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The importance of culture change in open government

Open government cannot succeed through technology only. Open data, ideation platforms, cloud solutions, and social media are great tools but when they are used to deliver government services using existing models they can only deliver partial value, value which can not be measured and value that is unclear to anyone but the technology practitioners that are delivering the services.

We see this clearly today in the United States where the ongoing battle to save open data is sending shock waves through the twitterverse. People “in the know”, engineers, social media advocates, and journalists are amazed at the cluelessness of the United States Congress. The fact that they cannot understand the clear value being delivered is entirely their fault, right? The reality, of course, is that open government has primarily been the domain of the technologist. Other parts of the organization have not been considered, have not been educated, have not been organized around a new way of thinking, a new way of delivering value. The organizational model, the culture itself, has not been addressed, the value of open government is not understood, it is not measurable, and it is not an approach that the majority of those in and around government have bought into.

This thinking is not mine alone. It is a message I have heard countless times from politicians and government employees in a variety of roles and locations throughout the world. It is this thinking that has led a small group of us to launch a new Group on Govloop called Culture Change and Open Government. Bill Brantley wrote a great overview of the group which notes that “The purpose of this group is to create an international community of practice devoted to discussing how to use cultural change to bring about open government and to use this site to plan and stage unconferences devoted to cultural change“. While Bill is absolutely correct it does not explain why we feel this is the most critical piece of open government as well as the piece that is most often overlooked by practitioners, advocates, and others.

First, it is worth reviewing how I have defined open government. Simply put:

Open government is a citizen-centric philosophy and strategy that believes the best results are usually driven by partnerships between citizens and government, at all levels. It is focused entirely on achieving goals through increased efficiency, better management, information transparency, and citizen engagement and most often leverages newer technologies to achieve the desired outcomes. This is bringing business approaches, business technologies, to government“.

Open Government is, to be accurate, a different approach to delivering services to citizens. It is not simply about technology, it is a new way of defining goals, of delivering and measuring results. It is a cultural change for your organization and requires new strategies, processes, and tools itself.

Okay….. If this is the case, lets just pick up a book at the bookstore and get started, surely the solutions exist already, right? In many cases I believe answers exist and we are simply unaware of them. In other cases no work has yet been done and a committed group of explorers must find the answers, document them for others, and share repeatedly these answers.

Members of this group are expected to be these explorers. We will document our findings in this group and capture new documents centrally on Government in The Lab. If you are ready to begin a journey of transformation join in now.


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