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Newport Cuts Red Tape, Saves Hours

Read the article, Newport cuts red tape, saves hours, by Sean Flynn at the Newport Daily News.

Rhode Island City Institutes Cutting-Edge Program to Improve Efficiencies for Community at Large
Newport Re-Invents Systems to Save Staff Hour Costs and Improve Citizen Services

Newport town officials today projected a yearly savings of over $44,000 in staff hours to the city after completing the first phase of re-engineering an outdated citywide special events licensing application process. The change to the special events permits procedure is the direct result of Newport officials taking part in the program, ‘Leadership Matters RI,’ a joint initiative between the Pell Center at Salve Regina University, Newport, RI and the Public Sector Consortium, a national nonprofit dedicated to reinventing the practice of public leadership through learning and practice.

“The internal approval process for our special events licensing application was dated and cumbersome,” said Newport Fire Chief Pete Connerton. “It involved too many wasted steps and had to physically move from department to department for approval. We needed a new system where applicants can submit their applications and pay online which will be the second phase in this effort. In working on phase one, the team identified a methodology using existing software programs to allow the approvals from all departments to be done electronically using digital signatures. The timing was right so we decided to use the licensing application ‘problem’ as our focus when we started ‘Leadership Matters R.I.’ This new mindset helped us work together in a unified fashion to create a better solution for the city.”

“Aside from the licensing application process, the ‘Leadership Matters RI’ program helped us in other areas such as conducting more effective meetings and helping us believe in ourselves and each other as well as enhance relationships to ultimately improve municipal service,” said Elizabeth Sceppa, Budget and Finance Analyst for Newport. “We had twenty employees from different departments involved in the program which resulted in silos breaking down across the city. We learned about how each department really works and we now have a greater understanding of the work carried out by other city departments.”

The ‘Leadership Matters RI’ program is delivered at the Pell Center on the Salve Regina Campus in Newport, RI each fall. The program begins with skills training (facilitative leadership practices, systems thinking, negotiations and systems alignment for high performance) with teams from RI cities and towns, state leaders, nonprofit leaders and educational leaders. In the second phase, leaders return to their workplaces where they receive coaching and expanded training, which supports their project to improve public services in their city, town or schools. A final best practices sharing session takes place for leaders throughout the state almost a year later at the Pell Center.

“We’re thrilled that the Pell Center can be a venue for this exciting program in public leadership,” said James Ludes, Director of the Pell Center. “It’s really about creating greater transparency and engaging the city and the civil servants to work together in a unified fashion.”

“The Leadership Matters RI’ program in Newport was a huge success,” said Georgie Bishop, President of the Public Sector Consortium. “The participants took a system-wide approach to achieving efficiencies, saving money and time for the citizens of Newport. The resulting savings and outcomes have inspired other people to volunteer for the next system wide re-invention team.” Many Rhode Island towns and municipalities have taken part in ‘Leadership Matters RI’ along with Newport including Middletown, Bristol, and Salve Regina University.