Receiving Technical Assistance

Alternative 911 Emergency Response Technical Assistance


Nationally, jurisdictions are testing new approaches to address resident service needs that reduce reliance on traditional law enforcement and medical 911 responses and create more equitable outcomes for communities of color and others disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. For these efforts to be successful, jurisdictions must invest in implementation efforts to sustain the impact of these innovative changes.

To support implementation, the Government Performance Lab (GPL) is offering twelve months of technical assistance to a select cohort of city or county jurisdictions piloting the dispatch of alternative 911 emergency response teams. The goal of the alternative 911 emergency response implementation cohort is to support jurisdictions seeking to improve outcomes for residents and communities by diverting 911 calls to unarmed trained professionals equipped to offer connection to supportive services such as mental and behavioral health, crisis, substance use, and other forms of support. GPL technical assistance will help jurisdictions advance implementation of an alternative 911 emergency response model tailored to local needs by providing individualized support on program rollout and facilitated learning between participating cohort members.


What to expect

The twelve-month alternative 911 emergency response cohort is designed to provide real-time implementation assistance to cities or counties that are either actively piloting, or within a year of launching, trained unarmed responders to handle 911 calls in lieu of traditional law enforcement, fire, or emergency medical staff response. As part of the formal award of GPL technical assistance, jurisdictions will receive:

  • Active coaching on program development to drive implementation, such as tracking call volume, creating training curricula for response teams, and establishing outcome metrics to track equity goals;

  • Access to adaptable implementation template materials including call decision trees, community briefing materials, and service provider request for proposals;

  • Real-time support from GPL staff and monthly jurisdiction to jurisdiction troubleshooting through peer city/county implementation cohort calls.

Who should apply

Any local government entity may apply on behalf of their jurisdiction, including any combination of city or county level executive, emergency dispatch, public health, community safety, or law enforcement offices. Final selection preference will be given to applicants who can demonstrate cross agency and community stakeholder collaboration, anticipate launching within six to twelve months of cohort start, and demonstrate a strong commitment to advancing equitable outcomes for communities of color and others disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system.

Technical assistance and the cohort will launch in August of 2021 and extend for twelve months with the possibility of a six-month extension. The GPL anticipates jurisdiction project points of contact spending up to four hours a week on dedicated 1:1 GPL staff support, in addition to 1-2 hours of monthly implementation cohort group learning time, to be determined by cohort participant needs.

The application has closed, but jurisdictions interested in staying in touch and learning more about implementing alternative 911 emergency response initiatives are encouraged to contact the GPL.

Application process:


Application release

Friday, May 7, 2021

Optional application webinar 1 

Friday, May 14, 2021 (3:00pm ET)

Optional application webinar 2

Friday, May 21, 2021 (3:00pm ET)

Application due

Friday, May 28, 2021 (11:59pm ET)

Select jurisdictions invited for round 2 interview

Early June 2021

Jurisdictions selected

Friday, July 9, 2021

Implementation cohort launch

August 2021


Please review the slides from our online application webinar for additional information.

Cohort Application Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the Government Performance Lab?

The mission of the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab (GPL) is to speed up our nation’s progress on difficult social problems by improving how state and local government human service agencies function and how their dollars are spent. We hire and train full-time employees, embedding them in government agencies to lead 12-36 month intensive reform projects. The GPL conducts research on how governments can improve the results they achieve for their citizens. An important part of our research model involves providing pro bono technical assistance to state and local governments. Through this hands-on involvement, we gain insights into the barriers that governments face and the solutions that can overcome these barriers.

The GPL has worked on criminal justice projects in Arkansas, Baltimore, California, Denver, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York State, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. The GPL is currently working with Harris County, Texas on supporting bail reform implementation, improving diversion to mental and behavioral health services, and developing alternative 911 response teams. Click here to learn more about the GPL’s technical assistance on criminal justice work.

2. What does the GPL consider to be an alternative 911 emergency response team?

The GPL’s alternative emergency response cohort is specifically targeting jurisdictions that are developing teams of unarmed, professionally trained responders to be dispatched to 911 calls. The makeup of the teams will vary by unique jurisdiction needs (i.e. peers, social workers, EMTs, paramedics, substance abuse specialists, etc.) However, one of the core goals of creating this alternative team should be to reduce overreliance on traditional law enforcement and medical system responses by instead dispatching professionals equipped with the tools necessary to resolve the crisis at hand without creating unnecessary justice system involvement. For reference, the GPL has compiled this unofficial partial list of publications on alternative emergency response teams.

3. Who should apply?

We welcome applications from any city or county jurisdiction that is committed to developing an alternative 911 emergency response team in the upcoming year. Any local government entity may apply on behalf of their jurisdiction, including any combination of city or county level executive, emergency dispatch, public health, community safety, or law enforcement offices. Preference will be given to applicants who can demonstrate cross agency and community stakeholder collaboration.

4. What is required of my jurisdiction to apply for the alternative 911 emergency response implementation cohort?

In round one, jurisdictions are required to submit an online application indicating their interest in participating in the cohort. If jurisdictions are selected for round two consideration, they will be asked to participate in a phone interview (see question 5).

5. What will the Round 2 interview process be like?

Round 2 interviews will be held via phone call. Round 2 interviews are designed to help us learn more about the specific alternative response work in your jurisdiction, including your program goals and collaborative structure. Jurisdictions will be asked to bring key representatives from relevant government and community agencies to participate in the phone interview. During this round, jurisdictions will be asked to verbally confirm their ability to sign a Harvard memorandum of understanding (MoU) and provide letters of support from jurisdiction leadership as part of consideration for final selection.

6. If selected, what is required of my jurisdiction to participate in this cohort?

To participate in the alternative 911 emergency response implementation cohort, selected jurisdictions will be required to designate a project point of contact to meet with GPL staff and peer cohort participants over the course of the year. The GPL anticipates jurisdiction project points of contact spending up to four hours a week on dedicated 1:1 GPL staff support, in addition to 1-2 hours of monthly cohort group learning time, to be determined by cohort participant needs. Additionally, GPL staff will provide offline support to jurisdictions on important key deliverables to move implementation forward, as needed.

7. When is this Round 1 application due?

Completed applications are due on May 28, 11:59pm ET

Update: the application deadline has been extended to Friday, June 4, 11:59pm ET.

8. How long does my application need to be?

Your short answer responses should not exceed 500 words total. Additional uploaded material should not exceed 10 pages.

9. What should I do if I have questions about the application?

The GPL hosted informational webinars on May 14 and May 21 to allow interested jurisdictions to ask any outstanding questions. The slides from these webinars can be accessed here.

10. Our state has several rural local mental health authorities that are likely interested. We have often coordinated technical assistance through the state health and human services agency. Is it ok if a Health and Human Services agency serves as a coordinating entity for several local jurisdictions?


11. Can a state or regional entity apply in collaboration with smaller local jurisdictions?

Yes, collaborative entities are encouraged to apply. There is no restriction on the type of agencies or organizations that can co-apply with a primary local jurisdiction. Applicants are encouraged to provide as much information as possible about how this collaboration would work.

Note: FAQs will be continually updated as new questions are received.

Applying for Technical Assistance

For more information about receiving technical assistance, please contact Cities interested in receiving GPL technical assistance with establishing Strategic Procurement Systems or Results-Driven Contracting through the What Works Cities Initiative should see the WWC site here for additional information on certification and technical assistance. The application from a previous GPL national competition is available for reference here.

Read About Our Assistance Model

The Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab provides pro bono government-side technical assistance to state and local partners. This assistance includes an average of 12-15 months of technical services to help guide government partners through the programmatic, budgetary, regulatory and procurement processes of project development and is comprised of these core components:

  • Intensive Staffing: Government partners receive assistance from a GPL Government Innovation Fellow or GPL team member. GPL staff are recruited from the top public policy, law, and business schools from around the country, and have received training in benefit-cost analysis, evaluation design, management strategies, and negotiation techniques. Each team member is employed by the GPL and works with the government office or agency that is spearheading the program. GPL staff provide assistance both in coordinating the policy process and in performing technical analysis, report directly to each government’s designated project lead, and receive additional supervision from an experienced manager and Professor Jeffrey Liebman.

  • Access to Senior Technical Advisors: Government partners receive additional support from the broader GPL team, including senior technical assistance and support from content area and methodological experts such as GPL Director Jeffrey Liebman, as well as direct assistance from an experience Program Directors who has already overseen one or more projects. The GPL’s Cambridge-based staff and senior advisors provide additional support as needed with data analysis, evaluation design, and implementation planning.

  • Knowledge Sharing, Government Partner Network, and Capacity Building: Government partners participate in GPL training sessions and receive assistance designed to build internal capacity to undertake projects and sustain systems change work once formal engagement with the GPL concludes. The GPL also organizes a network of government partners so that officials can learn from one another’s experiences.

  • Assistance with Data Analysis: Resources for data matching and analysis are also made available to government agencies requiring this type of assistance. Extensive matching of data sets across agencies is often required to establish historic performance trends, analyze the amount of variability in these trends, and target individuals to be served by the government performance programs. Up to six months of programmer/data analyst time is made available to state and local governments, as needed.

Government Testimonials

See what a typical on-the-ground engagement might look like in this video on how the GPL supported Rhode Island with a workforce development project: 

Read more about what government and social sector leaders have to say about their GPL projects in our Innovator Interview Series: 

I think the willingness to think differently made GPL unique for us. We had a bunch of resources that were offered to us, but they were very linear resources. We worked with some national child welfare foundations. They were very specific on policy. We had some financial consultants that cared about the numbers. I think what I had with my GPL team was people that crossed all those boundaries and can take a bigger picture look because government is not linear." - Jamia McDonald, former head of Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families

The Government Performance Lab’s assistance has been so much more than our fellow, who we love. Our fellow is the ‘tip of the spear’ of GPL’s support, giving us access to valuable tools, expertise, and insights from the national GPL team. Every time I have a question about a broader systemic challenge we’re facing, GPL provides concrete advice and examples of solutions from other jurisdictions that are highly relevant to our work." Vickie Ybarra, Director of the Office of Innovation, Alignment, and Accountability at Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families