Report: How King County, Washington broke down long-standing barriers to equitable, inclusive economic revitalization

On August 16, 2022, the Centre for Public Impact released Reimagining public value: our learning journey in King County, Washington.

The report details King County‘s efforts to reimagine and reinvent the way it approaches public value, breaking down long-standing internal and external barriers in order to build a thriving, equitable county.

Too often, models of local government are grounded in control, risk avoidance, and efficiency, to the detriment of equity, sustainability, and trust.

King County, Washington was determined to change this pattern, with the goal of achieving its True North: to make King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive.

We must recognize that if we want to create different, more equitable outcomes, we must work in different, more equitable ways,” explained Dow Constantine, County Executive of King County, Washington,

It is human nature for this transformation, both in what we do and how we do it, to feel uncomfortable and risky. Yet, we can accomplish great things if we’re willing to take the right risks. We have what it takes to drive change and to create meaningful impact, especially for those facing poverty, racism, and other forms of discrimination,” he continued.

To this end, King County embarked on a nine-month applied research effort with the Centre for Public Impact to better understand public value and how local governments can reimagine their approach to value delivery, ultimately improving outcomes for all residents.

The Reimagining Public Value program empowered our team to think deeper about the ways we normally do business in the County,” said Terry White, King County Metro’s General Manager.

We are now further developing our skills and mindsets that allow us to better recognize and change inequitable outcomes and ultimately better serve the King County community,” he added.

According to the Reimagining Public Value report, governments can embrace new values like equity, sustainability, and trust to unlock public value for their community in four steps:

  • Step one: define purpose, values, and guiding principles;
  • Step two: identify barriers;
  • Step three: experiment with new ideas; and
  • Step four: embed learnings & influence the system.

Reimagining Public Value is a valuable blueprint for any local government who seeks to more equitably serve their community,” said Ann Bruton, Program Manager at the Centre for Public Impact.

Though governments are articulating values like equity, sustainability, and trust, it takes real work to embrace those values. This report can help governments reimagine their approach to value delivery, disrupt the status quo, and ultimately improve outcomes for all residents,” she concluded.

Photo of Lake Washington courtesy of King County.

Read the full report.

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