Throughout the 1990s, Minnesota state and local officials found themselves under intense public pressure for both permanent tax relief and more effective and efficient public services. The demand for such conflicting solutions led Minnesota Senators Ember Reichgott Junge and John Hottinger to initiate the creation of the Board of Government Innovation and Cooperation (BGIC) in July 1993.
The BGIC is an independent entity comprised of both executive and legislative elected officials. Its mission is to foster a culture more receptive to change in Minnesota's public sector. The Board helps to break through dysfunctional procedural barriers, and supports the development of inventive programs and the elimination of redundant services from multiple levels of government. The BGIC acts as a vehicle through which frontline employees can suggest and enact changes in government policy and service delivery. Competitive grants, rule waivers, and procedural law exemptions are the main tools the BGIC utilizes to cultivate these changes.
Grants are intended for local governments to develop and implement innovative services. Collaboration between multiple levels of government or nonprofits is a requirement of grant recipients. These co-applicants must document processes and outcomes for the BGIC to use in information dissemination and program replication. Waivers and exemptions allow local officials to focus on service outcomes rather than the means by which they are achieved. Although the Board has only approved thirty-six waiver and exemption requests, twenty-five have resulted in legislation. Requests are often withdrawn as state agencies enforcing the rules sometimes allow the applicant to proceed without an official waiver.
The empowerment of local-level officials has resulted in seven Board-facilitated mergers by fifteen local governments. Approximately eighty pilot projects have been awarded nearly $4.7 million in funding by Board grants. The BGIC reports that the savings achieved by these projects totals over $14.8 million, including almost $7.2 million in recurring annual savings.
The BGIC does not focus on self-replication. It rather spends a considerable portion of its energy on the replication of new programs created under its influence. Over 350 local Minnesota officials attended two Board-sponsored conferences focusing on the replication of innovations in local service delivery. These conferences emphasize not only the dedication of the BGIC to replication and dissemination, but also the adoption by local officials of their new role as innovators.
The BGIC cites as its greatest achievement the cultivation of this new mindset among public officials. The new focus on effective and efficient service outcomes, rather than on prescriptive rules and regulations has proven itself effective. The result of intra-governmental collaborations and the encouragement of creation and efficiency have yielded a significant impact on the dual challenge of reduced state spending and public service augmentation.