Each and every day, California counties meet increasingly complex challenges associated with providing vital services to our state’s 38 million residents. In many ways, counties are our invisible form of government. Few can explain what counties do; even fewer truly understand the wide array of programs and services counties provide. Each year through CSAC’s Annual Challenge Awards, we get a glimpse of not only the level of services, but the creativity, hard work and innovation behind them.

Only when you start perusing the award program entries do you start grasping the level of innovation that can be found in our counties. And only then can you start understanding the enormity facing our judging panel in determining which programs are the most innovative and deserving of being declared a “Challenge Award recipient.” 

This year, our judging panel concluded that 13 programs developed by nine counties were deserving of Challenge Awards. And of these 13, two programs – created by Riverside and San Diego counties – were to be recognized with a special honor: the California Counties Innovation Award. Another 27 programs among 12 counties are being honored with Merit Awards.

The honored programs run the gamut, from innovative landfill tarp design to IHSS reform; from assisting the mentally ill through mobile phones to a GIS application for county residents; from cost-effective probation programs to camps for foster youth… innovation and creativity are alive and well in our counties. 

But this innovation, hard work and commitment go beyond the individuals who developed and implemented these award-winning programs. The creativity and ongoing pursuit to do more with less can be found in all 58 of our counties. The challenges facing California counties are greater than ever, the stakes never been higher. We know our counties will be up for the challenge; they always have been. Our Challenge Awards are just a reminder of it.

To review all of the award-winning programs, click here.