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Failing Forward in Local Government


Our work as learning partners to help local governments foster cultures that support innovation.

About Failing Forward in Local Government


CPI and the National Association of County Administrators (NACA) are supporting counties to embrace a learning mindset and recognize that all innovation starts with, and is powered by, learning from failure.

Local government workers are charged with finding solutions to meet the needs of residents. This work must take into account extremely complex social, political, fiscal, and environmental circumstances. Progress in this context requires experimentation, risk-taking, and an embrace of failing forward

Failing Forward in Local Government is a year-long program that supports government departments' ability to spark and sustain cultures of innovation. By breaking down barriers to innovation, governments can more effectively serve their communities.

Participating counties


Fifteen government departments from five counties are participating in the 2021-2022 Failing Forward in Local Government cohort.

Cabarrus County, North Carolina

Participating departments include Human Services, Planning and Development Services, and Tax Administration.

Lane County, Oregon

Participating departments include Health and Human Services, Human Resources, and Land Management.

Loudoun County, Virginia

Participating departments include Animal Services, Office of Housing, and Parks, Recreation, and Community Services.

Ramsey County, Minnesota

Participating departments include Countywide Strategic Service Team, Health and Wellness Service Team, and Information and Public Service Team.

Teton County, Wyoming

Participating departments include Department of Health, Public Works, and Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

Fostering innovation at all levels


Failing Forward in Local Government applies both a top-down and bottom-up approach to spark and sustain culture changes that foster innovation.

  • Quarterly masterclasses, attended by county executives and senior leadership, will provide participants with new insights into government innovation. Masterclasses are two-hour workshops with world-class leaders and thinkers in government innovation. In addition to staff from participating counties, bold leaders from other counties are invited to join. 

  • Failure Foundries are departmental workshops with staff at all levels of seniority. Foundries are designed to help teams understand their unique challenges to failing forward and test strategies to overcome these challenges.

Failure Foundries


Phase one: identifying barriers and assets to failing forward

Departments identify their internal barriers and assets to learning from failure, and build a shared purpose for developing a fail forward culture.

Phase two: experimenting to break down barriers

Departments prototype and test a series of action plans that are designed to foster department-wide failing forward. By the end of phase two, departments test eight-to-twelve action plans.

Phase three: roadmapping for continuous innovation

Departments translate what they learned in phase two into a department-wide future roadmap for continuing to build a culture of innovation.