Privacy concerns often keep information on lockdown, but a new report says opening lines of communication to share information can spark solutions for problems facing local governments.

The report, released by the New America Foundation, drew from interviews with numerous local government employees, private organizations and non-profits to suggest ways to facilitate knowledge-sharing. The most relevant recommendations for local government officials include:

  • Connecting people and growing professional networks: Mentoring programs, direct introductions between officials working on similar issues as well as greater opportunities for feedback at events (Q+A sessions, small discussion groups, etc.) can help expand a knowledge base. 
  • Promoting failure as a way to share knowledge: Some local governments are wary to end failing projects, especially those that cost great sums of money, hoping to salvage something they can later promote as a success. A more effective approach is to publicize a failure early on, and share with other communities what worked and what didn’t.
  • Thinking locally: Local government officials should look close to home for problem-solving methods. Solutions from one area of the map may not work in another.
  • Focusing on curation and centralization, rather than collection: Instead of focusing only on data collection, a local government should concern itself with creating centralized, organized data sets to share.
  • Engaging community members, not just community groups: The interests of advocacy groups don't necessarily represent the interests of the community as a whole. Engaging more diverse elements of a community can lead to better solutions.
  • Creating tools for the entirety of the innovation lifecycle: Government agencies shouldn’t choose solutions or create tools shortsightedly. Late-stage evaluation processes need to be integrated into a strategy from day one to ensure a solution is effective.

 For more information, read the full report.