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One of the core components of the Commonwealth’s Innovation approach is to encourage a culture of innovation at all levels of government.  Community Innovation Challenge (CIC) Grants are competitively awarded to municipal governments who seek to change the way they do business.

Lieutenant Governor Murray announced the second round of the program on September 10, 2012.  Through seven information sessions held across the Commonwealth, over 136 local officials expressed strong interest in the program.   We received 118 applications and announced the winners in mid-February, 2013. 27 recipients were chosen, receiving a total of $2.25Million in grants.

Community challenge grantAll projects were chosen based on their innovative new strategies, feasibility of successful implementation, potential for the greatest impact, cost savings or other tangible benefits, speed of project timeline, and potential applicability to other local governments.  Each chosen project could serve as a blueprint for similar programs in other municipalities, and several projects are seeking to grow by adding more communities to their existing programs.

From the 1620’s to the present day, residents of Massachusetts enjoy a strong sense of place and live in small towns spread throughout the Commonwealth.  Each of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts has a unique history.  Almost every community in the state has a defined downtown area and provides services directly to its residents and has a direct relationship with state government.

Although the residents of Massachusetts cherish the small town feel of our communities, our new fiscal reality requires that we explore opportunities to collaborate with our neighboring communities to provide core services as efficiently as possible.  When Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray were sworn into office in 2007, they pledged to develop a strong working relationship with cities and towns and to provide them with the necessary tools to ensure their ability to provide core services to residents.  The Acts of 2009, Chapter 60, signed by Governor Patrick established a Regionalization Advisory Commission to develop recommendations of tools that the Commonwealth could provide to cities and towns to assist with regionalization initiatives.

Chaired by Lieutenant Governor Murray, the Commission led a series of meetings to identify best practices, challenges, and recommendations for regionalization of municipal services.   The Commission published a report of its recommendations focused on the need to incentivize collaborative thought at the local level.    The CIC program builds on the success of regionalization programs such as the State 911 Department and the Public Health District Incentive Grant program.

In November of 2011, the Administration launched the first round of CIC grants, totaling $4 million.  We received 100 applications which involved 285 communities from every corner of Massachusetts, with a total request of over $21 million.  The first round of CIC grants provided funding to 27 projects which involved 138 cities and towns and numerous regional school districts.  The projects included many municipal service delivery areas, such as:

  • A highway equipment cooperative between Brookfield, Brimfield, East Brookfield, West Brookfield, and Warren,
  • The joined  two fire departments in Ashland and Hopkinton, and
  • The created a regional system of online licenses and permits through the Cape Cod Commission.

The Citizens Commonwealth Connect App program, sparked by a CIC grant to the City of Boston, allowed 35 other communities, chosen through a competitive process, to develop a smart phone app similar to the original Boston app.  Additionally, the City of Lowell received funding to work with the Collins Center at UMass Boston to develop a municipal performance management program which involved 20 communities in the first year.

With the additional $2.25M provided by the second round of grants, the CIC grant program has developed a proven track record of success in sparking creativity and innovation that saves taxpayer dollars and improves residents’ access to government services.  The map at the top of this article highlights the communities which are serviced by CIC grants, and illustrates CIC’s extensive reach across Massachusetts.

Written By:

Since November, 2011, Tim Dodd has worked as the Local Government Program Manager in the Executive Office of Administration and Finance (A&F). In this capacity, Tim manages all aspects of the Community Innovation Challenge (CIC) grant program. Tim also manages two county government grant programs, a municipal performance management program, and is part of the Commonwealth Performance, Accountability, and Transparency (CPAT) office.

Before coming to A&F, Tim taught for five years and since 2007 has served as an elected member of the Board of Selectmen in his hometown of Westborough. He earned a B.A. in history and political science from American University, an M.A. in history from Providence College, and a Doctorate in Law and Policy from Northeastern University.

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