Manor.GovFresh – Beth Noveck: “OpenGov Is Not Something Nice to Do…”

I flew into Austin this morning for Manor.Govfresh and arrived just in time to hear Beth Noveck, White House Deputy CTO.

Below are a few of the key ideas that I heard from Beth:

– Open Government is not something nice to do; it’s something we MUST do.

– Open Government is not about technology, it’s about improving our schools and our communities.

– Everyone is an expert in something…when we only ask citizens to vote every four years, we are essentially wasting our greatest resource.

– We need to leverage some variation of what Clay Shirky calls “cognitive surplus,” a ‘Civic Surplus’ so that we don’t miss or waste opportunities for people to get involved in their communities.

– Citizens have a few minutes each week that they can give to improve their
neighborhoods – how do we empower them to do so?
– We don’t have a choice about this now: economic times, war, threats at home and abroad.

– In many ways, the Open Government Directive could have been a lot shorter if it would have said: ”Be more like Manor,” because it’s that kind of innovation that will lead us to the future we envision.

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Have you heard about any groups getting together after the thing for happy hour to discuss things? That would be great for those of us that have to work and can’t get to the event!

Andrew Krzmarzick

HI Marilyn – I know there is a dinner tonight at the Doubletree where many people are staying…there’s a cash bar beforehand starting at 6p. I’d assume many folks will want to have some drinks afterward, too…you can call me at 202-352-1806 to check in with the group.

Dannielle Blumenthal

I am a great believer in open government. It is happening and it will continue to happen. We have so much expertise inside and outside government, let’s leverage it. We need more spokespeople who advocate for it continually because it will be difficult to see through when there are difficult issues to be worked through.

For me the danger of open government is that we won’t live up to the promise. It always comes back to human capital, I think – the way we institutionalize transparency so that crowdsourcing, knowledge sharing, whistleblowing, and so on – are valued. We need to build structures inside and outside agencies that are new and different from what has existed before and that answer to different authorities than the usual chain of command. Those structures should be dedicated specifically to the training of employees in the appropriate way to be transparent – their rights and responsibiilities when online. They should also be dedicated to formalizing and approving the communication vehicles through which employees can do so.

My concern is that if we don’t build formal channels for open government for employees, that we will continue to see employees venting their ideas, collaborating, and sharing concerns outside official channels and not having the impact that they could have by working within the system even if they exercise their free speech outside it.