Government Learning to "Fail Fast"

The Washington Post published a fascinating piece last Friday that shed some light on the approach we are using with A Better Brainerd

It was called, "Can government learn how to fail fast" and it touches on the need for local governments, along with residents, to embrace a culture of small scale experimentation as a means to drive innovation. From the article:

In management, there’s a principle called “Fast/Cheap/Good”: You can only get two. Without realizing it, the way people react to government programs pushes them away from fast and implicitly away from cheap as well. The lessons from startups are clear: We’re better off with a lot more fast and cheap, and by experimenting, we can get something that’s even better than slow.

The article also does a good job of succinctly framing the problem we have gotten ourselves in to.

Here’s a common pattern: An agency spends a few years working on a project that could improve residents’ lives. Procurement delays and construction issues take extra time. The project opens, there’s controversy and people call for changes or say the project was a waste. Public employees get the message. Next time, they spend even more time designing the project.

Are we on a cycle in which everything government does happens slower and slower?

The key takeaway can be summarized in the following:’s actually more fiscally responsible to try a lot of cheap ideas than to spend years on staff and consultants to pick a single idea, which still might not work out; 

A Better Brainerd is working to expand the public conversation here in Brainerd, to provide room for a more fiscally responsible approach, one that will make life better for Brainerd's residents and businesses.

Join us at our kickoff meeting April 23 at 6:00 PM at the Sunshine Kitchen & Moonshine Lounge.


First Year Funded

We are very proud to announce that the A Better Brainerd Initiative of Strong Towns has been funded for 12 months by a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation. The foundation has awarded Strong Towns $48,800 for the project, an award that is described as:

To support A Better Brainerd, a project that focuses on the correlation between quality of life and financial return through public investments.

"This is a great opportunity to work in our own backyard, assisting our neighbors to make Brainerd a Strong Town," said Charles Marohn, Executive Director of Strong Towns and 1991 Brainerd High School graduate. "There are so many possibilities here. I can't wait to get started."

Strong Towns is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is nationally recognized as a leader in municipal finance, local government infrastructure and economic development. Strong Towns works with communities across the county to modernize the way local governments operate and create value for residents and businesses. The mission is Strong Towns is support a model of growth that allows America's towns to become financially strong and resilient.

The A Better Brainerd initiative is a new, experimental approach for Strong Towns. It involves working directly with residents, business owners and local organizations to identify and act upon low cost, high return opportunities for improving the quality of life within Brainerd's neighborhoods.

Strong Towns is located in Room 211 of the Clocktower building in the Northern Pacific Center. Justin Burslie has been named project coordinator for A Better Brainerd. He can be reached at 218-828-3064 or


Inspiration: Memphis' Broad Avenue

An old, nearly-abandoned block in Memphis named Broad Avenue became the location for "A New Face for an Old Broad", a community-led intervention to restore a neighborhood.


Inspiration: Jason Roberts

If you are wondering what we are up to here at A Better Brainerd, check out this TEDx talk featuring Jason Roberts of the Better Block Party. He's top on our list of inspirations.


Introducing A Better Brainerd

We are Brainerd's first Do Tank; a group of people that want to see Brainerd reclaim its former glory as the greatest city in Central Minnesota. We are actively working to make it happen.

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