came to shove, agencies could not get past their
turf battles to do true sharing.
explains Hildner, is first a question of lack of trust, a fear that
other agencies won’t protect client confidentiality (which he actually
views as an excuse) and more:
Joe Smith walks into a welfare office and the welfare office makes
an eligibility determination and he then goes to the mental health
office, the mental health office has to go through the process from
the beginning because they can’t trust that the person at the welfare
office really did the job right," says Hildner.
second a question of who is in charge: "Who will be in charge?
It needs to be my agency because I don’t want to pay your agency
to run a system that I am just part of with my hard fought for dollars,"
got around those barriers through "the good faith of partners
who had worked a little while together who said enough is enough,"
Hildner explains. Those partners were Hildner, the regional manager
for the state welfare office (the Department of Adult and Family
Services) and the chief information officer for the state Department
of Human Resources.
of Human Resources provided a $20,000 grant, matched by $20,000
in local resources, which was just enough to hire a program manager
and solicit ideas from top executives with the county and state
agencies involved in assisting self-sufficiency. A process facilitator
helped this design team build trust and agree on a set of values
to guide its activities.
their success building a good working relationship, the group soon
butted up against the funding barrier. The project’s major source
of funds, the U.S. Department of Labor’s One Stop initiative, is
limiting, says Hildner.
Department of Labor doesn’t want its one-stop money spent on anything
that doesn’t directly tie to training and placement of underemployed
adults," says Hildner. "For example the one-stop thing
doesn’t deal with child abuse and yet we know that is a critical
part of serving people out there; so we’re having to scam a little
continues to be a barrier," adds Hildner. "We have all
these funding silos. There is just no money that comes down to create
these kinds of intergovernmental partnerships. So Oregon
Pathways has been built the way they built cathedrals in Europe
— wait until you scrape together enough money to do one more wall
and do it wall by wall."
has developed an automated information and referral system that
allows participating agencies to update their own data through Internet
access. The next phase is to bring up the integrated eligibility
tool. The slow pace of progress has worn the resolve of participants
who’ve given a lot of time to the project, says Hildner, who has
remained involved in the project since leaving the county government
last year. But he remains optimistic and the Harvard researchers
give the program high marks for establishing the trust and authority
critical to intergovernmental success.
funding (specific restrictions on the use of administrative funds
associated with categorical federal programs) is one of the major
funding barriers to intergovernmental partnerships. While individual
federal programs such as the Office of Juvenile Justice’s Comprehensive
Strategy (which funds collaborations among a community’s various
law enforcement, social service, health and education agencies)
may fund pilot intergovernmental initiatives, for the most part,
it’s hard to use existing federal funding for intergovernmental
the vice president’s office there is a huge interest in making changes,
but I don’t think anybody in the federal government outside of the
vice president’s office is doing anything without being forced,"
says Hildner, explaining that he and a dozen or so peers around
the country are talking with officials at the National
Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR) about ways to create
greater flexibility with administrative funds for children and families.
Dugger, chief of information systems for the state of Tennessee
and past president of the National Association of State Information
Resources Executives (NASIRE) says the trade group has been looking
at the stovepipe funding issue as well, alone and through the Intergovernmental
Enterprise Panel (a group whose future is uncertain). One idea bandied
about is to move away from funding the technology ("which produces
horrible accounting nightmares") to funding the function. While
individuals are discussing ideas with NPR, the issue has recently
taken a back seat to Y2K concerns.
and budget processes are also an issue at the state level. When
the state of California began working on an integrated justice system,
it found "more than turf wars between competing bureaucracies,"
writes J. Clark Kelso in the May 1998 issue of Sacramento Lawyer.
Kelso cites the state’s trial courts. The state had approximately
100 separate trial courts which were funded primarily by county
budgets, many of which were connected to county administrative systems.
"With funding sources so dispersed and governance split between
the local and state level, coordinated technology planning was simply
not feasible." It took years and a concerted campaign by the
governor, the state chief justice, the executive director of the
California State Association of Counties and others to change things
so that trial courts now receive funds from the state.
combat both federal and state stovepipe funding, a growing number
of state and local governments are using capital budgets for technology,
multi-year funding and other means to address the funding issue
(See "Exceptions to Stovepipe Funding,"
using existing funding is difficult and, "because of the conflict
and confusion surrounding projects that have no clear lines of authority
and accountability, securing new authorization and appropriations
for intergovernmental projects can be very problematic," reports
challenges and other complexities prompt students of intergovernmental
efforts to suggest, where possible, creating new organizations charged
with cross-agency responsibilities.
budget battles and turf wars by creating a separate budget for the
joint enterprise and make the interagency group responsible for
the budget," advises Sally Mathews of the U.S. General Services
Administration in a review of a partnership among federal, state
and local government agencies in Florida to digitize a statewide
base map accessible to all government agencies. The Florida mapping
project was one of 18 intergovernmental case studies described in
Foundations for Successful Intergovernmental Management,
a report produced by the Office
of Intergovernmental Solutions and the Intergovernmental
Advisory Board (IAB) in November 1998. (IAB is a network of
federal, state and local IT leaders operating under the auspices
of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils.)
barrier potentially overcome by creating a new organization? Burnout.
One of the problems with intergovernmental partnerships is that
they are often run by volunteers, the report explains. As the Clackamas
examples show, volunteers who also retain their usual duties can
start running out of steam. It’s hard to keep the momentum going.
up a new entity is not always possible. At the very least, intergovernmental
relationships "need structure early on to resolve issues of
policymaking, funding and staffing," Mathews concludes.
momentum is so critical, she also recommends responding to participants’
eagerness to see results by sharing successes as the initiative
progresses — and to look for early warnings of problems or miscues.
Risk and Leadership
In 1997, a
$40 million California correctional agency initiative to integrate
inmate records failed. Frighteningly visible failures, like this,
make public managers averse to large-scale, complex technology initiatives,
reports the National Governors’ Association (NGA), which surveyed
32 states on the barriers to intergovernmental coordination. In
addition to proprietary systems and data protocols, lack of pooled
funds for intergovernmental or interagency initiatives, outdated
laws and regulations, and lack of process reengineering, NGA’s study
identifies risk aversion as one of the five major barriers to intergovernmental
cooperation. Sharing risks and benefits is one of the essential
prerequisites for intergovernmental partnerships, reports the NGA.
Often it’s difficult to get projects off the ground because the
risks, particularly in initiatives involving information technology,
are so high.
risks of projects and the other barriers translate into one essential
must-have for intergovernmental initiatives: leadership. One reason
intergovernmental programs are blossoming in the information technology
area is that "an eclectic mix and critical mass of leadership
is emerging," says Harvard’s Mechling. Often-cited leaders
include Bill Kilmartin, controller for the state of Massachusetts;
Steve Kolodny, CIO for the state of Washington; and a group of CIOs
from the city of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, the Metropolitan
Transit Agency and the Los Angeles Unified School District who formed
the CIO Summit. The Summit cooperates on networking and telecommunications
infrastructure projects to cut government costs and enhance the
region’s competitiveness (see the February 1998 and October 1998
issues of Government Technology).
intergovernmental management will be one of the major challenges
facing government managers for at least the next decade. Groups
like OIS and IAB are seeking to deepen understanding of intergovernmental
management by bringing the leaders together and building a network
of intergovernmental program managers.
also efforts underway to foster more cross-boundary coordination
by building what Kilmartin calls frameworks of communication whereby
people meet who would not otherwise cross paths. For example, the
National Association of State Budget Officers, the National Association
of State Purchasing Officials and the National Association of State
Information Resource Executives have formed a new joint networking
has spearheaded several major intergovernmental technology partnerships,
including a seven-state coalition to build an electronic benefits
transfer (EBT) system to process welfare benefits and a multi-state
electronic procurement mall, which cuts procurement costs by raising
the number of vendors competing for business.
says he overcomes the ingrained parochialism of potential partners
by "appealing to the enlightened self-interest of all stakeholders
and explaining why the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts."
elected officials need to have the ‘Come to Jesus event,’"
adds Kilmartin, who describes his role as part education, communication
and evangelizing. "EBT was an agenda setter or launch pad to
other initiatives because it has a 33–75 percent costs savings associated
with it. From the stakeholder point of view, the ‘compelling value
proposal’ was ‘would you like to reduce cost and reduce fraud and
destigmatize welfare benefits, and by the way if we do it with partners,
the cost goes down from $2.60 a transaction to $1.90 a transaction.’"
leadership is crucial to intergovernmental success, "in the
future, a way is needed to put managerial structures and long term
programs into place that are not subject to changes in political
leadership," Mathews of GSA cautions. "Political leaders
come and go while intergovernmental issues take some time to resolve."
State and Local
and local governments have programs that are or could be used to
overcome limitations of program-specific funding for intergovernmental
information technology (IT) initiatives. For example, many states
are looking at funding IT investments through bond financing in
the manner that currently supports other fixed capital projects
(such as capital budgets for fixed assets like buildings). Specific
has a capital funds pool that agency managers with viable business
plans are able to tap; its biggest project to date is a $30 million
child support enforcement partnership among county level court clerks
and the federal government. For more information contact Bradley
Technology Investment Fund, created in 1996 by General Assembly
legislation, provides resources for technology projects to improve
efficiencies and expand services. For more information contact Lou
• The state
of Massachusetts is using multiple sources of funding for information
technology projects. One is the Information Technology Bond, a tool
that has funded automation projects and is likely to fund more intergovernmental
projects such as public safety improvements, says Massachusetts
Comptroller William Kilmartin. For more information contact Kilmartin
• David Moon,
chief information officer for the state of Utah has recommended
establishing a statewide IT Investment Review Board that would consider
requests for large IT investments or those that impact multiple
agencies. This would give the state a structure for evaluating and
funding intergovernmental partnerships. Moon can be reached at 801-538-3000,
Web site: www.governor.state.ut.us/cio/CIONEWS/.
has an IT investment fund, created in 1995 out of fees vendors pay
to subscribe to an Internet service that connects them to state
purchasers. Bruce Reines, director of the Wisconsin Bureau of Technology
Policy and Planning, says managers with an intergovernmental idea
could tap the fund. Reines can be reached at 608-266-8878, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The city
of Philadelphia’s Productivity Bank, established in 1992 from a
capital base of $20 million derived from a bond issue, funds productivity
improvement projects. For more information contact Matt Gallagher
at 215-686-2150. •
on the Georgia, Maryland, Philadelphia and Massachusetts programs
comes from a recent report, Innovative Funding Approaches,
issued by the Intergovernmental Advisory Board and the Office of
to Federal Stovepipe Funding
funding for the most part does not enable intergovernmental initiatives,
there are of course exceptions. Here are just a few examples:
• The U.S.
Department of Commerce’s Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure
Assistance Program funds cross-organizational projects and many
of those are intergovernmental.
• The U.S.
Department of Justice financed the development of six Regional Information
Sharing Systems designed to support federal, state, and local law
enforcement efforts to combat criminal activity across jurisdictional
boundaries. The six systems are centered in Franklin, Mass.; Philadelphia,
Pa., Nashville, Tenn., Phoenix, Ariz., Sacramento, Calif., and Springfield,
Mo. Justice just got $4.3 million to expand the project.
• The U.S.
Department of Justice is also spearheading a nationwide effort to
coordinate the use of justice technologies among federal, state
and local agencies. As a part of this, Paul Kendall of the Office
of Justice Programs, which provides billions of dollars of grants
and funding to state and local justice agencies, is working with
state and local governments to make sure that those who receive
federal grants for justice technology invest in systems that can
talk to one another. For more information contact Paul Kendall,
Office of Justice Programs, 202-307-0790, email@example.com.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
General Services Administration’s Office of Intergovernmental
Solutions, 202-501-0225, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Solutions newsletter; Bradley Dugger, chief of information systems,
state of Tennessee, 615-741-2569; Kathy Ebel, acting administrative
support for IEP, 202-273-8060; Jono Hildner, consultant, 503-657-0081,
William Kilmartin, Massachusetts comptroller, 617-727-5000; Jerry
Mechling, Harvard University, 617-495-3036, e-mail: email@example.com;
Toni Tendam, North Carolina Criminal Justice Information Network,
Public Technology Inc., 202-626-2400, http://pti.nw.dc.us;
Florida Juvenile Justice Accountability Board, 850-922-4377.
1998, The New Public Innovator magazine, published by the Alliance
for Redesigning Government. Reprinted with permission. For subscriptions
and Alliance membership information, contact the Alliance at 202-347-3190.
About the Author:
is the editor of The New Public Innovator. You may reach her at
(202) 347-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.