You may remember a short while ago I asked for your help with a piece of research I was working on with colleagues Stephen Goldsmith and Zach Tumin at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government to research the “now wave” and the “next wave” of public service delivery around the world.
Last month, I had the opportunity to go to Harvard to present the findings of our research to a group of senior civil servants from the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, gathered to talk about the role technology can play in supporting new collaborations to improve performance in public service delivery.
As my previous post said:
Today more than ever the prospect (and need) for network-enabled collaborations between governments, citizens, industry and non-governmental organizations is high. No one can go it alone; the costs of services are ever increasing, the influence of governments to control the entire agenda limited, and the need for quality and greater value critical.
Zach Tumin form Harvard’s Kennedy School will be blogging his thoughts and take aways from the session itself shortly, but for now I wanted to share my presentation from the event itself (above) and a few thoughts of my own – although I won’t hold you up too long as you’ve got 90 slides to get through!
In short, my position is probably best described by the question:
“how do we change public services to meet the needs of a networked society by disrupting both from inside and outside of government?”
The question of eGov versus WeGov is a tension I and others (such as Micah Sifry and Andrea DiMaio) have been writing about for some time now and one that runs through the research as a theme. We are unquestionably at a key moment for government and public services more specifically, one that will lead to a rebalancing of power and increased engagement and involvement in how we create, lead and manage public services. While the how is yet to be resolved and remains the main discussion point between the two ends of the political spectrum, there is no longer an if.
The main question at the heart of this debate for me is how we balance top down delivery, striving (sometimes) for more egalitarian outcomes, with the creative (often disruptive) innovation of bottom up invention and ingenuity.
In the report, I take the unexpected position for me in (part) defence of the concept of e-Government, or at least the need for effective government systems that e-enable the basic functions of a government system. When we engage with government, particularly when making transactions, we just want simple, effective technology that removes some of the burden. While mistakes have been made, so have many improvements with more in the pipeline.
But as we all now know, eGov alone has been proven to be inadequate. Developments in the social web have provided us with significant opportunities to supercharge government’s (and society’s) ability to tackle some of the most intractable social problems. Web 2.0 provides government to better listen to, learn from and collaborate with users of public services to better co-determine and co-produce those services in a personalised and therefore inherently more effective and often efficient way.
At the same time, I advocate my colleague Carrie Bishop’s notion of ‘parallel structures’, the state supporting these creative forces to experiment in a safe space, demonstrating the added value of new ways of working which are either then scaled through adoption within government itself or else supported to scale within their own right.
Mirroring the work of Stephen Goldsmith in his recently published book The Power of Social Innovation, it is a combination of civic innovators and the power of the web that provides us with a significant opportunity to invent and experiment at a scale never before possible. It’s government’s task to figure out how best to support this through a transformation in and of itself.
I end the slides on a few suggestions for government on how they might address this issue, walking through some of the key building blocks I believe government needs to put in place to make Gov20 really real, not just one big and potentially damaging PR stunt.