Open Government is bigger than Gov 2.0.
It's time to unpack the open government directive and the role of Gov 2.0 in the mix. If we don't we are missing the point.
Requested Blog by Major Org in Transparency - Why?
October 1, 2010 at 9:10 pm #112155
Andrea SchneiderParticipantGov. 2.0 ≠ Open Government Directive
I love the Open Government Directive. It has ignited my imagination and provided a long needed platform for transparency, collaboration, participation and accountability in government.
The construct of the Open Government Directive outlines what we need to do to create a more transparent and accountable government, one which actively seeks to increase citizen participation and leverage resources through collaboration. It’s an active, not passive Directive, which could shift how government does business in fundamental ways. It's a systems challenge at all levels.
When each idea is clearly defined, including what each part would “look” like if done well, this shift would be revolutionary. If we define the myriad of ways to implement the Directive, with corresponding and unified standards against which to measure, we could create a concrete “road-map” for change.
While the core concepts aren’t new, the technology is very, very new. It’s a game changer. How we mix the Directive’s fundamental ideas with the new technology is getting worked out daily. Everyday new questions emerge, more is written and possibilities expanded. With enough support, we are witnessing a national paradigm shift unfold.
Until now promoting these core ideas, has been done independently, in many sectors and fields of discipline. Certainly not pulled together by a Presidential Directive under which these ideas can function as interrelated and co-dependent initiatives. If we take advantage of this rare convergence in thinking and time, between developments in government, the private sector and the nonprofit sector, we can institutionalize new and innovative strategies for a total re-design in the government sector.
Our success depends on sorting out the best work, creating clear standards for success, getting the buy in from leadership, in multiple sectors over time, and ultimately the ability to convert our offline culture into one which integrates online technology for people of all ages. The Directive has to be compelling to a range of organizations, not seen as another “assignment” by a new administration, easy come, easy go, and have teeth beyond the seduction of the possible. The “what is it” question has to be answered to a broader audience.
The novel use of technology is new“magic” allowing us to see a bigger picture, who is working with who, who is funding what, who is influencing our leaders, how our towns report problems, share big and small ideas, build relationships with people we’ve never met and hopefully document and demonstrate results. A big challenge is getting people to care enough to use all this information, and make it a part of their everyday lives. Behind “what is it” is “so what”?
This dramatic movement for change, occurring at breakneck speed because of Presidential leadership, interest and technology, is both a tremendous opportunity for substantive transformation, and simultaneously, for big failure. "who cares"?
The easiest part is generating the initial excitement, the much harder part is what follows this enthusiasm into concrete action, documented results, and sustainability. Putting meat on the bones by defining the concepts and on the ground practice, using previous experience to support emerging best practices, and building organizational capacity to carry out these initiatives, are critical challenges.
This fast track metamorphosis is pushing our expectations higher than they have a right to be at the moment.
- Have we conducted the needed organizational assessments so agencies can even do the expected work? We express surprise when many of the new federal web site attempts, to incorporate these new Directives, are disappointing and the data is sloppy? Why? What assumptions are we making about capability or availability of data no one has been asked for before? The “why not” have this data is another good question.
The translation between the words of the Directive into corresponding practice is hard, takes time and doesn’t match current organizational norms and culture in government.
- Why do we expect our federal, state and local governments to suddenly be so nimble and flexible? Working behind the scenes, with “boots on the ground” who are the champions for change? Are they strong enough and powerful enough to keep pushing this change?
- Who is teaching and supporting our federal, state and local agencies and employees to collaborate, be innovative, take risks and try out new ideas? Up until recently there have been few rewards for this type of initiative.
A main vehicle for the distribution of money for programs is through grant programs. It’s one natural place for the Open Government Directive to be implemented.
- Yet, how many grant programs have integrated the core ideas of the Open Government Directive, and the new technology, into their grant announcements? How many have revised how reporting systems work or evaluation takes place concretely? Are technical assistance and training workshops for grantees including this new direction? How many agencies have ever collaborated on their grants to get a bigger bang for their buck? I’m guessing not many. That’s a tragedy in my opinion.
We have an increasing number of outside organizations and people emerging with a basic focus on the use of technology for transparency, collaboration, participation, and accountability. Some are moving towards a stronger focus on technology in state and local government, depending on salaried government employees and community volunteers to sustain the change.
- Do we need more paid people to pull this off? Why would we depend on community volunteers for something so important and difficult to do? Noble as volunteering is in our country, how are we bringing the needed expertise into the system to stay and develop, with citizens and employees, the long term implementation for change?
We are involved in the very organic process of change. It stimulates many good questions as we move towards solutions.
- Who do we need as partners in this grand experiment? Who are the leaders and how did they evolve? What are we doing to increase public understanding of these new endeavors? Who is left out of this new direction?
- How are we communicating with the general public, so they feel included, capable of participating and not “stupid”? These initiatives are very technology dependent, yet many Americans are not savvy, or maybe don’t care, about the use of this new technology. Even savvy people are learning something new everyday, discovering how to make it better. How are all these new agencies and groups working together or are they all doing their own “thing”? Maybe it doesn’t matter and it will all sort itself out.
I want us to have the patience to stay with it, even when it’s hard and media attention is gone. I want the benefits of the Open Government Directive and the tools of Gov. 2.0 to be clear.
While we are all still so new in this endeavor is the perfect time to put in place the values, standards, knowledge and qualities we need to succeed. Currently, there is no foundation for building and sustaining this change. This cannot be an afterthought. We have to explain how this initiative will benefit Americans.
The Executive Branch (as well as state and local) must pay serious attention to their corresponding agencies and their capacity to change internally and externally.
- Do these agencies have the tools, knowledge, leadership and ability to do the job? If not, let’s make sure they do, otherwise we can’t complain. I want to see new directions in action, beyond new websites, into grant programs and other ways of disseminating change throughout the country. I want to know about it.
We have a challenge to go deeper as we go wider, now. The Open Government Directive can be a legacy initiative of our time. Gov. 2.0 is an integral tool in the mix, but it is only one part of a more complex formula for current change. We will miss this opportunity if we mix up the use of technology, as if it is the Open Government Directive.
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