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The Center for Public Service: A Catalyst for Innovation in the Field of Public Service
Author: College of Urban & Public Affairs
Posted: July 30, 2014

There are growing pressures on city government to become more innovative in response to changing citizen expectations, fiscal constraints, and the complex nature of “wicked” problems that cannot be resolved with standard bureaucratic approaches.  The saying of “do more with less” has become an unsatisfying motto in public service.  That’s why the Center for Public Service (CPS) recently partnered with the City of Portland to jump start a culture that cultivates innovations within city agencies as one way to meet these challenges.  

When Portland Mayor Charlie Hales created a $1 million Innovation Fund aimed at fostering better money-saving approaches for the city, the City invited Center for Public Service faculty and graduate students to assist the 5-person Innovation Fund Task Force in defining program objectives, evaluating agency proposals, and ensuring the effective implementation of approved projects. This type of hands-on research and evaluation project falls squarely within the Center’s bailiwick. 

The Center for Public Service provides individuals and public sector and non-profit organizations access to the intellectual resources and practical experience of the Hatfield School of Government in order to improve governance, civic capacity and public management locally, regionally, nationally and around the globe. Much of the work of the Center is focused around the idea of finding innovative ways to enhance the legitimacy of - and citizen trust in - public service institutions and the people who work in them. 

A philosophy of innovation is reflected in the work the Center is doing with the City of Portland, but it is also embedded into every program and project that comes through our doors. CPS defines public sector innovation as a new or significantly improved policy, process, product, service, or method of delivery that is new to the organization using it, and provides way of resolving a public problem or responding to user or citizen demands. The change starts with a creative idea that is collaboratively developed and adopted through an iterative process and results in systemic behavioral change that both outperforms previous practices and improves public outcomes. 

By working with agencies and individuals to co-produce effective, sustainable solutions to wicked challenges, CPS helps foster innovation at every level of government. Whether it’s designing a custom leadership development program for the US Army Corps of Engineers, collaborating with partners in Vietnam, Japan and all across the world to develop sustainable and ethical governance policies, educating the next generation of public servants through the Executive Masters in Public Administration degree program, or delivering courses and workshops for up-and-coming non-profit leaders and elected officials, each unique solution builds upon the solid academic research and practical experience of the CPS faculty.

The Center for Public Service accomplishes its work through:

Learn more about the programs, projects and other services offered by the Center for Public Service at our website: www.pdx.edu/cps