November 24, 2013Article

North Denver Tribune: Denver Named Trendsetter in Delivering Highest Quality Services for Lowest Possible Cost

Local/ Economic/ 2013/

Denver was named a national trendsetter for using data to provide better services for residents. In response to the recognition from Results for America and The Bridgespan Group, Mayor Michael B. Hancock shared the secret to the City and County of Denver’s success: its employees.

“Denver is a $1 billion operation, and we owe it to our residents to make smart business decisions with every penny,” Mayor Hancock said. “Through the leadership of our greatest asset – city employees – we are delivering the highest quality services at the lowest possible cost.”

In 2011, the Mayor began to change the culture of city government by creating an innovation training program that empowers city employees to identify inefficiencies, reduce waste and increase customer service.

The “Peak Academy” initiative has trained nearly 2,000 employees and has indentified more than $11 million in savings to date. The savings in time and money are then redirected toward improving programs that provide a strong return on investment.

“In a climate where morale is traditionally low and government staff are asked to do more with less, this initiative brings people together—whatever their title – to problem solve,” Chief Performance Officer David Edinger said. “The overall aim is for staff to become innovators, changing the way the city operates to deliver better services.”

Examples of innovations identified to date:

  • Denver Human Services reduced mail-in food, financial and health care assistance application prep time from 5 days to 85 minutes, and now offer 94 percent of clients same-day interviews,  helping individuals and families receive critical benefits 40 percent faster.
  • Animal Care and Control reduced the hold time on dogs from 30 days to 15 days, saving money on shelter costs and helps reduce the stress on dogs.
  • Wastewater Division saved just over $45,000 in postage for annual lien letters, freeing up about 100 work hours that can be reallocated to more value-added work.

The Results for America study placed Denver among the top six cities, along with Baltimore, Miami, New York City, Providence and San Antonio, for local government innovation that is setting a standard for use of data on issues including education, jobs and safety.

Peak Academy was also ranked fourth by Fast Company for “10 Creative Ideas for Thriving Cities of the Future” and was spotlighted as an innovative policy by New York University Wagner School of Public Service and the New York-based Center for an Urban Future. Mayor Hancock’s Peak Performance initiative including Peak Academy is also being highlighted today at the National League of Cities’ Congress of Cities event.

On the release of the paper, America Achieves founding partner and leader of the Results for America initiative, Michele Jolin, indicated the importance of the cities’ leadership in evidence-based budgeting.

“The cities highlighted in this report remind us of the extent to which city governments have become the incubators of innovation and the drivers of results in America,” Jolin said. “While Washington seems to be stuck in unending partisan gridlock, these cities are using evidence and data to change lives and deliver real results for their citizens.  Washington should follow the lead set by Denver and focus on funding programs that have a proven track record of results – and directing funds away from those that are not successful.”

The following video was also released by Results for America, sending a clear message to Washington, D.C.


Mayor Hancock agreed that cities are leading the way in innovation, “From paving our roads to teaching our children, cities are investing in what works and choosing to move resources away from what doesn’t. In a time of great disappointment in Washington D.C., we are proving that government can improve the lives of communities across the country through smart, evidence-based decisions.”

The Bridgespan Group concludes the paper with a guide for city leaders and their federal, state and philanthropic partners on how to improve outcomes based on their observations from the six city examples.

Bridgespan Group’s Managing Partner Jeff Bradach said, “The case studies presented here demonstrate that this is no longer a do-gooder’s dream, but a real possibility. Cities can work smarter for their residents, and indeed, they must, as they tackle big challenges and opportunities.  The six cities in our paper prove that geek is good – that blending rigor and data with a passion for results and change can move the needle on big problems.”