What’s Your Vision for the Future of Government?

In February, the National Academy of Public Administration launched the Collaboration Project, a campaign to increase awareness and adoption of collaborative technologies in government. As part of this initiative, the Academy has been asked to host an online discussion on the future of government services. And we’re reaching out to the GovLoop community to help start that discussion!

The last decade has seen major changes, with initiatives like e-Government revolutionizing government’s ability to serve citizens and work together to solve problems. The next administration will encounter an environment in which these challenges are greater than ever — but also one in which collaborative tools like wikis, blogs, and mashups represent an unprecedented opportunity to pull new voices and more data into the governance process.

Because GovLoop is at the intersection of federal government and collaborative technologies, we’re asking for your help in framing the question that will form the basis for this online dialogue. We want to have a conversation about what changes will take place over the next five years with respect to the mission of government, citizen expectations, the use of technology, and other critical topics. Your feedback here on GovLoop will will shape a planned nationwide, online dialogue on the future of government.

The GovLoop Forum has a few starter threads to help kick things off, and we hope they’ll help generate a rich conversation about the future of government services during the next administration.


Dan Munz
The Collaboration Project

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Hi Dan,

I’ll mull over your goals for a day or two and try to come up with some meaningful input. I admire your enthusiasm for the project, but I have to say that I’ve been around long enough to be cynical about such endeavors. It seems that all we ever do is “discuss” “future visions” and never get around to anything more meaningful than creating committees and teams with warm fuzzy names. Instead of spending time discussing this sort of thing and then analyzing the “findings,” the government would be well suited to just listen to its own employees any old day of the week.

I know, I know — I sound like just another cynical Gen Xer. What can I say, I’m true to my roots! Still, good luck and I really hope you are able to produce some positive changes!

Dan Munz

GeekChick (love the name!), I think that’s a fair point. Sometimes, folks here in the Beltway like to talk about the need for “plans” as though the city suffers from a paucity of ideas — you rightly point out that a lot of times, what’s really missing is action. And we’d love your feedback on how to make this discussion more action-oriented.

Part of our case, though, is that government is going to change fundamentally over the next five years. The only question is whether it happens proactively, or is forced by events. We’re hoping to ensure that it’s the former.

Part of the “case for change” is that the challenges facing government are unprecedented — issues like global warming, energy independence, health care reform, and our fiscal future simply are bigger than any one agency, and are going to require a more agile, networked, collaborative mode of governance than most of the federal sector is used to.

The other part of the case is that collaborative tools hold a paradox for government — any set of tools that allows folks in government to work “around” traditional hierarchies also empowers citizens to go “around” government altogether. So adopting collaboration isn’t just a matter of using a cool new tool — it’s a matter of survival and relevance.

So you’re right — asking for a “future vision” isn’t a revolutionary idea. (Maybe there’s a better way to phrase this; a “future plan of action” perhaps?) But we’re certain that a transformative change in how government works is imminent; our mission is to figure out how we can affect that change proactively, rather than having change “happen to” us.


Another Gen-X’er here to chime in on the cynicism theme…

I sometimes like to think of good ideas as plugs. All the possible forums where the idea is heard can be considered as outlets. A “plug” for a good idea (such as an employee suggestion) may not immediately find a connection in one particular “outlet” (such as that employee’s office). But if it’s a really good idea, trying the plug in different outlets (i.e, a different office or a different forum all together) will often spark a connection that transforms the good idea into new actions. The action might not take place in it’s originally intended forum, but it delivers benefits nonetheless.

That’s a long-winded, metaphorical way of saying that if any of us have good ideas on the new paradigm, this forum is a great place to put them on the table. Even if they have not been well-received in our immediate office environments, the ideas may spark action in another office, bettering service to citizens somewhere along the line.

So think big and chime in! Perhaps one big idea would be how to leverage these tools to forge a more direct and repeatable “good idea” intake process from a given office or agency’s employees. This would provide a steady pipeline of actionable, accountable, good ideas. Ideas from the pipeline could be baked into everything including:

*dovetailing with customer feedback mechanisms (another critical pipeline of good ideas)

*become an input to strategic planning

*standard clauses could go into individual performance agreements requiring employees to contribute a certain percentage of ideas, and supervisors to demonstrate action or at least a response on a certain percentage of ideas

*an annual or other report back to the mission’s customers indicating what has gotten better as a result of employee feedback, while also soliciting more feedback from the customers in a virtual setting.

Several successful examples exist already in the federal space that can inspire the specifics.

P K Agarwal

Is collaboration in the DNA of Baby Boomers, who for now are the dominant demographic of the government workforce?


It is my belief that collaboration is in everyone’s DNA, it is just not always activated. Something has to trigger the activation. I’m a tail end baby boomer. I’ve been called a half breed (not in a negative sense) because I see and understand baby boomers and the younger generations. My activation came into effect when I participated in a leadership program with the Stewart Mott Foundation many years ago. Fascinating experience.


Matthew Stephen Worner

… I see and understand baby boomers and the younger generations. My boss says he understands the Y generation because they are the age of his kids, Linda, so I see your point.