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The Good Government Book Club

Filed under: Good Ideas, Local Politics


Imagine a Mayor attending a book club consisting of city employees interested in improving government. In Baltimore the city’s budget director runs The Good Government Book Club, which meets every two to three months to discuss books about government performance, innovation and improvement. As explained in a recent Governing article, At a recent meeting Baltimore’s Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake attended and participated in a book discussion with employees.

The Baltimore book club has been meeting for three years and are on their eleventh book.

The meetings are a brown bag lunch affair open to all employees. I love that the meetings are held in the city’s “innovation lab”. According to Baltimore’s Budget Director the book club discussions have inspired the following:

– The first book we read in the club was Extreme Government Makeover, which is about lean government. We recently had our first couple of lean events and they’ve been wildly successful.

– Before we read Citizenville, we had been doing things to engage citizens, but this gave us ideas on how to step up our game. We added crowdsourcing to our online budget tool and I feel like that was inspired by that book.

– The Ten Faces of Innovation sparked a discussion about how the configuration of physical workspace can really make a difference in how teams function. One of the people who came to that club was from our general services department, and she said she was incorporating some of the ideas from the book into some workspace design that she was doing.

– One manager said “I’ve been managing for 10 years and this is the closest thing I’ve ever had to management training.” Another employee, who was pretty jaded, came to a club meeting and said “This is a revelation for me. I’m so inspired to take these ideas back to my office and implement them.” That’s what it’s all about — giving people ideas that they can implement at any level.

What do you think about Baltimore’s Good Government Book Club?


  • Ann Onimous

    This seems like a great idea for 1.) injecting new ideas into government, and 2.) providing a forum for vertical idea sharing– that is, a resident of the cubicle farm can share ideas with the mayor or city manager (or vice versa) in a free-exchange of ideas instead of the normal rigid channel.

  • rastamaniac

    Imagine half a dozen Brown appointees capable of reading a book.