People learn in different ways. The way we teach should reflect that


Article by Jason Williams-Bellamy and Beth Simone Noveck: “There’s never been more hybrid learning in the public sector than today…

There are pros and cons in online and in-person training. But some governments are combining both in a hybrid (also known as blended) learning program. According to the Online Learning Consortium, hybrid courses can be either:

  • A classroom course in which online activity is mixed with classroom meetings, replacing a significant portion, but not all face-to-face activity
  • An online course that is supplemented by required face-to-face instruction such as lectures, discussions, or labs.

A hybrid course can effectively combine the short-term activity of an in-person workshop with the longevity and scale of an online course.

The Digital Leaders program in Israel is a good example of hybrid training. Digital Leaders is a nine-month program designed to train two cohorts of 40 leaders each in digital innovation by means of a regular series of online courses, shared between Israel and a similar program in the UK, interspersed with live workshops. This style of blended learning makes optimal use of participants’ time while also establishing a digital environment and culture among the cohort not seen in traditional programs.

The State government in New Jersey, where I serve as the Chief Innovation Officer, offers a free and publicly accessible online introduction to innovation skills for public servants called the Innovation Skills Accelerator. Those who complete the course become eligible for face-to-face project coaching and we are launching our first skills “bootcamp,” blending online and the face-to-face in Q1 2020.

Blended classrooms have been linked to greater engagement and increased collaboration among participating students. Blended courses allow learners to customise their learning experience in a way that is uniquely best suited for them. One study even found that blended learning improves student engagement and learning even if they only take advantage of the traditional in-classroom resources. While the added complexity of designing for online and off may be off-putting to some, the benefits are clear.

The best way to teach public servants is to give them multiple ways to learn….(More)”.

The Experimenter’s Inventory: A catalogue of experiments for decision-makers and professionals


Report by the Alliance for Useful Evidence: “This inventory is about how you can use experiments to solve public and social problems. It aims to provide a framework for thinking about the choices available to a government, funder or delivery organisation that wants to experiment more effectively. We aim to simplify jargon and do some myth-busting on common misperceptions.
There are other guides on specific areas of experimentation – such as on randomised controlled trials – including many specialist technical textbooks. This is not a technical manual or guide about how to run experiments. Rather, this inventory is useful for anybody wanting a jargon-free overview of the types and uses of experiments. It is unique in its breadth – covering the whole landscape of social and policy experimentation, including prototyping, rapid cycle testing, quasi-experimental designs, and a range of different types of randomised trials. Experimentation can be a confusing landscape – and there are competing definitions about what constitutes an experiment among researchers, innovators and evaluation practitioners. We take a pragmatic approach, including different designs that are useful for public problem-solving, under our experimental umbrella. We cover ways of experimenting that are both qualitative and quantitative, and highlight what we can learn from different approaches….(More)”.

The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer


Edelman: “The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that despite a strong global economy and near full employment, none of the four societal institutions that the study measures—government, business, NGOs and media—is trusted. The cause of this paradox can be found in people’s fears about the future and their role in it, which are a wake-up call for our institutions to embrace a new way of effectively building trust: balancing competence with ethical behavior…

Since Edelman began measuring trust 20 years ago, it has been spurred by economic growth. This continues in Asia and the Middle East, but not in developed markets, where income inequality is now the more important factor. A majority of respondents in every developed market do not believe they will be better off in five years’ time, and more than half of respondents globally believe that capitalism in its current form is now doing more harm than good in the world. The result is a world of two different trust realities. The informed public—wealthier, more educated, and frequent consumers of news—remain far more trusting of every institution than the mass population. In a majority of markets, less than half of the mass population trust their institutions to do what is right. There are now a record eight markets showing all-time-high gaps between the two audiences—an alarming trust inequality…

Distrust is being driven by a growing sense of inequity and unfairness in the system. The perception is that institutions increasingly serve the interests of the few over everyone. Government, more than any institution, is seen as least fair; 57 percent of the general population say government serves the interest of only the few, while 30 percent say government serves the interests of everyone….

Against the backdrop of growing cynicism around capitalism and the fairness of our current economic systems are deep-seated fears about the future. Specifically, 83 percent of employees say they fear losing their job, attributing it to the gig economy, a looming recession, a lack of skills, cheaper foreign competitors, immigrants who will work for less, automation, or jobs being moved to other countries….(More)”.

Improving public policy and administration: exploring the potential of design


Paper by Arwin van Buuren et al: “In recent years, design approaches to policymaking have gained popularity among policymakers. However, a critical reflection on their added value and on how contemporary ‘design-thinking’ approaches relates to the classical idea of public administration as a design science, is still lacking. This introductory paper reflects upon the use of design approaches in public administration. We delve into the more traditional ideas of design as launched by Simon and policy design, but also into the present-day design wave, stemming from traditional design sciences. Based upon this we distinguish between three ideal-type approaches of design currently characterising the discipline: design as optimisation, design as exploration and design as co-creation. More rigorous empirical analyses of applications of these approaches is necessary to further develop public administration as a design science. We reflect upon the question of how a more designerly way of thinking can help to improve public administration and public policy….(More)”.

Unlocking Technology for the Global Goals


Report by the World Economic Forum: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is still in its early years yet it is already changing the way we work, live and interact. As 4IR technologies become faster, smarter, and more widely applied, the pace of transformation will only accelerate.

In parallel, we face global challenges of increasing magnitude and immediacy. The United Nation’s 17 Global Goals give a blueprint for what we globally and collectively must do if we are to end extreme poverty, protect our natural environment, revert climate change and create a more sustainable, equal and prosperous future for all.

Despite a rapid rise of 4IR technologies being applied across many aspects of industry and commerce, the potential of these technologies to accelerate progress to the Global Goals is not being realised. Today’s technological revolution is a time of enormous promise to accelerate progress on the Global Goals, both broadening and deepening current action.

But unlocking this potential requires a change in priorities and significant challenges to be overcome. This presents us with a dilemma of how to drive systems-level change in priorities, and to overcome significant challenges to ensure that it has an impact over the next 10 years on the global goals, and also on these challenges in the long term.

In this report, developed in collaboration with PwC, we showcase the significant opportunity to harness new technologies for the Global Goals. Through analysis of over 300 technology applications, the report explores; 1) the extent to which this opportunity is being realised, 2) the barriers to scaling these applications, and 3) the enabling framework for unlocking this opportunity….(More)”.

Global problems need social science


Hetan Shah at Nature: “Without human insights, data and the hard sciences will not meet the challenges of the next decade…

I worry about the fact that the call prioritized science and technology over the humanities and social sciences. Governments must make sure they also tap into that expertise, or they will fail to tackle the challenges of this decade.

For example, we cannot improve global health if we take only a narrow medical view. Epidemics are social as well as biological phenomena. Anthropologists such as Melissa Leach at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, played an important part in curbing the West African Ebola epidemic with proposals to substitute risky burial rituals with safer ones, rather than trying to eliminate such rituals altogether.

Treatments for mental health have made insufficient progress. Advances will depend, in part, on a better understanding of how social context influences whether treatment succeeds. Similar arguments apply to the problem of antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic overuse.

Environmental issues are not just technical challenges that can be solved with a new invention. To tackle climate change we will need insight from psychology and sociology. Scientific and technological innovations are necessary, but enabling them to make an impact requires an understanding of how people adapt and change their behaviour. That will probably require new narratives — the purview of rhetoric, literature, philosophy and even theology.

Poverty and inequality call even more obviously for expertise beyond science and maths. The UK Economic and Social Research Council has recognized that poor productivity in the country is a big problem, and is investing up to £32.4 million (US$42 million) in a new Productivity Institute in an effort understand the causes and potential remedies.

Policy that touches on national and geographical identity also needs scholarly input. What is the rise of ‘Englishness’? How do we live together in a community of diverse races and religions? How is migration understood and experienced? These intangibles have real-world consequences, as demonstrated by the Brexit vote and ongoing discussions about whether the United Kingdom has a future as a united kingdom. It will take the work of historians, social psychologists and political scientists to help shed light on these questions. I could go on: fighting against misinformation; devising ethical frameworks for artificial intelligence. These are issues that cannot be tackled with better science alone….(More)”.

The Future State CIO: How the Role will Drive Innovation


Report by Accenture/NASCIO: “…exploring the future role of the state CIO and how the state CIO will drive innovation.

The research included interviews and a survey of state CIOs to understand the role of state CIOs in promoting innovation in government.

  • The study explored how state IT organizations build the capacity to innovate and which best practices help in doing so.
  • We also examined how state CIOs embrace new and emerging technologies to create the best government outcomes.
  • Our report illuminates compelling opportunities, persistent obstacles, strategies for accelerating innovation and inspiring real-world case studies.
  • The report presents a set of practical recommendations for driving innovation…(More)”.

Rejuvenating Democracy Promotion


Essay by Thomas Carothers: “Adverse political developments in both established and newer democracies, especially the abdication by the United States of its traditional leadership role, have cast international democracy support into doubt. Yet international action on behalf of democracy globally remains necessary and possible. Moreover, some important elements of continuity remain, including overall Western spending on democracy assistance. Democracy support must adapt to its changed circumstances by doing more to take new geopolitical realities into account; effacing the boundary between support for democracy in new and in established democracies; strengthening the economic dimension of democracy assistance; and moving technological issues to the forefront…(More)”.

Tech groups cannot be allowed to hide from scrutiny


Marietje Schaake at the Financial Times: “Technology companies have governments over a barrel. Whether they are maximising traffic flow efficiency, matching pupils with their school preferences, trying to anticipate drought based on satellite and soil data, most governments heavily rely on critical infrastructure and artificial intelligence developed by the private sector. This growing dependence has profound implications for democracy.

An unprecedented information asymmetry is growing between companies and governments. We can see this in the long-running investigation into interference in the 2016 US presidential elections. Companies build voter registries, voting machines and tallying tools, while social media companies sell precisely targeted advertisements using information gleaned by linking data on friends, interests, location, shopping and search.

This has big privacy and competition implications, yet oversight is minimal. Governments, researchers and citizens risk being blindsided by the machine room that powers our lives and vital aspects of our democracies. Governments and companies have fundamentally different incentives on transparency and accountability.

While openness is the default and secrecy the exception for democratic governments, companies resist providing transparency about their algorithms and business models. Many of them actively prevent accountability, citing rules that protect trade secrets.

We must revisit these protections when they shield companies from oversight. There is a place for protecting proprietary information from commercial competitors, but the scope and context need to be clarified and balanced when they have an impact on democracy and the rule of law.

Regulators must act to ensure that those designing and running algorithmic processes do not abuse trade secret protections. Tech groups also use the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation to deny access to company information. Although the regulation was enacted to protect citizens against the mishandling of personal data, it is now being wielded cynically to deny scientists access to data sets for research. The European Data Protection Supervisor has intervened, but problems could recur. To mitigate concerns about the power of AI, provider companies routinely promise that the applications will be understandable, explainable, accountable, reliable, contestable, fair and — don’t forget — ethical.

Yet there is no way to test these subjective notions without access to the underlying data and information. Without clear benchmarks and information to match, proper scrutiny of the way vital data is processed and used will be impossible….(More)”.

Innovation labs and co-production in public problem solving


Paper by Michael McGann, Tamas Wells & Emma Blomkamp: “Governments are increasingly establishing innovation labs to enhance public problem solving. Despite the speed at which these new units are being established, they have only recently begun to receive attention from public management scholars. This study assesses the extent to which labs are enhancing strategic policy capacity through pursuing more collaborative and citizen-centred approaches to policy design. Drawing on original case study research of five labs in Australia and New Zealand, it examines the structure of lab’s relationships to government partners, and the extent and nature of their activities in promoting citizen-participation in public problem solving….(More)”.