Making Government Work Better With the SAVE Award

A key element of the progressive agenda of more and better public services is finding ways to make government programs more effective and not just more expensive. A more effective program can serve more people, or serve them better, at an equal funding level. A more effective program also has an easier time making the case for more funding. Public opinion, contrary to myth, is often favorable to activist proposals but Americans are generally skeptical about the efficacy of public initiatives. Innovative ideas in public sector management can help improve confidence in social welfare programs and progressive politics.

So I was interested to read about this SAVE Award idea from the OMB which I hadn’t heard about previously:

Want to help the federal government save some money? Make sure to vote Thursday in a contest designed to help Uncle Sam cut costs. The winner gets a face-to-face meeting with President Obama before Christmas, and the winning idea will be included in his 2011 budget.

The Office of Management and Budget launched the SAVE Award in September, an effort to solicit cost-savings ideas from rank-and-file federal employees. The agency received more than 38,000 submissions from workers, and the White House announced the four finalists Monday. The OMB is still calculating the total potential cost savings from each of the ideas.

The four finalists work far from Washington and have rallied colleagues, friends, family — and even their children’s classmates — to log on to SAVEAward.gov to vote for their ideas.

Here’s the President explaining the idea:

This is good stuff. Obviously you’re not actually going to resolve the federal government’s long-term budget gap through these kind of small-bore ideas. But the vast majority of federal programs (i.e., everything that’s not defense, debt service, Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security) are actually pretty small in budgetary terms but still make a big difference in people’s lives and the overall state of the country. Working to improve their efficacy is a very worth undertaking.