Friday, March 26, 2010

Column: Tolerant of the Intolerable

Last week David Hume wrote a thought-provoking piece called "Is 'public policy' an out of date discipline?". Hume opens the article with a reflection:

Sometimes I wonder whether my chosen field, public policy, is running out of steam as a discipline.

David makes the argument that public policy challenges are cross-cutting and incredibly complex. That complexity requires that traditional policy wonks assume more of a brokerage role, and perhaps the value of public policy is shifting from the policy itself to the relationships that are forged in the fire of collaborative policy making. To quote David:

... in the future, wonkish expertise is going to be of lower value than the ability to leverage networks, cut deals, and align ideas, people and action behind the goals Ministers want to achieve.

I agree with David's line of reasoning, but would argue that it is applicable beyond the wonkish elite. In fact I would remix his conclusion as follows:

... right now, most traditional forms of public sector expertise is of lower value than the ability to leverage networks, cut deals, and align ideas, people and action behind the goals Ministers want to achieve.

David's conclusion and my redux drive to the core of questions around government as platform; namely:

(1)How does government itself become an open platform that allows people inside and outside government to innovate?

(2)How do you design a system in which all of the outcomes aren't specified beforehand, but instead evolve through interactions between the technology provider and its user community? (strikeouts added by me)

What I find fascinating is that our conclusions, while related to the phenomenon, are neither procedural (how-to) nor outcome-focused (innovate), but rather directed at the impact of the movement on public servants themselves. This, and please correct me if I'm wrong, is something that we the goverati haven’t spent a lot of time reflecting on. Yet understanding the impact of this shift on how public sector organizations manage themselves is critically important. Surely if the roles of wonks et al are changing, so too is the role of managing them, and most importantly leading them.

So I suppose the closing question is what type of public sector management regime, and what kind of leadership is required for an era of government as platform.

In my mind, management will need to be ruthless, and leadership bold.

To borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, the public sector will need to be far less tolerant of the intolerable.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Column:What Excites Me About Open Data

As a public servant who is often frustrated by the lack of information-sharing within public sector organizations, I can only wager a guess at what it is like to try to get information when you are outside them.

Naturally, whenever anyone mentions open data I get excited.

I get excited about the efficiencies I think it can create within and between public sector organizations.

I get excited about how I think it may shift workflows.

I get excited about how it can change the relationship between governments and citizens.

I get excited by the fact that it should allow governments to provide more efficient services at the click of a mouse, while freeing up resources to nurture a closer relationship between government and citizens when it makes sense.

I get excited about getting access to information that is otherwise buried under an immense transaction cost.

I get excited about the possibility of serendipitous discovery of partnership opportunities.

I get excited about a robust management framework that I think an open data regime will require.

I get excited about the internal human resource reallocation that I think will follow an open data regime.

I get excited about the fact that open data helps build a public service culture based on stewardship, one that is okay with outcomes that aren't entirely predetermined, one that is about enabling innovation.

I get excited about open data because it gets us closer to the idea of government as platform; a platform that enables both those on the inside and on the outside to innovate.

From Excitement to Action

I get excited when I see Chuck Shawcross, Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Information Officer at Environment Canada stand up at the last Web 2.0 Practitioners meetup, self-identify as a champion for open data, and issue a call to action.

I get excited not only because of the immense value of such an undertaking, but because I know many of the people working on the initiative.

These are good people, people who care, people I am proud to call my friends.

Get Involved!

If you are a part of the (Canadian) federal family and would like to get involved with this initiative I would encourage you to visit the Open Data page on GCPEDIA directly. Moreover if you happen to have some time today there is a meetup planned.

If you are outside the Canadian Federal Government and have an interest in Open Data writ large, feel free to drop me a line; if I can, I would be happy to connect you with others.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Update: Suggested Reading (and Doing)

On February 25th the Fourth Report of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service was released. If you are interested, David Eaves weighed in on the report on his blog.

On March 1st the Clerk of the Privy Council, Wayne Wouters showed up in GCPEDIA. He has an account, a profile page and a discussion paper. The purpose of the discussion paper is to solicit input to shape the forward looking renewal agenda. A week later, news of the Clerk's move hit the Globe and Mail.

I would encourage you all to make a contribution to the discussion paper in GCPEDIA.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Column: Grading Along the Curve: Public Servants Comfort Level With Social Media in Government

Before I start I just want to warn you that this is a little blogging experiment, the entire column is built in Prezi; as such I am considering writing it as an article later, but I wanted to use a lot of illustrations and this seemed like the natural way to do so. I'm interested in your comments both on the content of the column and the use of Prezi to tell the story (i.e. was the idea clear?).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Column: Open City Edmonton

In lieu of a column this week I would just like to encourage you to check out some of the amazing work being done by the City of Edmonton:

The City of Edmonton is hosting the Open City Workshop on Saturday March 6, 2010. This event will bring together community leaders, academics, students, technology enthusiasts and public sector employees to explore and advance the role of Open Information in Alberta's capital region. We will discuss current and planned activities in Edmonton and other Canadian and international jurisdictions as well as possibilities for government, community, academic and private organizations.

On November 21, 2009 the City of Edmonton hosted an Open Data Workshop, primarily targeted at the technology community. The consultation and feedback from the workshop influenced the design of our open data catalogue and set the stage for this event. This time, it's all about collaboration and community. Specifically, we will be working together to develop and establish our local context for an Open City built on access to Open Information. We will work to define the next steps for open data and an application catalogue and explore additional Gov 2.0 concepts such as Social Media, Open Systems, 3D Virtual Communities, and more.

Special Guests David Eaves, Mark Kuznicki and Nicholas Charney will participate and take part in a panel discussion on the topic of Government as a Platform.

I am proud to have been invited to participate and would encourage you to register if you live in the area, the event should be absolutely amazing. If you aren't in the area or can't attend in person, my friends at Fused Logic are providing a realtime stream of the event which I have embedded for your viewing pleasure below, if you want to stream the feed live on your site you can grab the code here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Update: Things to Do in March

Just thought I'd give you a quick update on what I'm up to in March... (so far)

1. I will be giving my Social Media in Government talk on March 2nd, Ottawa c/o Social Media in Government, Advanced Learning Institute.

2. On March 5th I will be attending the Public Policy Forum's session entitled: "The Future is Open: How open government is essential to creating a culture of public service innovation" featuring my friend David Eaves and former CTO of the Government of Canada Chuck Henry.

3. I will be in Edmonton on March 6th in order to help the city with its Open City Workshop. The workshop is intended to help build community through open information. Among other things it will feature a panel discussion on the subject of government as platform with David Eaves, Mark Kuznicki, and myself.

I hope to see you sometime in the month of March, if you need more information about any of these events please feel free to contact me.