Tom Steinberg in mySociety Blog: “As I wrote in my last post, I am very concerned about the lack of comprehensible, consistent language to talk about the hugely diverse ways in which people are using the internet to bring about social and political change….My approach to finding an appropriate name was to look at the way that other internet industry sectors are named, so that I could choose a name that sits nicely next to very familiar sectoral labels….
Segmenting the Civic Power sector
Choosing a single sectoral name – Civic Power – is not really the point of this exercise. The real benefit would come from being able to segment the many projects within this sector so that they are more easy to compare and contrast.
Here is my suggested four part segmentation of the Civic Power sector…:
- Decision influencing organisations try to directly shape or change particular decisions made by powerful individuals or organisations.
- Regime changing organisations try to replace decision makers, not persuade them.
- Citizen Empowering organisations try to give people the resources and the confidence required to exert power for whatever purpose those people see fit, both now and in the future.
- Digital Government organisations try to improve the ways in which governments acquire and use computers and networks. Strictly speaking this is just a sub-category of ‘decision influencing organisation’, on a par with an environmental group or a union, but more geeky.”
See also: Open Government – What’s in a Name?
Lauren Pfeifer at ONE: “Earlier this year we asked what you thought were the continent’s most important development priorities, as part of our You Choose campaign. Health care was very near the top of the list, so now we’re on the case.
We know that better health care will save lives. Preventable and treatable diseases such as AIDS, TB, and malaria continue to kill more than 2 million people in Africa every year.
Open Budgets Save Lives aims to do two things:
- Encourage African leaders to prioritise health care spending
- Open up national budgets so that African citizens can see where the money is going
Transparency in government spending is an incredible tool for all of us – allowing citizens and local NGOs to hold governments accountable for spending that lines up with citizens’ priorities.
Giving citizens current, accurate and understandable budget information increases the likelihood that resources will be managed well, and used efficiently. Countries with open budgets are also more likely to line up spending with stated priorities, and ensure policy commitments are funded. Open budgets also help reduce corruption, by making it easier to draw a line between what is supposed to be spent and the results that are achieved.”
Data Science for Social Good: “By analyzing data from police reports to website clicks to sensor signals, governments are starting to spot problems in real-time and design programs to maximize impact. More nonprofits are measuring whether or not they’re helping people, and experimenting to find interventions that work.
None of this is inevitable, however.
We’re just realizing the potential of using data for social impact and face several hurdles to it’s widespread adoption:
- Most governments and nonprofits simply don’t know what’s possible yet. They have data – but often not enough and maybe not the right kind.
- There are too few data scientists out there – and too many spending their days optimizing ads instead of bettering lives.
To make an impact, we need to show social good organizations the power of data and analytics. We need to work on analytics projects that have high social impact. And we need to expose data scientists to the problems that really matter.
That’s exactly why we’re doing the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good summer fellowship at the University of Chicago.
We want to bring three dozen aspiring data scientists to Chicago, and have them work on data science projects with social impact.
Working closely with governments and nonprofits, fellows will take on real-world problems in education, health, energy, transportation, and more.
Over the next three months, they’ll apply their coding, machine learning, and quantitative skills, collaborate in a fast-paced atmosphere, and learn from mentors in industry, academia, and the Obama campaign.
The program is led by a strong interdisciplinary team from the Computation institute and the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.”
Paper by Joannie Tremblay-Boire and Aseem Prakash: “Why do some nonprofits signal their accountability via unilateral website disclosures? We develop an Accountability Index to examine the websites of 200 U.S. nonprofits ranked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. We expect nonprofits’ incentives for website disclosures will be shaped by their organizational and sectoral characteristics. Our analysis suggests that nonprofits appearing frequently in the media disclose more accountability information while nonprofits larger in size disclose less. Religion-related nonprofits tend to disclose less information, suggesting that religious bonding enhances trust and reduce incentives for self-disclosure. Health nonprofits disclose less information, arguably because government-mandated disclosures reduce marginal benefits from voluntary disclosures. Education nonprofits, on the other hand, tend to disclose more accountability information perhaps because they supply credence goods. This research contributes to the emerging literature on websites as accountability mechanisms by developing a new index for scholars to use and proposing new hypotheses based on the corporate social responsibility literature.”
Ty McCormick in Foreign Policy: “If you’re checking in on Foursquare or ramping up the “strength” of your LinkedIn profile, you’ve just been gamified — whether or not you know it. “Gamification,” today’s hottest business buzzword, is gaining traction everywhere from corporate boardrooms to jihadi chat forums, and its proponents say it can revolutionize just about anything, from education to cancer treatment to ending poverty. While the global market for gamification is expected to explode from $242 million in 2012 to $2.8 billion in 2016, according to market analysis firm M2 Research, there is a growing chorus of critics who think it’s little more than a marketing gimmick. So is the application of game mechanics to everyday life more than just a passing fad? You decide.
Kellogg’s cereals offers its first “premium,” the Funny Jungleland Moving-Pictures book, free with every two boxes. Two years later, Cracker Jack starts putting prizes, from stickers to baseball cards, in its boxes of caramel-coated corn snacks. “A prize in every box” is an instant hit; over the next 100 years, Cracker Jack gives away more than 23 billion in-package treasures. By the 1950s, the concept of gamification is yet to be born, but its primary building block — fun — is motivating billions of consumers around the world.
Duke University sociologist Donald F. Roy publishes “Banana Time,” an ethnographic study of garment workers in Chicago. Roy chronicles how workers use “fun” and “fooling” on the factory room floor — including a daily ritual game in which workers steal a banana — to stave off the “beast of monotony.” The notion that fun can enhance job satisfaction and productivity inspires reams of research on games in the workplace….”
Charles Kenny and Justin Sandefur in Foreign Policy: “Not content with dominating IPOs on Wall Street, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are taking their can-do, failure-conquering, technology-enabled tactics to the challenge of global poverty. And why not? If we can look up free Khan Academy math lectures using the cheap, kid-friendly computers handed out by the folks at One Laptop per Child, who needs to worry about the complexities of education reform? With a lamp lit up by an electricity-generating soccer ball in every hut, who needs coal-fired power stations and transmission lines? And if even people in refugee camps can make money transcribing outsourced first-world dental records, who needs manufacturing or the roads and port systems required to export physical goods? No wonder the trendiest subject these days for TED talks is cracking the code on digital-era do-gooding, with 100 recent talks and counting just on the subjects of Africa and development…
But entrepreneurial spirit and even the fanciest of gadgets will only get you so far. All the technological transformation of the last 200 years hasn’t come close to wiping out global poverty. More than half the planet still lives on less than $4 a day, and 2.4 billion people live on less than $2 a day. And that’s after a decade that saw the biggest drop in extreme poverty ever. What’s more, millions and millions of people still die annually from easily and cheaply preventable or treatable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia. None of this is for a lack of science; often it isn’t even for lack of money. It is because parents don’t follow simple health practices like washing their hands, government bureaucrats can’t or won’t provide basic water and sanitation programs, and arbitrary immigration restrictions prevent the poor from moving to places with better opportunities.
Sorry, but no iPhone, even one loaded with the coolest apps, is going to change all that….
SO WHAT CAN BE DONE to harness technological innovation, filter the good ideas from the bad, and spread a little of Silicon Valley’s fairy dust on the world’s poorer regions? The answer, according to Harvard economist Michael Kremer, is market discipline and rigorous testing. Kremer is a MacArthur “genius” grant winner whose name pops up in speculation about future Nobel Prize contenders. He thinks that technological fixes can dramatically improve the lives of the global poor, but markets won’t provide the right innovations without support.”
Press Release: “Knight Foundation today named eight projects as winners of the Knight News Challenge on Open Gov, awarding the recipients more than $3.2 million for their ideas.
The projects will provide new tools and approaches to improve the way people and governments interact. They tackle a range of issues from making it easier to open a local business to creating a simulator that helps citizens visualize the impact of public policies on communities….
Each of the winning projects offers a solution to a real-world need. They include:
Civic Insight: Providing up-to-date information on vacant properties so that communities can find ways to make tangible improvements to local spaces;
OpenCounter: Making it easier for residents to register and create new businesses by building open source software that governments can use to simplify the process;
Open Gov for the Rest of Us: Providing residents in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago with the tools to access and demand better data around issues important to them, like housing and education;
Outline.com: Launching a public policy simulator that helps people visualize the impact that public policies like health care reform and school budget changes might have on local economies and communities;
Oyez Project: Making state and appellate court documents freely available and useful to journalists, scholars and the public, by providing straightforward summaries of decisions, free audio recordings and more;
Procur.io: Making government contract bidding more transparent by simplifying the way smaller companies bid on government work;
GitMachines: Supporting government innovation by creating tools and servers that meet government regulations, so that developers can easily build and adopt new technology;
Plan in a Box: Making it easier to discover information about local planning projects, by creating a tool that governments and contractors can use to easily create websites with updates that also allow public input into the process.
Now in its sixth year, the Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding and support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas. Past News Challenge winners have created a lasting impact. They include: DocumentCloud, which analyzes and annotates public documents – turning them into data; Tools for OpenStreetMap, which makes it easier to contribute to the editable map of the world; and Safecast, which helps people measure air quality and became the leading provider of pollution data following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
For more, visit newschallenge.org and follow #newschallenge on Twitter.
Ronald Brownstein in The National Journal: “Washington may be paralyzed by partisanship, but across the country, grassroots innovators are crafting solutions to our problems….This special issue of National Journal celebrates these pragmatic problem-solvers in business, the civic sector, local government, and partnerships that creatively combine all three. At a time of endemic stalemate in the nation’s capital, think of it as a report from the America that works (to borrow a recent phrase from The Economist)….
Another significant message is that the communications revolution, by greatly accelerating the sharing of ideas, has produced a “democratization of innovation,” as author Vijay Vaitheeswaran put it in his 2012 book, Need, Speed, and Greed. This dynamic has simultaneously allowed breakthroughs to disseminate faster than ever and empowered more people inside companies and communities to tackle problems previously left to elites. “One of the most interesting stories in social change today is how much creative problem-solving is emerging from citizens scattered far and wide who are taking it upon themselves to fix things and who, in many cases, are outperforming traditional organizations,” David Bornstein, founder of the Dowser.org website that tracks social innovation, wrote in The New York Times last year. Our honoree Eric Greitens, the former Navy SEAL who founded The Mission Continues for other post-9/11 veterans, personifies this trend. Across the categories, many honorees insist they have pursued new approaches in part because they could no longer wait for Washington to address the problems they face. In a world where barriers to the dispersal of ideas are crumbling, waiting for elites to propose answers may soon seem as outdated as waiting for a dial-up connection to the Internet.
The third conclusion limits the first two. Even many of the most dynamic grassroots innovations will remain isolated islands of excellence in this continent-sized society without energy and amplification from the top. Donald Kettl, dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, notes the federal government is unavoidably a major force on many of the challenges facing America, particularly reforming education, health care, and training; developing regional economic strategies; and providing physical and digital infrastructure. Washington need not direct or control the response to these problems, but change on a massive scale is always harder without stronger signals and incentives than the federal government has provided in recent years. “It is possible to feed change aggressively from the bottom,” Kettl says. “[But] the federal government, for better or worse, inevitably is involved…. There’s a natural limit in what’s possible to bubble up from the bottom….
Special issue at https://web.archive.org/web/2013/http://www.nationaljournal.com/back-in-business ”
Mark Surman in Mozilla Blog: “We’re excited to announce the launch of the Mozilla Science Lab, a new initiative that will help researchers around the world use the open web to shape science’s future.
Scientists created the web — but the open web still hasn’t transformed scientific practice to the same extent we’ve seen in other areas like media, education and business. For all of the incredible discoveries of the last century, science is still largely rooted in the “analog” age. Credit systems in science are still largely based around “papers,” for example, and as a result researchers are often discouraged from sharing, learning, reusing, and adopting the type of open and collaborative learning that the web makes possible.
The Science Lab will foster dialog between the open web community and researchers to tackle this challenge. Together they’ll share ideas, tools, and best practices for using next-generation web solutions to solve real problems in science, and explore ways to make research more agile and collaborative….
With support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Mozilla Science Lab will start by convening a broad conversation about open web approaches and skills training, working with existing tool developers and supporting a global community of researchers.
Stay tuned for more about how you can join the conversation. In the mean time, you can: