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A new Harvard Kennedy School report is up: “From Government 2.0 to Society 2.0: Pathways to Engagement, Collaboration, and Transformation”

From the report, by Zachary Tumin with Archon Fung:

“Today, the global recession — coupled with changes such as the retirement of the post-World War II generation, the emergence of millennials, new waves of interactive communications technology, and low-cost collaboration platforms — is sparking a next wave of citizen engagement, reform of government, and the transformation of service.

“These collaborations reflect a profound realization that neither government, service providers, nor citizens can often accomplish their purposes without collaboration. In a networked world, the speed of change, the pace of risk and the breadth of opportunity means no one institution, organization or individual can go it alone. Especially now, with governments around the world facing financial crises, joining up and co-producing services with citizens, industry and non-governmental organizations seems essential.

“Even in flush times, such cross-boundary collaboration is difficult. Old-school legacy arrangements can stop innovation cold. Funding is stovepiped. Information is highly compartmentalized. Computer systems cannot easily operate together. Hierarchies are slow to change. Information assurance and privacy clash with calls for transparency and openness. Shared missions have no one uniquely accountable for outcomes. Even with all the obvious failures of recent years, from 9/11 to Katrina to the global financial crisis, agencies, organizations and units persist in “going it alone.”

“Especially in difficult times, when the “pie” is shrinking, individuals, institutions and societies tend to hunker down to assure their “slice” stays the same. At the level of government, for example, some agencies retreat to statutory core mission. Many managers are more risk-averse than ever. Oversight intensifies, shared mission-vision takes a back seat and investment in innovation dries up. Collaboration is a last resort — to be trotted out only when you’re backed into a corner.

“Yet evidence suggests, also, that in such times governments around the world may be more prone to reducing barriers to change, and experimenting more. Switching costs have lowered. Digitally enabled collaborations and innovation have blossomed. The technologies of smartphones and tablet, cloud and open platforms make adoptions light, fast and agile. All these moves provide clear evidence that the potentials for gains from new network-enabled collaborations are high…”

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Rhonda Jones

Thanks for sharing bits from this report. I’ll have to read the entire document because, although the ideas look good on paper, the reality is that our Federal agencies are being asked to do more with less. So technological innovations such as smartphones, tablets, and cloud computing might not be an option for most employees in most agencies.

So, for me, the issue is how can we use relatively inexpensive and already adopted technology to leverage collaboration in the current economic climate?

Zach Tumin

Rhonda – that’s a terrific insight. The fact is that 80% of the infrastructure is going to still be here in 10 or 15 years. So never mind all this fancy new stuff – how can we get new collaborations going when and where we need them using the installed base? It turns out that technology is a big enabler, but with or without it people coming together to achieve something none can alone is as old as time – and still with us today. We need platforms where people can find, engage and exchange; vision and plans, with problems rightsized so people can prove to themselves and to others they achieve something good enough, if not great…. I posted up a preso on Slideshare that I gave earlier this week at GovCampScotland. It covers this stuff- take a look, see what you think, and let me know! http://slidesha.re/vVmjVK

Chris Poirier

@Zach and @Rhonda: I recently wrote on this topic in a way of sorts: Taking the “2.0” Out of Technology and that links to a related piece I did on process. Many people forget to take a moment and look back at their processes, how they do business before rushing towards the tools. Technology is great! Web 2.0 is great, but if you never had solid business practices none of these things will make things better. With costs going up and budgets going down, this is a great time to revisit our business processes and innovate from within our own walls with what we have or what is practically free.