Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties is a part of Michelle Obama’s national Let’s Move! initiative to combat obesity in children. LMCTC encourages collaboration among various U.S. government departments, elected officials, non-profits and private foundations to bring about change at the grassroots level.
To date, 205 local elected leaders have joined the program.
The program was initially launched in 2010 as Let’s Move! Cities and Towns and focused on creating awareness and gathering support from local leaders. It was re-launched in July 2012 with a new framework, specific goals, guidelines for measuring progress, and the inclusion of Counties.
Leaders can sign up for the program online and must commit to meeting five goals that promote healthy eating in and out of schools, and creation of play spaces.
Rachel White, a reader of the Chicago Sun-Times, commented:
“I think what gives this program its great protential (sic) is that it take (sic) a holistic approach. In other words, it just doesn’t focus on school lunches, although school lunches are a huge problem.”
The National League of Cities spearheads the initiative and offers local leaders resources such as an LMCTC toolkit, monthly seminars and access to technical partners and philanthropists at national conferences. Innovation and problem solving occurs at the local level.
As Michelle Obama said:
“What we know we need to do is give parents, communities and families the tools and information they need to make choices that are right for them. And there’s no one size fits all solution.”
Elected officials collaborate with early care and education providers, and schools to identify local problems and find relevant solutions. For instance, Beaumont City in Texas is enlisting the help of athletes to encourage more students to participate in school breakfast and lunch programs. As The Examiner’s Kevin King reports:
“One of the plans that the city is considering is starting a public service announcement program using local athletes and through the medium of the Lamar University communication department.”
Leaders are also encouraged to reach out to other leaders in similar neighborhoods for guidance, and to share their own learning among the LMCTC community. Leaders can use a comparison tool on the Healthy Communities for a Healthy Future website to identify similar cities, towns and counties (based on population, race breakup, age, land and income) and compare performances. The National League of Cities also organizes blog posts, webinars and conferences to showcase success stories.
Nidhi Makhija, member of the MSLGROUP Insights Network, commented that the initiative could benefit from being more social in nature.
LMCTC uses elements of gamification, such as challenges, badges and leader boards, to encourage a spirit of competition and to award successful leaders with recognition. Kelly Liyakasa, associate editor at CRM magazine, points out the benefits of gamification strategies in organizations:
“Introducing game techniques into the enterprise can motivate employees to perform specific behaviors, but it can also improve morale and excitement around tasks, projects, and even job roles.”
LMCTC’s five goals or challenges ensure that leaders are focusing their efforts in meaningful areas. Leaders share their progress on these goals regularly via an online survey. When they meet specified benchmarks, they are awarded bronze, silver or gold medals. These medals – and the absence thereof – are visible on the LMCTC website – Healthy Communities for a Healthy Future, along with details of the local leader. People can look up the progress of all participating cities, towns and counties and also see the overall medal standings.
The medals also reflect well on the cities, as the editorial team at online newspaper Record-Journal, pointed out:
“As part of Let’s Move! rewards, Meriden now has its own page on the National League of Cities website. When young families consider moving into the area and Google this city, they will come upon this site which speaks well of the community. Thus, recognitions by Let’s Move! and KaBOOM! could appeal to potential homebuyers, who bring in new business and neighborhood interaction.”
The National League of Cities has awarded 669 medals to date.
In addition to energizing stakeholders at the grassroots level, the LMCTC initiative also attracts plenty of local coverage – especially when medals are awarded to cities, towns and counties.
Another unique aspect of the LMCTC initiative is its use of data. The National League of Cities aggregates data provided by local leaders through online surveys to track progress over time and identify technical assistance opportunities.
For instance, data shared by participating leaders indicates they are unfamiliar with the USDA MyPlate nutrition guidelines – a requirement that makes up Goal II. The distribution of medals too indicates this is an area in which local leaders could use more assistance from the National League of Cities.
Paul Wohlleben, a columnist at FedTech Magazine, believes that “Big Data Is a Big Deal for Government” and can help result in more effective governance:
“Government can use big data to gain the same benefits as for-profit firms. Government would be improved by better understanding the discrete needs of its constituents, by improving the efficiencies of its processes, by understanding performance and results, by preventing fraud, by preventing loss — the possibilities are endless.”
The Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties initiative resembles an early-stage collaborative social innovation ecosystem. More mature innovation ecosystems, like the Ashoka Changemakers platform, facilitate online collaboration and idea sharing, and direct access to funding. Others, like Sygenta’s Thought For Food Challenge and Mahindra’s Spark the Rise use innovation challenges to attract and build a community of changemakers.
We are also seeing collaboration emerge in “design-led innovation” in which people collaborate on platforms like OpenIDEO, and governments set up innovation units like Denmark’s MindLab, or work with non-profits like Code for America, to co-create new public solutions.
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