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Is complicated procurement holding up government openness and innovation?

Welcome to GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week with Chris Dorobek… where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days… and we work to find an issue that will also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead. And, as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better.

It’s been a crazy week here on the DorobekINSIDER. Chris was up in New York on Monday at the Personal Democracy Forum and Tuesday he moderated Google’s Innovation Nation. We also talked with:

  • One fed who helped millions of low income residents get their tax returns completed. The amazing work has made him a Service to America Award Medal Finalist.
  • A step by step guide to making your agency more innovative — with the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program.
  • Stretch goals — are they a motivator or a de-motivator? Stretch goals are the often employed tactic of giving your employees a goal that is just out of their reach. The idea is motivate them to work harder. But does that work?

But our Issue of the Week: We wanted to bring you some highlights from the Personal Democracy Forum. One panel in particular focused on innovation… and open government… and helping government operate better. The panel was made up of:

  • Moderator: Peter Hirshberg, CEO Imagine Group
  • Tod Park, Federal Chief Technology Officer
  • Bryan Sivak, Chief Innovation Officer for Maryland and the new CTO at HHS
  • Carole Post, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at New York Law School, and the former CTO for New York City
  • Sophie Raseman, Director of Smart Disclosures at the Treasury Department

The Cutting Edge of Open Government panel focused on the past, present and future role of open government.

The Highs and Lows of Open Government

Bryan Sivak: When it comes to open government, a lot of the conversation focuses on data, which is great, but if you think about open government there are really two main goals.

  1. Transparency – can be a double edge sword. In Florida they have the Sunburst Project which basically allows anyone to read the emails of 11 Florida state executives. You can learn more about Project Sunburst here.
  2. Engagement – is really the key. Sivak says when he thinks of civic engagement he thinks of his mom. “We need a platform where she can go on and comment and its easy to use.”

Will open government just take off?

Bryan Sivak: DC was the 1st jurisdiction to start opening data back in 2004. When Vivek Kundra came in he created Apps for Democracy. Although the program continues today it lost a bunch of momentum when Mayor Adrian Fenty left office. Open government has to be both a bottom-up and top down effort.

Carole Post: There needs to be a culture change on every level in government. People need to care. And it isn’t just within government. But the press, the advocates and the constituents really need to get involved.

Procurement Problems:
Bryan Sivak: There are two problems with government and if you fix them than you basically fix all the problems. Those are procurement and HR. Neither issue is sexy and no politician will ever get elected because they solved the procurement issue. The issue with procurement is the RFP process.

  • “Procurement law continually gets compounded on, they never get subtracted. So you end up with a gigantic tome of rules and regulations that often times don’t make any sense,” said Sivak

Todd Park: We are trying to fix the RFP process with our new Fellows Program. They are designing a program called RFP EZ. The idea is to base the app after the simplified acquisition process. Basically the simplified acquisition process gives the government a lot more freedom to buy items less than $150,000.

Todd Park’s talk at PDF:


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Profile Photo Jaime Gracia

Explain to me how RFP EZ will help things? Yet another federal application, built in a silo, without any participation from federal acquisition experts to help build a system on how to use simplified acquisition procedures?

Didn’t we do that already with Apps.gov? Lipstick on a pig is window dressing.

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