Applied Research and Solutions

In 2006, the Innovation Group, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and Arizona State University (ASU) partnered to transform local government by accelerating the development and dissemination of innovations.  Capitalizing on the strengths of each of its component parts, the Alliance for Innovation launched with a vision to become the world’s premier force for innovation in local governance.

The Alliance was charged with identifying how “state of the art” approaches could influence the “state of the practice” and ultimately become more widely adopted beyond Alliance members.  The overarching purpose was to develop a new kind of research to accelerate and support the wider adoption of promising new practices that most local governments are not yet using. 

Research Partnerships

Closing the Research Gap

Arizona State University, the Alliance research partner, is bridging the academic community with practitioners. The Center for Urban Innovation at ASU conducts basic and applied research on innovation in local government and identifies innovative practices and ideas. Some of the research projects completed included Navigating the Fiscal CrisisCitizen Engagementand Collaborative Services

Marvin Andrews Fellows

The Marvin Andrews Fellows work in the Center for Urban Innovation as management interns and are simultaneously enrolled in the MPA degree program. In the first year of employment, the management interns monitor and report on innovative practices in local governments across the country and contribute to the research activities of the Alliance for Innovation. In the second year, they are assigned to local governments in the region to conduct projects that improve policy and management in their host government. Their activities draw on and contribute to the research and service program of the Center and the Alliance. Upon completion of two years of employment and the MPA degree, the Marvin Andrews Fellows seek positions in local government. They are highly prepared with strong education, extensive knowledge of local government innovation, and experience in converting research into action. The Marvin Andrews fellows will contribute critically needed talent at a time of widespread generational turnover in local government leadership.

Research Projects

Performance Management
Performance Analytics

Kevin C. Desouza at Arizona State University conducted a series of interviews of city managers and staff to better understand how local governments are using data.

Community Engagement
Citizen Engagement

A free civic engagement tool for local governments to understand their readiness and capacity for engagement.

Collaborative Services

Overview The Enhanced Partnership represents the joint research efforts of the Alliance for Innovation, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and the Center for Urban Innovation at Arizona State University. Decision Matrix The Collaborative Services Decision Matrix Tool is the second product from this new partnership. Each product is designed to be a useful aid for local government officials tackling challenging opportunities. This report supports The Collaborative Service Delivery Matrix: A Decision Tool to Assist Local Governments. It highlights the results of research, case studies, extensive bibliographic reviews, and interviews used by the Enhanced Partnership in the development of the decision matrix. The Enhanced Partnership chose to invest in this project in order to develop a practical and low-cost decision instrument that local governments can easily employ and implement very quickly with existing staff. The tool helps communities determine whether or not entering into a collaborative service delivery arrangement is likely to result in achieving the jurisdiction’s goals. This is done through an evaluation of 14 characteristics along two dimensions:  Type of Service  Community Characteristics  Asset Specificity  Possible Public Partners  Contract Specification and Monitoring  Possible Private Partners  Labor Intensity  Possible Nonprofit Partners  Capital Intensity  Council Orientation/Political Environment  Costs  Fiscal/Economic Health  Management Competencies  Unions  Stability in Administrative Team  Public Interest Applying a 3-point grade to these 14 characteristics yields two scores that illustrate the likelihood that a successful collaborative arrangement is possible. Jurisdictions decide whether the expected benefits exceed the expected costs in light of their risk tolerance. If the jurisdiction decides to pursue a collaborative arrangement, staff can use the same scores on the14 characteristics. This can determine which form of collaborative arrangement is most likely to succeed regarding the delivery of that particular service in that particular type of community. This report elaborates on the 14 characteristics and the five (5) basic collaboration structures on which the decision matrix tool is based. The tool, this report, illustrative case studies, an extensive bibliography of related research, and a series of other resources are available on, the Alliance for Innovation website (, and the ASU Center for Urban Innovation website ( View the resources at the links below The Collaborative Service Delivery Arrangements for Local Governments: A Summary of the Research Behind the Decision Matrix Tool The Collaborative Service Delivery Matrix: A Decision Tool to Assist Local Governments Bibliographic Resources on Collaborative Service Delivery Arrangements

Red Tape to Green Tape

Red Tape, Green Tape, and Local Grievance Policies in Local Government Organizations Grievance policies are important to local government organizations given the rise in legal protections for employees, the role of grievance in indicating managerial effectiveness, and the role that grievance processes play in giving employees a voice in adverse employment decisions.  The first project funded by the Local Government Research Collaborative examines grievance policies.  Research was conducted by Dr. Leisha DeHart-Davis at the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill.  The research collected quantitative and qualitative data from North Carolina local government organizations to identify patterns of grievances, how grievance policies are designed, and whether there is any relationship between the design of grievance policies and their outcomes.  The research also involved identifying managerial innovations with the potential to resolve conflicts and reduce employee grievances.  Key Findings: Grievances are generally low in number but consume significant amounts of managerial time and correlate with employee turnover rates. Given the significant costs of replacing employees, local governments should seek management tools that minimize the need for grievances. Innovative management tools provide an alternative to grievance processes. These include mediation, which involves the use of an independent neutral third party to resolve conflicts between employees and supervisors, and the Ombuds office, a neutral and confidential source of counsel for workplace conflicts. Training appears to reduce certain positive grievance-related outcomes. The Zero-Fault Grievance System, one idea for lowering grievances, resolves grievance decisions in favor of employees if managers have made procedural errors in executing personnel policies. This approach has the potential to build trust with employees and reduce the management errors that can lead to grievances. Local governments should collect basic human resource management data to diagnose human capital management issues and support evidence-based solutions. Grievance policies should be revised periodically—every two to five years, for example—to increase effectiveness. To Access the Full Report, including findings, grievance-relevant innovations, and recommendations click here. Read a Letter from Leisha DeHart-Davis on how she would respond to this research if she were a local government manager by clicking here. Listen to the discussion with Dr. DeHart-Davis about the research, recorded on July 29, 2015 by clicking here.  

Related Topics




  • LGRC Releases Free Report on Workforce of Tomorrow
    POSTED: November 07, 2017
  • Local Government Research Collaborative Funds Two New Proposals
    POSTED: November 07, 2017
  • Alternative Work Schedules: Recent Research & Practice
    POSTED: November 07, 2017

    One of the interesting phenomena in the world of innovation is how something old can become new again. This is certainly the case with alternative work schedules. While technically not a new program, alternative work schedules, such as the four-ten hour workweek, have seen a recent resurgence. With the cost of motor fuels reaching new heights during the summer of 2008, many employees and organizations started to wonder if there were better ways to structure the workweek to lessen the economic impact of these rising energy costs. Additionally, the recent economic downturn has increased the fiscal pressures facing local governments and the importance of finding efficiencies in governmental operations. One frequently suggested alternative is the 4/10 workweek, as employees can decrease their travel cost by 20 percent, creating an immediate cost savings for the employee, along with potential benefits for organizations and citizens.

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