Humphrey School Recognizes 24 Local Government Projects for Innovation and Creativity

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

From turning a bike and trailer into a mobile library to building geothermal ice rinks and creating think tanks or community collaborative projects, Minnesota governments are becoming increasingly creative in redesigning how they do business. The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota today named 24 such projects as recipients of its ninth annual Local Government Innovation Awards, organized in partnership with the Bush Foundation and co-sponsored by the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, MN Association of Townships, and the Minnesota School Board Association. The awards recognize projects in four different categories, and name one overall award winner in each: cities, counties, schools, and townships.

“Every year, we see more and more creative ways that governments are figuring out how to save money but still deliver the same high quality of services,” says Jay Kiedrowski, senior fellow at the Humphrey School’s Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center. “I think that these awards are helping to raise the bar for delivering excellent government services, and that’s very exciting.”

A panel of judges considered nearly 80 submissions for their creativity, sustainability, and collaboration. The overall winners of the four categories will receive a $5,000 grant from the Bush Foundation to continue their work and a professionally produced video to use for marketing and awareness. All 24 awardees will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony and reception Thursday, December 10, at 4 p.m. at the Humphrey School. To register for the event, visit

Overall category winners of the 2015 Local Government Innovation Awards include:

City Category: Rochester Public Library Book

Bike Rochester Public Library (RPL) provides services in one of Minnesota’s fastest-growing counties in population (Olmsted County, 149,226). In 2015, RPL maximized grant funding to offer outreach services through the first BookBike in the State of Minnesota. During the spring and summer of 2015, this little mobile library—a customized trailer attached to a bicycle—visited 113 locations and reached 5,696 visitors in central neighborhoods. The BookBike allowed RPL to: collaborate with area organizations; participate in popular outdoor events; reach new library customers; increase awareness/access to services; build relationships; reduce access and transportation barriers; and promote bicycling.

County Category: wRight Choice

From the probation perspective, an ounce of prevention reaps positive rewards. From the education system, helping students become engaged learners is essential to their success. Wright County Court Services and Buffalo High School teamed together to start a program called "wRight Choice," an alternative to out-of-school suspension. This program, started over three years ago, now involves eight school districts referring students suspended from school, to a program built around restorative justice principles.

Township Category:Pine Island Community Planning Team

Pine Island is a community of 3,400 residents located on U.S. 52 just north of Rochester, on the edge of the area impacted by Rochester’s Destination Medical Center initiative. The Pine Island Community Planning Team(CPT) is a collaborative “think tank” formed in October 2012 with the goal of conceptualizing a vision for the future of Pine Island and the surrounding area. CPT includes representatives from the City, School District, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Authority, and five surrounding townships.

School Category: Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum

The Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum (MPCC) was formed as a grassroots effort to provide all Minnesota teachers with access to high quality, easily adaptable digital materials aligned to the state’s academic standards. Currently, there are now more than 200 Minnesota school districts participating in this effort to use technology to ultimately replace expensive text books and vendor solutions in public education.

The complete list of 2015 Local Government Innovation Awardees includes:

City Category

  • Rochester Public Library BookBike—City of Rochester (overall category winner)
  • Police Paramedics Saving Live and Tax Dollars in Rural Minnesota—Breezy Point
  • Pop-Up Meeting!—City of Saint Paul
  • Geothermal Ice Arena—City of Brooklyn Park
  • Read to Play—City of New Brighton
  • Green Business Cost Sharing Program—City of Minneapolis 

County Category

  • wRight Choice—Wright County (overall category winner) 
  • PartnerSHIP 4 Health SHIP Project—Fergus Falls 
  • Community Navigators—Hennepin County 
  • A Collaborative Approach to Responding to Drug Abuse—Rice County 
  • How are Property Taxes Like Pie?—Anoka County 
  • Electronic Crime Task Force—Dakota County 

Township Category

  • Pine Island Community Planning Team—Pine Island (overall category winner) 
  • Community STS Conversation to Establish Sanitary Sewer District—Helena Township 
  • Septic System Inspections for Water Quality—Sylvan Township 
  • Kathio Vineland Road—Kathio Township 
  • Greenwood Township—Greenwood Township 

School Category

  • Minnesota partnership for Collaborative Curriculum—Intermediate District 287, Plymouth (overall category winner)
  • Kandiyohi County CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities)—ACGC (Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City) School District
  • Growing Young Stewards: A School and Community Partnership—Rockford Area Schools
  • Courses that Count: Partnering to Reduce Remedial Coursework—White Bear Lake Area Schools
  • Closing the Achievement Gap—Crookston Public Schools
  • Collaborative Cross-Site Mobile MakerSpaces—Wayzata School District 

To learn more about the awards program, visit

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota is one of the country’s top-ranked professional public policy and planning schools. The School is long noted for equipping students to play key roles in public life at the local, state, national, and global level and offers five distinctive master’s degrees, a doctoral degree, and four certificate programs.