The Dolphin Wave Innovation Process
Tapping Global Intelligence for Inspiration
Get our Free Innovation Report

Creative Governance for the Public Sector


Imagine living in a community that is as close to your dream as you possibly can. There is a smile on everyone’s lips and a sense of joy is in the air. The lawns and gardens are well maintained giving you the visual pleasure that you desire. Public places bustled with brightly coloured and scented flowers and green vegetation. It is a real treat for your senses. The community is vibrant, prosperous and your neighbors are friendly. You feel absolutely safe as crime is almost non-existent. The council rates have been dropping steadily and they are now at the lowest levels in 20 years. Government officials are well-loved by the people and are held in high esteem.

Creative Governance can be applied to any sector of the public service, whereas it is at the municipal, state , national and even at the global level of the United Nations.

Creative Governance

Welcome to the world of Creative Governance! Of course there are problems in every community but the difference is that they were resolved in the spirit of Creative Governance. But what is Creative Governance?

First of all, let’s examine what is Governance. There are many definitions but I subscribe to the one given by Tim Plumptre, Founder, Institute On Governance (Ref: ) . According to Plumptre, Governance is the process whereby societies or organizations make important decisions, determine whom they involve and how they render account.

My definition of Creative Governance is : Creative Governance is a process whereby societies or organizations embrace and introduce innovations that enhance the quality of life on a sustainable basis. It is about exploiting limitations to drive breakthrough thinking. Innovation demands exploiting limits not ignoring them.

Hammer and Nail

Sadly, nearly all the governments in the world adopt a Hammer and Nail approach to their public governance. They see every problem as a nail which they need to whack with a hammer. For instance, if crime escalates, the hammer and nail approach is to increase the number of the police force, build more jails, buy more weapons and enact more laws. As the stories below show, this may not bring about the desired impact in in resolving the problem. An Creative Governance approach provides a much more effective solution at a much lower cost.

The time is now ripe for Creative Governance for the public sector. Public Governance in essence is similar to Corporate Governance, a concept that is gaining worldwide acceptance for corporate operational transparency to shareholders, decision accountability to stakeholders and social responsibility for its actions to the public at large.

Public Governance

Public governance is concerned with the conduct of governments at all levels to bring the best possible benefits to their citizens and to fulfill their responsibilities as members of the global community. Ultimately, I hope that the United Nations will come out with the Public Governance Framework to promote and encourage the practice of Good Public Governance to all countries of the world. Through this framework, our rights as global citizens will be safeguarded so that we will enjoy unprecedented peace, harmony, good health and a high standard of living befitting our human dignity.

Public Governance Forum

My objective in initiating this Public Governance Forum is to share ideas about best practices in government policies and operations at all levels from all over the world so that we could learn from each other. It is open to everyone including those in government, politicians, public officials and the public at large. Let’s share ideas to bring about a better world.

Below are some of the stories which I consider to be excellent examples of Creative Governance in the public service.


The city of Curitiba in Brazil offers one of the best examples of Creative Governance.

In 1972, the new mayor of the city Jaime Lerner, an architect and urban planner named, ordered a 48 hours transformation of six blocks of the street into a pedestrian zone. The municipal authorities were able to accomplish it in three days.

The creation of the pedestrian zone inaugurated a series of programs by Lerner that made Curitiba a famous model for urban planning. In promoting industrial development Lerner decided to admit only non-polluters. Curitiba constructed an industrial district that reserved so much land for green space that it was derided as a “golf course” until it succeeded in filling up with major businesses. Through the creation of over 20 recreational parks, many with lakes to catch runoff in low-lying areas that flood periodically, Curitiba managed, at a time of explosive population growth, to increase its green areas from 5 square feet per inhabitant to an astounding 560 square feet. The city promoted “green” policies before they were fashionable and called itself “the ecological capital of Brazil” in the 1980s.

Another of its famous innovations is the introduction of glass tubes that are boarding platforms for the rapid-transit buses. A light rail system would have required 20 times the financial investment and a subway would have cost 100 times as much.

Broken Windows in New York

William Bratton, chief of New York City’s police reduced serious crime rate by 75 percent by putting the concept of Broken Windows into practice. This concept was first introduced by criminologist George Kelling and social scientist James Q. Wilson. It was build around the theory that people were likelier to vandalize a building with one broken window than a building with none. A broken window sends the message that nobody cares, encouraging vandals to act on their destructive impulses. Similarly, they suggested, if a community tolerates quality-of-life offences, such as drug use and prostitution, it signals to all potential lawbreakers that it doesn’t care what happens to it; more serious crime will soon result. In short, a successful crime prevention strategy n what they termed as Zero Tolerance is to fix the problems when they are small,

With Kelling as consultant, Bratton began to go after the fare evaders, pickpockets, and other petty criminals who terrorized the New York subway system. Bratton also had cops enforce anti-loitering laws to steer the homeless away from the subways and toward social services. The results were conclusive. Not only did minor crime plunge; serious crime did, too, and public confidence soared. Bratton also discovered that in arresting what he thought were minor offenders, many of them were actually wanted for much more serious crimes who evaded capture previously.

Bratton achieved similar success when he was appointed as police chief in Los Angeles, since 2002. The LAPD has reduced crime by 26 percent overall, and homicides by 25 percent in three years, using many strategies, but always emphasizing order-restoration. These achievements in Los Angeles, like those in New York and in other cities, prove that broken windows is, in fact, thriving.

As of 2005, New York City has the lowest crime rate among the ten largest cities in the US. In fact, it was so successful that the London ( UK) police had to send a delegation to learn from the New York program.

Peace in Basra

The FastCompany magazine highlighted the Creative Governance achievements of British Army Captain Stephen Morte stationed in Basra, Iraq.

Captain Morte utilized the microfinance concept that won Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. He worked to defuse tension between coalition forces and the Iraqi people by offering grants to help create jobs and ease poverty. By helping to build self-sustaining enterprises, thereby weaning Iraq from reliance on foreign aid and improving Iraqis’ opinion of foreign forces, Morte believed that it would bring about more lasting peace than military enforcements.

In his role as a civil-military cooperation officer for the Light Infantry Regiment – one of the most battle-hardened in the British Army, Morte liaised among Iraqi reconstruction agencies, the U.S. State Department, the British Foreign Office, and Iraqi construction contractors.

With every payment Morte subsequently rendered, he sensed a change. He was well received and respected by the community. One plan set in motion was to revive an entire sector of the Basra economy with an $8 million program to plant 140,000 date palms. The program could provide long-term employment for 2,000 Baswari farmers and 8,000 laborers, two-thirds of whom were recently unemployed.

Sustainable peace in Iraq could be achieved not by military might but through non-military creative governance like the one practiced by Captain Morte.

Los Angeles Gang Violence

The racial gang violence, Latino versus black proved largely immune to anti-crime efforts by the police. Violent gang crime jumped 14 percent in 2006. There were 40,000 gang members, spread between 720 gangs, who committed 269 murders last year.

According to Constance Rice, author of a study on LA crime and violence, the city has spent $50 billion on the problem over the past three decades and now has six times as many gangs and twice the number of gang members. Police see have come to realize that the gang epidemic here is largely immune to increased crime crackdown. .They realized that the police “cannot arrest their way out of the gang violence crisis,” . A new innovative approach is required.

Rice’s research discovered a successful community model that had been tried in L.A., During the summer of 2003, local basketball courts stayed open past midnight for games. Community groups offered computer games and tutoring from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. – the hours when most violence occurs. Gang intervention workers negotiated with local gangs for no-violence agreements, while a local radio station provided coverage of progress.

At the end of 14 weeks there was a clear record … not one shooting or killing or battery or assault. This is the power of Creative Governance.

Courtroom in School

Michael Martone is a district judge in Oakland County, Michigan, USA. He is a different kind of judicial activist — a judge who thinks outside the box, gets off the bench, and tries to prevent problems involving drunk-driving accidents before they wind up in his courtroom.

He started a “Court in the Schools/Critical Life Choices.” program with the goal to make an impression on students by bringing real-life sentencing hearings into their schools. His logic: If you want to encourage kids not to make bad decisions, then make them see the consequences of such decisions.

The second half of the program consists of a conversation with the kids, during which Martone screens news clips about drunk-driving accidents. For example he show a clip of a drunk driver who killed a mother and her three daughters. “He tore up two families,” he tells the students, “his own and the one whose mother and children he killed. How is getting behind the wheel when you’re drunk different from shooting someone?”

Martone put together a “startup kit” for his fellow judges. It has an organizational checklist, sample letters to send to school districts, advice on how to structure chats with students, and a sample press release to help spread the word. It also provides lots of evidence that the program works — not hard statistics, which would be impossible to track, but handwritten thank-you letters that students have sent to Martone. The result is that it has attracted widespread attention throughout the US.

Baby Treatment

A small town in the U.K had a problem with unruly young men after a drinking session at a local pub. In their drunk condition, they went on a rampage in the surrounding areas smashing cars and damaging public property. Many were hauled to jail to sober them up. However, the number of offences shot up instead of being reduced.

The police chief was in a fix. Through his discreet investigations, he discovered that the reason for the increase in drunk-related offences was the youth’s perception of a ‘macho image’. Those who went to jail actually boasted about achieving true manhood!

By understanding the problem, the police chief came out with an ingenious solution. He treated the jailed offenders like babies. They were fed baby food, given milk in baby milk bottles and spoken to by the wardens in the baby language. In a small community, news of this “baby treatment” spread like wildfire. Guess what? The offences disappeared as quickly as they had appeared! Perhaps this treatment could be meted out to the football hooligans as well.

Talk on Creative Governance

The above are just a few of the many stories on Creative Governance that I have collated.

Please email Dr.YKK at if you want to invite him to present an illuminating one hour Talk on Creative Governance and thereafter to facilitate a session to help solve a prevailing public and social problem in the spirit of Creative Governance.