Humphrey School News—July 6, 2017

Celebrating Innovation, Humphrey School Recognizes 10 State Government Projects


Solar panels
Solar panels.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN—From improved recycling efforts at the State Capitol to more affordable solar energy and expanded air quality alerts, Minnesota state government agencies are working to deliver better services to state residents through creativity, collaboration, and efficiency.

Their efforts are being recognized by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs through the 2017 State Government Innovation Awards. The awards, organized in partnership with the Bush Foundation, highlight 10 projects that find innovative solutions to address the needs of Minnesota residents. 

Jay Kiedrowski, senior fellow at the Humphrey School's Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center and one of the award judges, said the 56 projects submitted this year are proof that government does many things right.

“Our government officials are trying new ways to deliver services more efficiently and effectively, with great results,” he said. “Each of these innovations has had a significant positive payback for the dollars invested, while improving services for Minnesotans. We hope these awards will encourage an environment of experimentation and creativity throughout state government.” 

Kiedrowski and the panel of judges considered the submissions for their creativity, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness. The winners will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony on July 27.   

The awards, now in their fourth year, were inspired by the Humphrey School’s annual Local Government Innovation Awards, which recognize schools, cities, townships, and county government entities for their programs and projects. 

The 2017 State Government Award winners:

  • Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Way to Work Project
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: Statewide Air Quality Index Forecasting
  • Metropolitan Council: Government Solar Garden Subscriber Collaborative
  • Department of Natural Resources, Parks and Trails Division: Self-Service Action Team
  • Department of Human Services and State Board of Investment: The Minnesota ABLE Plan
  • Department of Transportation: Hydraulic Inspection Vehicle Explorer (HIVE)
  • Department of Agriculture: MDA Food Business Licensing and Food Safety Wizard
  • Department of Administration: Capitol Complex Recycling Upgrades
  • Department of Administration: Combined Approach to Increasing Diversity and Inclusion
  • Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension: Electronic Search Warrant Application

Of the 10 overall winners, the top three will receive a professionally produced video to use to share the story of their work with others. They are:

Department of Employment and Economic Development, Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Way to Work Project

The Way to Work Project (WTW) is a pilot project in Dakota County that tested a new approach to providing employment services to individuals with significant disabilities—individuals who previously were assumed to be “too disabled to work” in competitive employment. Since the project began in late 2015, it has helped more than 80 people find jobs or develop job-search plans. The Department plans to adapt and expand the best practices of the WTW Project statewide. WTW is a collaboration among DEED/Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Dakota County Social Services, the Department of Human Services, and ProAct Inc.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: Statewide Air Quality Index Forecasting

On June 1, 2017, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) expanded its air quality index (AQI) forecasting program from two to 17 locations, allowing it to provide air quality alerts for residents across the entire state of Minnesota. Those alerts are now easier for meteorologists to issue. MPCA collaborated with the state departments of health and transportation to improve the alert messages.  Air quality alert messages include specific actions people can take to reduce their exposure and contribution to poor air quality.

Metropolitan Council: Government Solar Garden Subscriber Collaborative

The Governmental Solar Garden Subscriber Collaborative is an initiative involving 31 government partners who joined together to solicit proposals from vendors who offered solar energy participation via subscription, as an alternative to local governments installing solar panels on their own property. Community Solar Gardens create an opportunity for local government entities to support clean energy, save on energy bills for public facilities, and hedge against the future price volatility of electricity, while not having to install solar onsite. The Met Council is one of the largest energy users in the metro region. These gardens will result in $5 million in cost savings, as well as emissions reductions, over the next 25 years.

To learn more about the State Government Innovation Awards, as well as the individual award winners and their innovations, visit

The awards ceremony and reception is Thursday, July 27, at 4 p.m. at the Minnesota History Center. You can register for the event here.  

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Humphrey School of Public Affairs
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Minneapolis, MN 55455