HUD will undertake multiple flagship initiatives with the overarching theme of improving openness while reducing the number of unnecessary, time-consuming, and redundant processes that currently exist within the Department. These projects will reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies, foster more streamlined interaction with stakeholders, and improve the Department's ability to be open and responsive. The diagram below illustrates HUD's flagship initiatives:
HUD's Flagship Initiatives
They will receive priority support and additional administrative resources in order to disseminate a culture of efficiency and responsiveness throughout HUD. Each of these projects aligns with the Department's broader strategic goals while also enhancing transparency, engagement, and collaboration with the public, other Agencies, and stakeholders.
The establishment of an Innovation Lab can benefit HUD through the incubation of novel and unique ideas that improve its interactions with customers, increase mission efficiency and efficacy, and reduce duplication of effort.
The innovation lab could explore the possibility of utilizing geo-located texting services to inform its most vulnerable customers about critical services in emergency situations. For example, if a municipality with numerous HUD-assisted housing units was expected to experience flooding, the Department could, with the right technology, send out a timely warning to its customers and tell them where they could best receive assistance. Many of HUD's customers might lack easy access to the Internet, but many have cell phones with texting capabilities and this is a fruitful area for additional research.
Another possible project is the development of an iPhone, Android, Windows 7, or other mobile operating system application that allows HUD's stakeholders, partners, and customers to access relevant information about the locations of the Department's field offices, local housing providers, or other relevant information. Such an application would not only be useful in an office setting, but also in mobile situations, enabling housing providers and other personnel to go out in the field, engage with their customers, and provide on-the-spot resolution of questions. Innovation lab personnel will engage with the target market for such an application to determine what information would be most useful to them in both an office and mobile environment.
Setting up such a lab will require significant consultation with stakeholders, the development of an appropriate governance structure, modification of relevant policies, and the procurement of a dedicated source of funding. However, recognition of the lab's importance in producing and disseminating new methods that complement HUD's efforts in transparency, engagement, and collaboration should allow these obstacles to be overcome.
Since 2001, HUD has worked with communities to implement and use local Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) to collect client-level data to discover the number and characteristics of homeless persons. Today, nearly every city and county in America operates HMIS. HUD reports national and local data on homelessness to Congress and the public through the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR). Given the critical need for timely information in the current economic downturn, HUD is expanding the use of the HMIS System so it can serve as a platform to help communities more effectively confront homelessness. The recent passage of the HEARTH Act of 2009 aligns with this effort by consolidating and simplifying HUD's various homelessness resources.
The information from the HMIS helps determine whether homelessness is increasing or decreasing and what sub-populations are most affected. As a result of these efforts, community leaders and the public will know more about the nature and size of the challenge and be better able to target limited resources to maximize effectiveness. Under new programs such as the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), funded through the Recovery Act in 2009, communities will have resources to create meaningful local projects aimed at preventing homelessness and rapidly re-housing those who are currently experiencing it. These programs align with HUD's strategic initiative of “Ending Homelessness by Preventing It.”
Moreover, through HUD's Homelessness Resource Exchange (HRE) web site , field research, on-line surveys, and townhall meetings, HUD will seek input from community stakeholders and the public about how best to reduce and ultimately eliminate homelessness. Information received through these efforts will be used to identify best practices and outcomes of HPRP, and to assess the impact of other homelessness programs. HUD will make this data publically available, and it will engage its stakeholders in identifying its most useful attributes.
Building on all of these efforts, HUD will assume a proactive leadership role in the Administration's efforts to combat homelessness by endeavoring to develop a new and innovative set of tools and processes. The Department's effort is unique because it will seek to predict the future course of homelessness in a community, and it will allow HUD to proactively allocate homelessness resources. Similar to how the Department of the Interior tries to predict where wildfires will occur using relevant data on precipitation, wind, and temperature, HUD and its partners will try to predict which geographic areas are at risk of heightened levels of homelessness
HUD believes that research is needed to determine how combining information from multiple agencies could lead to the development of a predictive model that could help communities avert homelessness before it happens. The first phase of this effort is to collect data that could be used in a predictive model, and the second phase is to develop an interactive model and make it available to the public.
The illustration below displays a potential tool via an interactive map:
Mapping Areas of Potentially High Homelessness
As part of this research effort, HUD will proactively explore partnerships with relevant non-profits, the US Census Bureau, Health and Human Services, the Departments of Labor, Commerce, and Defense, the Veterans Administration, and other agencies or groups to identify collaborative ways in which each organization can contribute to the fight against homelessness. Cooperation with financial regulatory agencies and other entities gathering relevant economic data may also provide HUD with valuable leading indicators of potential increases in homelessness. This cooperation will include data sharing agreements to identify information that can be shared among these groups to provide the best predictive capability in identifying areas for rapid increases in homelessness.
This proactive tool will not only address homelessness, but also yield substantial cost savings. The costs of sheltering families in transitional housing are substantially greater than those associated with programs such as the HPRP. Predicting when and where homelessness will strike will allow HUD and its local partners to use more affordable and sustainable long-term programs instead of short-term, expensive, and patchwork solutions.
Build a Business Practices Exchange for Assisted Housing Providers to Share Ideas
HUD not only wants to ‘bust bureaucracy' within its own corridors, but also act as a catalyst for change among the various state, local, and tribal assisted housing providers that it cooperates with. The Department will create a best practices repository, where housing providers may upload programs they consider to be successful for review by other interested parties. Much as visitors to Amazon.com can vote on the usefulness and relevance of user-submitted reviews, viewers of the best practices stored in the repository will be able to vote on those that they find most helpful.
The repository will be a community in which housing provider personnel, their customers, and the general public can collaborate and communicate with each other without the direct involvement of HUD. The Department will also utilize this tool to help local housing providers, especially those with limited resources, find and utilize previously developed plans, which will allow them to focus on delivering value to their customers.
Identify and Update Outdated Policies and Practices
HUD will begin a comprehensive program dedicated to identifying and updating outdated policies, regulations, and practices that no longer bring mission value and that are needlessly hindering the Department's performance. These barriers to progress exist at the Federal, state, and local levels, and will require that HUD adopt a targeted and balanced effort to address them. Modifying outdated rules and regulations will not only increase HUD's efficiency, but also help in changing the Department's culture to one that is more proactive in identifying mission impediments and more flexible in serving its customers.
This may include the use of social media tools, such as Youtube, to post archived video recordings of all of HUD's public meetings or current processes. This initiative is fully in keeping with HUD's strategic plan, and it will involve all functional areas within the Department. External stakeholders, public participants, and HUD's employees who adhere to outdated policies will aid in their identification. This will require HUD to engage with relevant stakeholder groups and publish its current policies, processes, and regulations for public comment in order to identify inefficient ones that can be updated.
As depicted in Figure 8, HUD will utilize standard project management practices, as developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI), in order to initiate, manage, and deploy HUD's flagship initiatives.
HUD's Flagship Initiative Project Management Process
This framework provides a comprehensive, scalable, and repeatable set of guidelines that will standardize the way flagship initiatives are managed and deployed so the public interacts with a set of tools that have undergone similar quality control checks to ensure standardization and ease of use.
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