Category Archives: Uncategorized

From Design Thinking: Checks and balances

The following post is by Tim Brown, author of Change by Design and CEO and President of IDEO. Brown is Mr. Design Thinking. The introduction of design thinking and other methods of design into the public policy realm would have a significantly positive impact on the world. The issue raised by Brown in this post is also addressed by Eggers and O’Leary in there book “If We Can Put a Man on The Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government”.
Checks and balances via Design Thinking by Tim Brown on 11/29/10

From Goveringpeople: The World of GovCraft

Here is an interesting post regarding motivating people to act and its relationship to gaming.

 

Dave says: Carl is a local government blogging legend, who works at Devon County Council as an Enterprise Architect. This post originally appeared on his blog, but he graciously allowed it to be published here, too.

Inspired by the excellent Joanne Jacobs at the recent Likeminds event in Exeter to think more about the role of games and game play in solving problems and creating solutions.

I started to think about how Government in general could be seen as a game so that we could not only engage people in the problems and challenges we all face but actually inspire them to be part of the solution and help make changes happen.  In the lunchtime session that Joanne facilitated she spoke very passionately about the role of games and how we all play games all the time but just don’t realise it.

I kind of hit a blank wall as the big picture of Government is pretty boring, but the individual components that make it are actually interesting. So how do you start to get to a level of engagement and participation that inspires the average person on the street to want to get involved.

I then came across this excellent TED video of Game designer Jane McGonigal who spoke about harnessing the power of game mechanics to make a better world. Surely this is the stuff that Government innovators should be thinking about.

In the video she talks about “gamers” and the super powers they have developed and how these super powers can help us solve the worlds problems.

The 4 super powers that gamers have are:

Urgent Optimism – extreme self motivation – a desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.
Social Fabric – We like people better when we play games with people – it requires trust that people will play by the same rules, value the same goal – this enables us to create stronger social relationships as a result
Blissful productivity – an average World of Warcraft gamer plays 22 hours a week: We are optimised as humans to work hard and if we could channel that productivity into solving real world problems what could we achieve?
Epic meaning – attached to an awe inspiring mission.

All this creates Super Empowered Hopeful Individuals – People who are individually capable of changing the world – but currently only online /virtual worlds

So what is the chance of Government creating a meaningful game that inspires people to get involved, help change the world around them and contribute positively to the social fabric around them – Hold on a minute, haven’t we got something that is supposed to do this = Democracy? The challenge we have to make engagement and participation more engaging not just to young people but to people in general is to start inviting people into the game and make the game more interesting to start with.

So some observations:

If people have “Urgent Optimism” then what are we doing to tap into that to help solve and tackle obstacles?

if people have a “Social Fabric” what we are we doing to build trust with them and do we play by the same rules and share the same goals?

If people have “Blissful Productivity” then what are we doing to mobilise and optimise the people around us in our communities to work hard at solving real world problems

If people can be inspired around “Epic Meaning” what meaning are we providing in our engagement  and participation offering?

We should recognise that games are powerful in more ways than we can imagine, we need to think hard and fast about how we can develop the right kinds of games to engage people and to involve people in shaping their future and solving common problems

The video is 20 minutes but is well worth watching.

 


Link to original post

http://governingpeople.com/Home/22209

From CO Commentary: Designing Government for the People

The following post is by a friend and colleague, Scott Primeau. (Disclosure I happen to be the co-work mentioned in the post). Scott provides valuable insight into the design of effective government.

via Colorado Commentary by Scott Primeau on 3/4/10


I was talking to a co-worker about our office’s reconfiguration plans, which involve merging divisions and training employees to handle a wider variety of customer needs.  It’s a nice plan, and it is likely to benefit our customers by removing the layers they have to dig through to get to the services they need.

In the physical world the reconfiguration has involved combining two separate customer entrances that were on two different floors into a single entrance with employees from two divisions at the front counter.  One of the next steps is to create a single call center for the two divisions, instead of the existing structure that utilizes an auto-mated phone tree to direct customers to the appropriate division.  But, this post isn’t about the reconfiguration. 

The discussion triggered some other thoughts about providing efficient services.  Government watchdogs and government itself continually make calls for more efficient government- faster, more reliable service, at less cost.

A state government trend in this area has been the creation of Web-based portals that allow customers to access a variety of services from multiple state agencies through a single website.  Some of these portals are a mere collection of information and links to other agencies, such as Colorado’s www.colorado.gov.  Other portals are based on functional needs, such as registering a business through the Utah Division of Corporations’ OneStop Business Registration site, http://www.corporations.utah.gov/osbr_phase_2.html.  (Both of those examples are NIC websites, but they are substantially different.)

Portals and other virtual spaces offer customers an alternative to visiting multiple government agencies to accomplish their tasks.  But, the real key to efficiency is to make people efficient.

Efficiency isn’t just about consolidating locations, whether they are physical or virtual.  Efficiency is about rationalizing functions.

Please hold the backlash for just a moment.  I know this didn’t work so well with homeland security.  That’s what my co-worker mentioned as he laughed, maybe rightfully so, at my suggestion of consolidating state agencies.

Technology is making a lot of improvements in efficiency possible.  I do believe the Internet, social media, mobile devices, and other technological developments are making government better and are helping people get more from their government.  But, can technology make up for inefficient structures?  If a person has to visit at least three state agencies to form a business, get a license, and sign up to pay taxes, can a website make up for the twists and turns, the discrepancies in policies, the processing delays, and the inconsistency in customer service?

Technology can make up for a lot, but improving government is not just about making government more efficient; it’s about making people more efficient.

The question shouldn’t be how can government do it?  The question should be how would a person do it?  Processes should be designed around people’s practices and expectations.  Government agencies shouldn’t expect people to adapt to the government’s ideas.

Redesigning government around people will take a lot more than new websites.  Redesigning government will take changes to legal frameworks, a lot of vision, and a whole lot of cooperation.

I’m sure there are a lot of holes to this idea that I haven’t filled, but I’ll settle for starting with a little idealism.

(If you’re interested in some similar ideas, check out Nicholas Charney’s discussion on Govloop, Envisioning a fully web enabled government department/agency and the related comments.)

From O’Reilly Radar: Four Steps to Gov 2.0: A Guide for Agencies

Thinking about Gov 2.0 and implementation by Government. Here are four step from one point of view.


What Does the World Look Like When the Work of Government is Driven by the People?

Gov 2.0 has a lot of definitions, but in observing the exciting breadth of projects currently being built, it feels a little like the Blind Men and the Elephant, where everyone defines it based on their first hand experience, but not from a holistic view. In its essence, Tim O’Reilly’s definition of Gov 2.0 is where government acts as the catalyst to let others build upon its work h — and most importantly, to multiply its impact.

For the first time in history, we’re really at a point where this is technologically feasible. Even if you have no specific tie to government, Gov 2.0 envisions a world in which — just by having experience and interests — ordinary members of the public willingly contribute to the knowledge, facts and policies that comprise our government. It might be as easy as carrying your cell phone. And it might take just 30 seconds.

In December, the Obama Administration released its long awaited Open Government Directive, which was met with enthusiasm from some, and an underwhelmed “meh” from others. The Administration has asked state and local government to adopt the Directive, but it still begs the question:

If I am an agency head and want to embrace Gov 2.0, what should I do first?

Right now it’s a confusing whirlwind of options: Create raw datafeeds in machine readable formats? Create iPhone apps? Use a wiki internally? Create a Facebook group, a Facebook page? Start posting to Twitter? The choices are infinite, but the resources are most definitely limited.

Below is a starting discussion, a "Four Steps to Gov 2.0," designed to align the various Gov 2.0 stakeholders – individuals, governments, private companies, elected officials – toward the same goal in pursuit of open and participatory government. It applies to all levels of government at the federal, state, and local level. It attempts to structure an agency’s actions as prioritized consecutive steps, in a way that will reward those that adhere to it with more power, better engagement, and future compatibility with other government agencies, private companies, experts, and the general public. Even a few years ago, it would have been technologically impossible or at least prohibitively expensive. Now, the biggest obstacle is simply a plan and the political will.

It's most definitely an amalgam of many different ideas, especially Clay Shirky’s idea of convening the conversation, and the Obama Administration’s ideas around releasing high value datafeeds and making government transparent, participatory and collaborative. It prioritizes the steps, and finally, introduces the idea of an API that creates a virtuous cycle by returning crowdsourced value back to the agency.

Four Steps to Gov 2.0

1. First and foremost, “convene the conversation.” Governments that want to win should first maximize the free contributions of the general public and experts for issues handled by that agency. Focus on creating the systems to foster self-organization and moderation (think user voting, forum moderation, and social reputation).

Before all else, this should be the first — and only — goal of agencies at every level. The original Obama campaign site and Peer to Patent are great examples, and several other early examples are starting to emerge.

2. Next, examine your agency’s data and put it into three “buckets”. If you have not completed #1, go back and do that first because you’re leaving a valuable resource on the table. The buckets are:

  • Define high value data sets that can be shared in machine-readable format. This is data that is not updated frequently, never anticipates the need for improvement, and is generally referential in nature. Examples might include historical spending, infrastructure details, and census-like data.
  • Define high value data sets than can be interacted with via an API. This is data that anticipates improvement from the public, and/or which regularly needs to stay updated by the agency. Examples might include permits, locations of buildings, and crime data.
  • Define the data types that are not shared, period. Shine a bright light on these data types, and make very clear statements as to why they are not shared. If “getting to the data” is the reason for not sharing, put that to the community and you will be able to find someone to help you get that data out for free. Examples are data that is already protected by law, or which contains personally identifiable information.
  • 3. Next, build the datafeeds, because they will help maximize the public’s information and contribution in Step #1. Push this data to the public in machine-readable formats: XML, RSS, or CSV, accessible via Web services.

    4. After the datafeeds are complete, build the API. Look at this as a social compact, where as part of the exchange, companies and members of the public are able to return value back to the agency, creating an infinite loop of ever improving data. Use it to generate mechanical turk-like assistance from the public. I’ll explain some of the key components of an effective Gov 2.0 API in a future post.

    After these steps have been accomplished, look at building a regular Web site, specific applications, and services. Agencies that prioritize in this order won’t put themselves at risk of building social silos (these are social networks that end at the boundary of the town, state, or agency).

    I’ll consider each of these steps individually in subsequent blog posts. If you have more ideas, please let me know here or send a note at greg [at] crimereports.com.

From Ish Ben Partzi: The Concept of Shalem and Parashat Vayeishev

I wanted to share this beautiful post from my wise friend, Jonah. His words are directed to the Jewish people, but the Goyem of the world can learn much in these words. Let us all remember that the only thing that divides us is our ability to deny the wholeness of our life and world. Thich Nhat Hanh, a great scholar from the Buddhist traditional, wrote in his book “Anger” that the only way cool the flames of anger is to embrace our fear and suffering. The truth that Jonah speaks is the same as coming to the understanding that life is suffering, that light is dark, and truth is non-truth. The world and life is whole because it is both negative and positive. It is Shalem!

And to my friend should you read these words – thank you and peace be with you, Julia, Bina and the Geffen clan. ~ Brian

via Ish ben Partzi by Ish ben Partzi on 12/9/09


Do we truly pay attention to the lessons of our tradition’s wisdom? This is the fundamental question of my relationship to Torah. This is how I try to read the Holy texts of our people. And how Jews have seemingly approached text for millennia. And yet, all too often we witness the lessons of the past disregarded or distorted. Or we chose to see one side of an issue, ignoring a truth on the other side. Torah is truth we say. Torah is שלם Shalem, complete. And Shabbat, well Shabbat is the day of completeness – the day of pure truth. After all, we say Shabbat Shalom.

Since this summer I have spent a great deal of time in contemplation of our tradition, our history, and how to study each with a mind to the other. Each day I read the news from Israel waiting for some glimmer of hope, and am often left wanting. But I have come to realize one thing. I do not believe that we have chosen to come to complete terms with our tradition. I believe we ignore our past reality when dealing with our present. And that we do so at our peril. But I know that Torah is truth. And so the answers are there.

And so we come to parashat Vayeshev, a story where dreams dance between reality and fantasy, where truth and lies are intermingled, where hatred and love seem to exist simultaneously. Joseph is sent to search for his brothers as they tend their flocks in Shechem. This seemingly innocuous introduction to the story leads, as we all know, to the eventual acts of the brothers that lead to Joseph’s sale into slavery and, later on, the entire Jewish people’s as well. The gemara
תלמוד בבלי מסכת סנהדרין דף קב א

on the verse
וַיִּשְׁלָחֵהוּ מֵעֵמֶק חֶבְרוֹן, וַיָּבֹא שְׁכֶמָה (בראשית לז:יד)
So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem (Braishit 37:14)

notes that Shechem is

תנא משום ר’ יוסי מקום מזומן לפורענות בשכם עינו את דינה בשכם מכרו אחיו את יוסף בשכם נחלקה מלכות בית דוד (מלכים א יא)
It was taught in the name of R. Yossi: A place predestined for evil: in Shechem Dinah was violated; in Shechem Joseph was sold by his brothers; and in Shechem the kingdom of the House of David was divided (I Kings:12:1).

Shechem is trouble the tradition says, and implies that we should stay away.

And yet, today Shechem is the subject of dispute. It is a city called Nablus, which sits in the West Bank. And in it is “Joseph’s tomb.” And so Jews, religious Jews like you and I have connection to it. At the onset of the 2nd Intefadeh it was a centerpiece, destroyed by rioters it became a symbol for many that peace was an current impossibility. That the other had nothing but hatred for us Jews, that when given the opportunity they destroy our history rather than protect it. And so a “holy” place became a site of hatred and contention.

Yet it seems apparent that we discarded one piece of the wisdom of our tradition for the sake of another. Joseph is buried there, so the place is holy. Yet tradition teaches us that this is also “a place predestined for evil” – a place where bad things happen. And so the question arises, when we returned to Eretz Yisrael after 2000 years, when our holy sites heretofore existing only in the communal memory of our people became real places – we CHOSE a specific narrative as our truth. Shechem ceased to be a place of evil, and became only a holy place. And so our truth ceased to be shalem, as we left part of it behind.

I see similarities in our discussions of an egalitarian approach to Halacha in the manner presented to us this summer by Rav Eitan. More specifically, in the existing reaction to Halacha of our type from the other halachic minded Jewish communities of the world. The current focus seems to be that Halachic rulings that are lenient in essence, are less true than their stringent counterparts. And so a Torah-true halachic reading that increases egalitarian practice in the Synagogue by Rav Eitan is on its face less real than a reading that says buses in Israel should be gender segregated. Each opinion is a halachic reaction to modernity, each is a departure from Jewish tradition as it has existed up to this point, yet the Halachic community seems to only value the strict. Why? It is choosing a half truth. It is an existence that denies shalem. It is calling Shechem a holy place while ignoring warnings that it is also dangerous.

So our goal then is, I believe, to attempt to see the whole of the lessons of the tradition. It is our responsibility to search deeply into our texts, locate the wisdom, and if it sets before us difficult situations, if it shows a complete truth that is complex and requires conscious decision-making – then we must take it upon ourselves to make the hard choices.

For Israel, this is leaving Shechem – and by extension the holy site of Joseph’s tomb – in the hands of a non-Jewish population that is at current time a hostile population. And to do so with the comfort of knowing that we are, in fact acting in a way that is Torah-true.

For us it is to always remember that we are as true to the tradition as anyone else, that we have chose different emphasis, turned right where others turned left – but have not left the system, have not left the wisdom behind.

My friends we are the present כלי קודש – the receptacles of holiness. The wisdom of the ages is within you. Use it wisely.

White House to Announce Open Governent Plan

The White House released the following statement today.  Tomorrow Vivek Kundra and Aneesh Chopra will announce the comprehensive Open Government Plan.  Hopefully it will be good.

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 7, 2009

ADVISORY: Administration Officials to Launch Comprehensive Open Government Plan

with Webcast Open to All Americans

 WASHINGTON – Tomorrow at 11:00am ET, U.S. Chief Information Officer
Vivek Kundra and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra will
launch the administration’s comprehensive Open Government Plan,
furthering the President’s commitment to increasing transparency and
accountability in Washington and ensuring greater access and
information for the American people.

 This announcement will be streamed live on whitehouse.gov, and will
be followed by a web forum where individuals will be given an
opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions about the
administration’s Open Government Plan.

 WHO: U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra and U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra

WHAT: Administration Launches Comprehensive Open Government Plan

WHERE: Watch it live and participate at http://www.whitehouse.gov/live

WHEN: Tuesday, December 8

11:00am ET

From RWW: Obama, Kids, & All Tomorrow’s Web Apps: President Focuses on Tech Education

Heres to teaching our kids about Science and Technology.

 

 

 

via ReadWriteWeb by Jolie O’Dell on 11/23/09


At the White House today, President Obama talked robots, hung out with the guys from MythBusters, and launched a campaign designed to create smarter, techier American kids.

 

“Reaffirming and strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation is essential to meeting the challenges of this century,” said Obama.” That’s why I am committed to making the improvement of STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] education over the next decade a national priority.”

 

Sponsor

The campaign involves key partnerships with organizations from Sesame Street to Sony (whose PlayStation 3 console will be used for strengthening young minds through game design competitions), and it also features help from individuals such as Sally Ride (the first female astronaut) and a handful of digitally focused CEOs.

 

The Geek-In-Chief is also starting an annual science fair at the White House to inspire and promote young geeks who are doing great things in hardware, software, technology, science and robotics. We need, he said, to teach children to “be makers, not consumers.

 

“If you win the NCAA champtionships, you get to come to the White House… We’re going to show young people how cool science can be.”

 

And why do American kids need this level of convincing? Brace yourselves for bad news, patriots: Kids in the U.S. rank in the mid-twenties when scored against 30 other nations for math and science literacy. We are being drastically outperformed in these areas; in a time when technological innovation is the foundation and impetus for a lot of other cultural and economic factors, can we afford to not develop competencies in tech and science?

 

The President doesn’t think so, and he’s directing funds accordingly. He further announced that the $4.35 billion Race to the Top school grant program will give preference to states that commit to improving STEM education.

 

Obama hopes the campaign will increase STEM literacy for students, improve the quality of teaching in these areas, and promote better education and work opportunities for underrepresented groups – such as women and minorities – in tech.

 

In the recent past, we’ve told you about Obama’s financial and moral support for startups, his masterful use of the social web – both as a candidate for the office and as President – and the change, recovery, data, and health care reform initiatives he’s conducted online. He may not personally use Twitter (yet), but he does use a Creative Commons license for his Flickr photos. It seems fairly clear to us that Obama cares about where the country is going technologically, and we hope this focus on STEM education will help us all in the long term.

 

Check out the President’s 18-minute address, which outlines his plan to use the $260 million-valued campaign to bring struggling American students into world domination:

 

 

Check out some of the implementations of the partnerships Obama references above on the Digital Media and Learning Competition website, and look out for Discovery Channel’s commercial-free block of science programming for kids launching next year.

 

And for those of you with an inclination to volunteer, check out this National Lab Day website matching classroom needs to volunteer expertise. American kids apparently need to learn about phone app programming, entrepreneurialism and plain old hardware just as much as they need to focus on engineering robots – a favorite topic of teachers, students and the President, as well.

 

“I believe that robotics can inspire students,” he said while introducing a student project designed to collect and throw moon rocks. “I also want to keep an eye on those robots in case they try anything.” We officially love you, Mr. President. And yes, let’s get those kids into labs and in front of glowing screens – for the right reasons this time. Discuss