5 Lessons from the Solution Revolution

***Hear author Bill Eggers keynote our Government Innovators Virtual Summit on 9/10 – free RSVP ****

Over the long weekend, I read Bill Eggers’ latest “The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises are Teaming Up to Solve the World’s Largest Problems.” Bill is one of the top thought-leaders in the government space so I’m always eager to read his take on the latest trends (if you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to read his past books like Government 2.0 and If We Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government)

The thesis of The Solution Revolution is that in today’s era of fiscal constraints, government can no longer tackle social problems alone but instead we need a more collaborative environment bringing together business, government, philanthropy, and social enterprise converge to solve big problems and create public value. In this book, Eggers lays out this argument and provides compelling case studies plus takeaways for government leaders.

Here are my favorite five lessons from the book:

1) Power of Incentives – I love the example of Recyclebank from the book. To encourage recycling, the company works with local waste companies to help measure how much people recycle. They use this data to make recycling a game where you can compare with your neighbors and win prizes like gift cards for being a great recycler.

2) Technologies that Disrupt – Eggers focuses on four key technologies that enable the solution revolution – mobile, social, analytics, cloud computing. We’ve covered these often on GovLoop and what I liked about how he frames these new technologies is not the tech for itself but how it enables real impact. I love the example of how professor Colleen McCue used police analytics to prevent shootings that used to occur on New Year’s Eve by creating patrols in hot spots based on previous crime data.

3) Accidentally Helping – Cities and states spend tons of money expanding roads, fixing potholes, and dealing with traffic congestion due to the high number of cars and people on the roads (almost all driving alone). I love the idea that Zipcar has done more to decrease congestion and help decrease costs than almost all government problems and doing that on accident (an outcome of their core value prop – which is provide access to cars at cheaper costs than owning). Some of the best societal improvements can be accidental and doesn’t require huge government funding.

4) Investment – In the book, Eggers sites a growing number of foundations like Ashoka, Omidyar, Acumen, and Root Capital that are investing in social entrepreneurs (for-profits and non-profits) solving huge societal problems. It would be great if government teamed up with these foundations and invested side-by-side (like In-Q-Tel does). Imagine OPM invested alongside Omidyar on radical new approaches to improve government training. Or HHS investing alongside Ashoka in companies building on the Healthcare.gov API.

5) Payment for Success – Love the example of UK Doncaster Prison where the government contractor Serco will receive an extra 2.5 million pounds if they reduce recidivism by 5 percent. Changes the focus from just running a jail to solving the real problem (less recidivism).

If you are on GovLoop, I know you are passionate about finding and implementing new ways to improve government. Make sure to pick up Bill’s book as it’s your guide on this journey.

***Want to learn more about the Solution Revolution? Hear author Bill Eggers keynote our Government Innovators Virtual Summit on 9/10 – free RSVP ****

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Alan Pentz

Thanks for the recommendation. I’d love to see more focus in agencies on empowering leaders at the program level to use some of these tools.

Terrence (Terry) Hill

Thanks for the recommendation. I’m looking forward to reading his newest book and hearing from him at the virtual Innovator’s Summit.

Dannielle Blumenthal

This is no doubt the direction of the future although we will need to be careful about the net of partnership getting so big and so intertwined that it opens the door for corruption. Also need to think about what we mean by “government” – probably greater latitude at the local level and shrink the federal level somewhat. Also more virtual work, and less Beltway-centric. (All opinions my own.)