After we had gotten past the platitudes and niceties that all good managers trying to implement a directive spout when garnering employee buy in for the directive, we were left with the question “So, now what?”
One brave soul finally raised a voice and said “None of those words mean anything unless you put action to them. If I am going to produce a data set and publish it, I want it to be useful. Let’s build a calculator and let’s ask people what’s really important to calculate before we build the wrong calculator. And I want that data to come with a resource set, something to help me get the everyday aspects of my job done easier. And, please don’t give me some manual. Make it so I can talk to other people doing something similar—citizens or fellow employees—and pull from what they’re doing. And, make some way for me to see the final product so that I can compare my results with other results.”
The tie between the Open Government Directive and a more open government lies in the practical execution of agency mission in tandem with open government initiatives. This tie is strengthened with input from the public and concrete ways for citizens to interact with the products of open government. This observation bears true for the more than 350 initiatives associated with the Open Government Directive (http://data.govloop.com/Government/List-of-Open-Government-Projects/j6z3-fs2y).
Transparency efforts make up the largest portion of Open Government initiatives and are mostly seen in data sharing and Dashboard activities wherein data is combined with tool and visualization catalogs, like data.gov, Centers for Disease Control Community Health data, FDATrack, RegInfo.gov, or the department of Justice’s newest launch FOIA.gov. Each of these dashboards offers citizens the opportunity to engage with data, build visualizations and comparative data projects, and provide feedback—and sometimes engage in discussions with—the parent agency.
Citizens participate with the government when they want to augment a service or when they seek basic information sharing opportunities. Citizens and employees are especially active in initiatives like My AmeriCorps Member Feedback, National Archives Docs Teach, and Justice’s That’s Not Cool violence prevention resource center. One of the most successful participation Open Government projects was citizen participation in idea generation through the IdeaScale tool, where thousands of ideas were generated and several were adopted for use in Open Government planning.
Collaboration efforts comprise the smallest portion of open Government projects, but often have the most participation and results. Citizens collaborate best with the government when they feel that they have a genuine contribution to make that is often related to their personal expertise. Examples of collaboration associated with Open Government are NASA’s Citizen Scientist, the Veteran’s Administration VAi2 innovation initiative, or efforts like the Department of State’s Global Pulse and GreenGov, which not only bring together citizens, but bring together non-traditional government partners. Real-time posting of discussions, ideas, best practices, and follow-through is critical to project achievement and sustainability.
Neither ideals nor technology are sustainable until the culture around them adopts them as essential to its core. Agencies, like the Department of Defense, The General Services Administration, and NASA directly tie the citizen ideas garnered during the public comment phase of the plan process to their plan. They included summaries of the ideas and plans for executing the resultant projects at their agency. Additionally, agencies like the Social Security Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency tie the Open Government Directive and their agency Open Government activities to their agency strategic plans. The Environmental Protection Agency incorporates a streamlined structure and interactive time line for the combined strategic goals on their website where citizens can offer input and where the agency can report back on their progress at achieving their goals. Sustainability of Open Government lies not only in the execution of projects, but in the incorporation of the ideals of open government into the planning and culture of agencies.
The most successful open government efforts are those that connect projects to agency mission and the goals of the directive and that involve citizens in achieving both open government goals and agency mission at least partially through the project. In addition, sustainable success is found in those initiatives that connect real world applications to open government goals and long-term strategic visioning.
By and large, agencies have heard the Open Government call and have worked with citizens to produce plans, projects, and products that promote transparency, participation, and collaboration in ways that add practicality to ideals. While there is still work to be done, the question of continued development and sustainability remains. So, now what???
Great post! The next step is alignment. Alignment of agency projects and processes with the agency mission. A mission that is co-created by the agency and its stakeholders. The true benefit of Open Gov and collaboration is to move agencies from the garbage can model of management to the jazz combo model of management.
Very thoughtful post. Couldn’t agree more on this point:
Ingraining openness into an agency’s culture is the only thing that will make it sustainable practice–and with a workforce that is motivated by the mission, this culture change only occurs when openness is connected to agency goals, as you mentioned. Externally, openness is about trust, which means citizens/stakeholders/participants must see the impact of their contribution. If that happens, it can create a very compelling story…
It may be time for collaborating across our many organizations. Here’s a proposal to find 100 opengov community members capable of holding a 2-hour meeting in partnership with local government to spread the word between May 16-20, 2011: http://local-opengov.eventbrite.com/ The purpose is to help us all bring opengov to our local gov wherever we may live.
Currently there are 39 organizers in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Columbia, Indonesia, Latin America, Mexico, Netherlands, Ukraine, and United States.
To respect everyone’s time, if we don’t get to 100, then we won’t move forward with these events. It’s an experiment that will either succeed or not happen; by ensuring there is critical mass even before we start, it won’t fail.
Please do sign up! We welcome your comments and suggestions.
So, now what? How about game-changing technology that’s live online Now?
It’s Social Media for Knowledge Capture and Question Answering in Executable English** over Databases. It could become the next big thing after Twitter and Facebook. And, it’s free.
Imagine government and other web sites answering an open ended collection of English questions, and also explaining the answers in English. Imagine government folks and citizens socially networking, Wikipedia-style, to continually expand the range of questions that can be answered.
The approach starts from the observation that data by itself is necessary, but not enough, for many practical uses of an intranet or the Web.
What’s also needed is knowledge about how to use the data to answer an ever increasing number of questions — such as, “How much could the US save through energy independence?”.
There’s emerging technology that can leverage social networking for the significant task of acquiring and curating the necessary knowledge — in the form of Executable English.
You can Google “Executable English” to find this.
The technology underlies a Web site that works as a kind of Wiki, for collaborative content in open vocabulary, executable English (and other languages).
As you know, English text (like this sentence) is normally something for a person to read, but it cannot be used as a program that you can run on a computer.
On the other hand, executable English is something that a person can read, and that you can also run on a computer.
Shared use of the system is free, and there are no advertisements. Just point a browser to http://www.reengineeringllc.com .
Since the executable knowledge is in English, Google indexes and retrieves it, acting as a kind of registry.
You and your colleagues can use your browsers to write programs as syllogism-like rules in English, run them, and get detailed English explanations of the results.
Applications of the system include: Answering Questions about the US Financial Stimulus Package, Risk Analysis, Reasoning over Taxonomies, Knowledge Based Data Mining, Business Intelligence, and Supply Chain Management. Please see [1-6].
To use the system there is nothing to install. Simply point your browser to the site below, to run the examples provided, and to write and run your own examples.
As mentioned, shared use of the system is free. There is no advertising.
Please be aware that anyone on the web can view, run and change anything that you write into the shared area. There is also private group use for a nominal fee — please see http://www.reengineeringllc.com/terms_and_conditions.html .
Apologies if you have seen this technology before, and thanks for your comments,
 http://www.reengineeringllc.com/ibldrugdbdemo1.htm (Flash video with audio)
 http://www.reengineeringllc.com/EnergyIndependence1Video.htm (Flash video with audio)
 Internet Business Logic
A Wiki and SOA endpoint for Executable English Q/A
Online at http://www.reengineeringllc.com
Shared use is free, and there are no advertisements
** English, and other languages
** To run an example, please…
1. point a browser to http://www.reengineeringllc.com
2. click on Internet Business Logic
3. click the GO button
4. select an example from the list in the middle of the page
5. check that the action at the top of the page says
“Choose an agent and Go to its Question menu”
6. click the Go button
7. you should now see a Question Menu
8. click on the first sentence
9. you should now see a new window with an “Ask” button
10. click the Ask button
11. you should now see an Answer Table
12. click on “Go To the Question Menu” hold down the mouse button,
select “Get an Explanation of the Selected Line” and release the button
13. you should now see a step-by-step explanation of how the system
used the rules and facts in the example to get the answer
14. please use the Help button on each page to see how to navigate further
15. the tutorials show how to write and run your own examples.