When Harrison Newton was running the branch of the Washington, D.C., Department of Energy and Environment that deals with indoor environmental health, he would sometimes get frustrated. His team would often become aware of problems like children becoming sick with asthma due to where they were living. But the power to do something about those problems frequently resided elsewhere within the city’s bureaucracy.
“The more connectivity between different parts of the city government there is around policy goals, the better the outcome for residents.”
“We, within the Department of Energy and Environment, were not the agency with the authorities to repair those conditions,” says Newton, D.C.’s deputy chief resiliency officer. “That could potentially rely on grants or programs from the Department of Housing and Community Development. It relied potentially on enforcement action by regulatory agencies.”
That need for cross-departmental action and coordination taught him a powerful lesson, Newton says: “The more connectivity between different parts of the city government there is around policy goals, the better the outcome for residents.”