The Big Con: How the Consulting Industry Weakens Our Businesses, Infantilizes Our Governments, and Warps Our Economies


Book by Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington: “There is an entrenched relationship between the consulting industry and the way business and government are managed today that must change. Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington show that our economies’ reliance on companies such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, and EY stunts innovation, obfuscates corporate and political accountability, and impedes our collective mission of halting climate breakdown.

The “Big Con” describes the confidence trick the consulting industry performs in contracts with hollowed-out and risk-averse governments and shareholder value-maximizing firms. It grew from the 1980s and 1990s in the wake of reforms by the neoliberal right and Third Way progressives, and it thrives on the ills of modern capitalism, from financialization and privatization to the climate crisis. It is possible because of the unique power that big consultancies wield through extensive contracts and networks—as advisors, legitimators, and outsourcers—and the illusion that they are objective sources of expertise and capacity. In the end, the Big Con weakens our businesses, infantilizes our governments, and warps our economies.

In The Big Con, Mazzucato and Collington throw back the curtain on the consulting industry. They dive deep into important case studies of consultants taking the reins with disastrous results, such as the debacle of the roll out of HealthCare.gov and the tragic failures of governments to respond adequately to the COVID-19 pandemic. The result is an important and exhilarating intellectual journey into the modern economy’s beating heart. With peerless scholarship, and a wealth of original research, Mazzucato and Collington argue brilliantly for building a new system in which public and private sectors work innovatively for the common good…(More)”.

Citizens’ assemblies: are they the future of democracy?


Article by Eva Talmadge: “…Citizens’ assemblies, a phenomenon that is gaining in popularity around the globe, date back to ancient Athens, where legislative panels, courts and councils were chosen via random selection. In a practice known as sortition, Greek citizens over the age of 30 were enlisted to debate governmental matters from city finances to military strategy. More recently, citizens’ assemblies have convened to hammer out solutions to such issues as homelessness in Los Angeles, the allocation of a $5bn budget in Melbourne, Australia, and the longstanding ban on abortion in Ireland.

In 2017, after meeting over the course of five weekends for deliberation, an Irish citizens’ assembly came up with a recommendation to legalize the procedure. Sixty-six per cent of Irish voters later approved the referendum, ending more than four decades of fruitless political debate.

Modern citizens’ assemblies are typically convened by legislative bodies, which work alongside non-profit groups to reach out to large numbers of citizens at random – sending letters like the one Bajwa received in the mail – then sorting the respondents who express interest according to social and economic factors. The result is a group of people who are randomly selected and reflect the demographics of the population as a whole.

Sortition, a word that might evoke the next chapter in the Hunger Games franchise, offers a revived spin on democracy. Instead of leaving the decision-making up to elected officials, citizens’ assemblies can offer a special interests-free alternative to politics as we know it.

The system is not unlike jury duty. With facilitators in place to provide background information on the issue at hand and encourage everyone’s participation, the group meets over the course of several days to learn about a problem, hear from a range of stakeholders and experts, and come up with recommendations for new legislation…(More)”

Leveraging Data for Racial Equity in Workforce Opportunity


Report by CODE: “Across many decades, obstacles to gainful employment have limited the ability of Black Americans and other people of color to obtain well-paying jobs that create wealth and contribute to health and well-being.

A dearth of opportunity in the job market is related to inequalities in education, bias in hiring, and other forms of systemic inequality in the U.S.

Over time, federal efforts have addressed the need to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the government workforce, and promoted similar changes in the broader society. While these efforts have brought progress, they have not been entirely effective. At the same time, federal action has made new kinds of data available—data that can shed light on some of the historic drivers of workforce inequity and help inform solutions to their ongoing impact.

This report explores a number of current opportunities to strengthen longstanding data-driven tools to address workforce inequity. The report shows how the effects of workforce discrimination and other historic practices are still being felt today. At the same time, it outlines opportunities to apply data to increase equity in many areas related to the workforce gap, including disparities in health and wellbeing, socioeconomic status, and housing insecurity…(More)”.

Because Data Can’t Speak for Itself


A Practical Guide to Telling Persuasive Policy Stories” by David Chrisinger and Lauren Brodsky: “People with important evidence-based ideas often struggle to translate data into stories their readers can relate to and understand. And if leaders can’t communicate well to their audience, they will not be able to make important changes in the world.

Why do some evidence-based ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Because Data Can’t Speak for Itself, accomplished educators and writers David Chrisinger and Lauren Brodsky tackle these questions head-on. They reveal the parts and functions of effective data-driven stories and explain myriad ways to turn your data dump into a narrative that can inform, persuade, and inspire action.

Chrisinger and Brodsky show that convincing data-driven stories draw their power from the same three traits, which they call peoplepurpose, and persistence. Writers need to find the real people behind the numbers and share their stories. At the same time, they need to remember their own purpose and be honest about what data says—and, just as importantly, what it does not.

Compelling and concise, this fast-paced tour of success stories—and several failures—includes examples on topics such as COVID-19, public diplomacy, and criminal justice…(More)”

Big Data and Public Policy


Book by Rebecca Moody and Victor Bekkers: “This book provides a comprehensive overview of how the course, content and outcome of policy making is affected by big data. It scrutinises the notion that big and open data makes policymaking a more rational process, in which policy makers are able to predict, assess and evaluate societal problems. It also examines how policy makers deal with big data, the problems and limitations they face, and how big data shapes policymaking on the ground. The book considers big data from various perspectives, not just the political, but also the technological, legal, institutional and ethical dimensions. The potential of big data use in the public sector is also assessed, as well as the risks and dangers this might pose. Through several extended case studies, it demonstrates the dynamics of big data and public policy. Offering a holistic approach to the study of big data, this book will appeal to students and scholars of public policy, public administration and data science, as well as those interested in governance and politics…(More)”.

Understanding how to build a social licence for using novel linked datasets for planning and research in Kent, Surrey and Sussex: results of deliberative focus groups.


Paper by Elizabeth Ford et al: “Digital programmes in the newly created NHS integrated care boards (ICBs) in the United Kingdom mean that curation and linkage of anonymised patient data is underway in many areas for the first time. In Kent, Surrey and Sussex (KSS), in Southeast England, public health teams want to use these datasets to answer strategic population health questions, but public expectations around use of patient data are unknown….We aimed to engage with citizens of KSS to gather their views and expectations of data linkage and re-use, through deliberative discussions…
We held five 3-hour deliberative focus groups with 79 citizens of KSS, presenting information about potential uses of data, safeguards, and mechanisms for public involvement in governance and decision making about datasets. After each presentation, participants discussed their views in facilitated small groups which were recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically…
The focus groups generated 15 themes representing participants’ views on the benefits, risks and values for safeguarding linked data. Participants largely supported use of patient data to improve health service efficiency and resource management, preventative services and out of hospital care, joined-up services and information flows. Most participants expressed concerns about data accuracy, breaches and hacking, and worried about commercial use of data. They suggested that transparency of data usage through audit trails and clear information about accountability, ensuring data re-use does not perpetuate stigma and discrimination, ongoing, inclusive and valued involvement of the public in dataset decision-making, and a commitment to building trust, would meet their expectations for responsible data use…
Participants were largely favourable about the proposed uses of patient linked datasets but expected a commitment to transparency and public involvement. Findings were mapped to previous tenets of social license and can be used to inform ICB digital programme teams on how to proceed with use of linked datasets in a trustworthy and socially acceptable way…(More)”.

8 Strategies for Chief Data Officers to Create — and Demonstrate — Value


Article by Thomas H. Davenport, Richard Y. Wang, and Priyanka Tiwari: “The chief data officer (CDO) role was only established in 2002, but it has grown enormously since then. In one recent survey of large companies, 83% reported having a CDO. This isn’t surprising: Data and approaches to understanding it (analytics and AI) are incredibly important in contemporary organizations. What is eyebrow-raising, however, is that the CDO job is terribly ill-defined. Sixty-two percent of CDOs surveyed in the research we describe below reported that the CDO role is poorly understood, and incumbents of the job have often met with diffuse expectations and short tenures. There is a clear need for CDOs to focus on adding visible value to their organizations.

Part of the problem is that traditional data management approaches are unlikely to provide visible value in themselves. Many nontechnical executives don’t really understand the CDO’s work and struggle to recognize when it’s being done well. CDOs are often asked to focus on preventing data problems (defense-oriented initiatives) and such data management projects as improving data architectures, data governance, and data quality. But data will never be perfect, meaning executives will always be somewhat frustrated with their organization’s data situation. While improvements in data management may be difficult to recognize or measure, major problems such as hacks, breaches, lost or inaccessible data, or poor quality are much easier to recognize than improvements.

So how can CDOs demonstrate that they’re creating value?…(More)”

Data Free Disney


Essay by Janet Vertesy: “…Once upon a time, you could just go to Disneyland. You could get tickets at the gates, stand in line for rides, buy food and tchotchkes, even pick up copies of your favorite Disney movies at a local store. It wasn’t even that long ago. The last time I visited, in 2010, the company didn’t record what I ate for dinner or detect that I went on Pirates of the Caribbean five times. It was none of their business.

But sometime in the last few years, tracking and tracing became their business. Like many corporations out there, Walt Disney Studios spent the last decade transforming into a data company.

The theme parks alone are a data scientist’s dream. Just imagine: 50,000 visitors a day, most equipped with cell phones and a specialized app. Millions of location traces, along with rides statistics, lineup times, and food-order preferences. Thousands and thousands of credit card swipes, each populating a database with names and addresses, each one linking purchases across the park grounds.1 A QR-code scavenger hunt that records the path people took through Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Hotel keycards with entrance times, purchases, snack orders, and more. Millions of photos snapped on rides and security cameras throughout the park, feeding facial-recognition systems. Tickets with names, birthdates, and portraits attached. At Florida’s Disney World, MagicBands—bracelets using RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology—around visitors’ wrists gather all that information plus fingerprints in one place, while sensors ambiently detect their every move. What couldn’t you do with all that data?…(More)”.

The Power of the Stora Rör Swimming Association and Other Local Institutions


Article by Erik Angner: “On a late-summer afternoon of 1938, two eleven-year-old girls waded into the water in Stora Rör harbor on the Baltic island of Öland. They were awaiting their mother, who was returning by ferry from a hospital visit on the mainland. Unbeknownst to the girls, the harbor had been recently dredged. Where there used to be shallow sands, the water was now cold, dark, and deep. The girls couldn’t swim. They drowned mere feet from safety—in full view of a powerless little sister on the beach.

The community was shaken. It resolved that no such tragedy should ever happen again. To make sure every child would learn to swim, the community decided to offer swimming lessons to anyone interested. The Stora Rör Swimming Association, founded that same year, is still going strong. It’s enrolled thousands of children, adolescents, and adults. My grandmother, a physical-education teacher by training, was one of its first instructors. My father, myself, and my children all learned how to swim there.

It’s impossible to know if the association has saved lives. It may well have. The community has been spared, although kids play in and fall into the water all the time. Nationwide, drowning is the leading cause of death for Swedish kids between one and six years of age.

We do know that the association has had many other beneficial effects. It has offered healthy, active outdoor summer activities for generations of kids. The activities of the association remain open to all. Fees are nominal. Children come from families of farmers and refugees, artists and writers, university professors and CEOs of major corporations, locals and tourists…

In economic terms, the Stora Rör Swimming Association is an institution. It’s a set of rules, or “prescriptions,” that humans use to structure all sorts of repeated interactions. These rules can be formalized in a governing document. The constitution of the association says that you have to pay dues if you want to remain a member in good standing, for example. But the rules that define the institution don’t need to be written down. They don’t even need to be formulated in words. “Attend the charity auction and bid on things if you can afford it.” “Volunteer to serve on the board when it’s your turn.” “Treat swimming teachers with respect.” These are all unwritten rules. They may never have been formulated quite like this before. Still, they’re widely—if not universally—followed. And, from an economic perspective, these rules taken together define what sort of thing the Swimming Association is.

Economist Elinor Ostrom studied institutions throughout her career. She wanted to know what institutions do, how and why they work, how they appear and evolve over time, how we can build and improve them, and, finally, how to share that knowledge with the rest of us. She believed in the power of economics to “bring out the best in humans.” The way to do it, she thought, was to help them build community—developing the rich network of relationships that form the fabric of a society…(More)”.

Citizen Participation and Knowledge Support in Urban Public Energy Transition—A Quadruple Helix Perspective


Paper by Peter Nijkamp et al: “Climate change, energy transition needs and the current energy crisis have prompted cities to implement far-reaching changes in public energy supply. The present paper seeks to map out the conditions for sustainable energy provision and use, with a particular view to the role of citizens in a quadruple helix context. Citizen participation is often seen as a sine qua non for a successful local or district energy policy in an urban area but needs due scientific and digital support based on evidence-based knowledge (using proper user-oriented techniques such as Q-analysis). The paper sets out to explore the citizen engagement and knowledge base for drastic energy transitions in the city based on the newly developed “diabolo” model, in which in particular digital tools (e.g., dashboards, digital twins) are proposed as useful tools for the interface between citizens and municipal policy. The approach adopted in this paper is empirically illustrated for local energy policy in the city of Rotterdam…(More)”.