Old Dog, New Tricks: Retraining and the Road to Government Reform

Essay by Beth Noveck: “…To be sure, one strategy for modernizing government is hiring new people with fresh skills in the fields of technology, data science, design, and marketing. Today, only 6 percent of the federal workforce is under 30 and, if age is any proxy for mastery of these in-demand new skills, then efforts by non-profits such as the Partnership for Public Service and the Tech Talent Project to attract a younger generation to work in the public sector are crucial. But we will not reinvent government fast enough through hiring alone.

The crucial and overlooked mechanism for improving government effectiveness is, therefore, to change how people work by training public servants across departments to use data and collective intelligence at each stage of the problem-solving process to foster more informed decision-making, more innovative solutions to problems, and more agile implementation of what works. All around the world we have witnessed how, when public servants work differently, government solves problems better.

Jonathan Wachtel, the lone city planner in Lakewood, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, has been able to undertake 500 sustainability projects because he knows how to collaborate and codesign with a network of 20,000 residents. When former Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu launched an initiative to start using data and resident engagement to address the city’s abysmal murder rate, that effort led to a 25 percent reduction in homicides in two years and a further decline to its lowest levels in 50 years by 2019. Because Samir Brahmachari, former Secretary, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, of the government of India, turned to crowdsourcing and engaged the assistance of 7,900 contributors, he was able to identify six already-approved drugs that showed promised in the fight against tuberculosis….(More)”.