Continued Progress: Engaging Citizen Solvers through Prizes


Blog post by Cristin Dorgelo: “Today OSTP released its second annual comprehensive report detailing the use of prizes and competitions by Federal agencies to spur innovation and solve Grand Challenges. Those efforts have expanded in the last two years under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which granted all Federal agencies the authority to conduct prize competitions to spur innovation, solve tough problems, and advance their core missions.
This year’s report details the remarkable benefits the Federal Government reaped in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 from more than 45 prize competitions across 10 agencies. To date, nearly 300 prize competitions have been implemented by 45 agencies through the website Challenge.gov.
Over the past four years, the Obama Administration has taken important steps to make prizes a standard tool in every agency’s toolbox. In his September 2009 Strategy for American Innovation, President Obama called on all Federal agencies to increase their use of prizes to address some of our Nation’s most pressing challenges. In March 2010, the Office of Management and Budget issued a policy framework to guide agencies in using prizes to mobilize American ingenuity and advance their respective core missions. Then, in September 2010, the Administration launched Challenge.gov, a one-stop shop where entrepreneurs and citizen solvers can find public-sector prize competitions.
The prize authority in COMPETES is a key piece of this effort. By giving agencies a clear legal path and expanded authority to deploy competitions and challenges, the legislation makes it dramatically easier for agencies to enlist this powerful approach to problem-solving and to pursue ambitious prizes with robust incentives…
To support these ongoing efforts, the General Services Administration  continues to train agencies about resources and vendors available to help them administer prize competitions. In addition, NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) provides other agencies with a full suite of services for incentive prize pilots – from prize design, through implementation, to post-prize evaluation”

The United States Releases its Second Open Government National Action Plan


Nick Sinai and Gayle Smith at the White House: “Since his first full day in office, President Obama has prioritized making government more open and accountable and has taken substantial steps to increase citizen participation, collaboration, and transparency in government. Today, the Obama Administration released the second U.S. Open Government National Action Plan, announcing 23 new or expanded open-government commitments that will advance these efforts even further.
…, in September 2011, the United States released its first Open Government National Action Plan, setting a series of ambitious goals to create a more open government. The United States has continued to implement and improve upon the open-government commitments set forth in the first Plan, along with many more efforts underway across government, including implementing individual Federal agency Open Government Plans. The second Plan builds on these efforts, in part through a series of key commitments highlighted in a preview report issued by the White House in October 2013, in conjunction with the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit in London.
Among the highlights of the second National Action Plan:

  • “We the People”: The White House will introduce new improvements to the We the People online petitions platform aimed at making it easier to collect and submit signatures and increase public participation in using this platform. Improvements will enable the public to perform data analysis on the signatures and petitions submitted to We the People, as well as include a more streamlined process for signing petitions and a new Application Programming Interface (API) that will allow third-parties to collect and submit signatures from their own websites.
  • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Modernization: The FOIA encourages accountability through transparency and represents an unwavering national commitment to open government principles. Improving FOIA administration is one of the most effective ways to make the U.S. Government more open and accountable. Today, we announced five commitments to further modernize FOIA processes, including launching a consolidated online FOIA service to improve customers’ experience, creating and making training resources available to FOIA professionals and other Federal employees, and developing common FOIA standards for agencies across government.
  • The Global Initiative on Fiscal Transparency (GIFT): The United States will join GIFT, an international network of governments and non-government organizations aimed at enhancing financial transparency, accountability, and stakeholder engagement. The U.S. Government will actively participate in the GIFT Working Group and seek opportunities to collaborate with stakeholders and champion greater fiscal openness and transparency in domestic and global spending.
  • Open Data to the Public: Over the past few years, government data has been used by journalists to uncover variations in hospital billings, by citizens to learn more about the social services provided by charities in their communities, and by entrepreneurs building new software tools to help farmers plan and manage their crops.  Building on the U.S. Government’s ongoing open data efforts, new commitments will make government data even more accessible and useful for the public, including by reforming how Federal agencies manage government data as a strategic asset, launching a new version of Data.gov to make it even easier to discover, understand, and use open government data, and expanding access to agriculture and nutrition data to help farmers and communities.
  • Participatory Budgeting: The United States will promote community-led participatory budgeting as a tool for enabling citizens to play a role in identifying, discussing, and prioritizing certain local public spending projects, and for giving citizens a voice in how taxpayer dollars are spent in their communities. This commitment will include steps by the U.S. Government to help raise awareness of the fact that participatory budgeting may be used for certain eligible Federal community development grant programs.

Other initiatives launched or expanded today include: increasing open innovation by encouraging expanded use of challenges, incentive prizes, citizen science, and crowdsourcing to harness American ingenuity, as well as modernizing the management of government records by leveraging technology to make records less burdensome to manage and easier to use and share. There are many other exciting open-government initiatives described in the second Plan — and you can view them all here.”

Government Digital Service: the best startup in Europe we can't invest in


Saul Klein in the Guardian: “Everyone is rightly excited about the wall of amazing tech-enabled startups being born in Europe and Israel, disrupting massive industries including media, marketing, fashion, retail, travel, finance and transportation. However, there’s one incredibly disruptive startup based in London that is going after one of the biggest markets of all, and is so opaque it is largely unknown in the world of business – and, much to my chagrin, it’s also impossible to invest in.
It’s not a private company, it wasn’t started by “conventional” tech entrepreneurs and the market (though huge) is decidedly unsexy.
Its name is the Government Digital Service (GDS) and it is disrupting the British public sector in an energetic, creative and effective way. In less than two years GDS has hired over 200 staff (including some of the UK’s top digital talent), shipped an award-winning service, and begun the long and arduous journey of completely revolutionising the way that 62 million citizens interact with more than 700 services from 24 government departments and their 331 agencies.
It’s a strange world we live in when the government is pioneering the way that large complex corporations reinvent themselves to not just massively reduce cost and complexity, but to deliver better and more responsive services to their customers and suppliers.
So what is it that GDS knows that every chairman and chief executive of a FTSE100 should know? Open innovation.
1. Open data
• Leads to radical and remarkable transparency like the amazing Transactions Explorer designed by Richard Sargeant and his team. I challenge any FTSE100 to deliver the same by December 2014, or even start to show basic public performance data – if not to the internet, at least to their shareholders and analysts.
• Leads to incredible and unpredictable innovation where public data is shared and brought together in new ways. In fact, the Data.gov.uk project is one of the world’s largest data sources of public data with over 9,000 data sets for anyone to use.
2. Open standards
• Deliver interoperability across devices and suppliers
• Provide freedom from lock-in to any one vendor
• Enable innovation from a level playing field of many companies, including cutting-edge startups
• The Standards Hub from the Cabinet Office is an example of how the government aims to achieve open standards
3. Cloud and open source software and services
• Use of open source, cloud and software-as-a-service solutions radically reduces cost, improves delivery and enables innovation
4. Open procurement
• In March 2011, the UK government set a target to award 25% of spend with third-party suppliers to SMEs by March 2015.”

BBC throws weight behind open data movement


The Telegraph: “The BBC has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with the Europeana Foundation, the Open Data Institute, the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation, supporting free and open internet technologies…

The agreements will enable closer collaboration between the BBC and each of the four organisations on a range of mutual interests, including the release of structured open data and the use of open standards in web development, according to the BBC.
One aim of the agreement is to give clear technical standards and models to organisations who want to work with the BBC, and give those using the internet a deeper understanding of the technologies involved.
The MoUs also bring together several existing areas of research and provide a framework to explore future opportunities. Through this and other initiatives, the BBC hopes to become a catalyst for open innovation by publishing clear technical standards, models, expertise and – where feasible – data.
The BBC has been publishing linked open data for some time, most notably as part of the /programmes service, where machine-readable information about the programme schedule is made available online.
It also helped to deliver the Olympics Data Service, which underpinned 10,490 athlete pages on the BBC sport website during the 2012 Olympics….

“The BBC has been at the forefront of technological innovation around broadcasting and online for many years delivering the benefits of new technologies to licence fee payers, offering new services and products to audiences around the world, and creating public value in the digital economy,” said James Purnell, BBC Director of Strategy and Digital.”

New Visions in Citizen Science


New Report by Anne Bowser and Lea Shanley for the Commons Lab within Science and Technology Innovation Program, Woodrow Wilson Center, with the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: “Citizen science is one form of open innovation, a paradigm where organizations solicit the efforts of external contributors with unique perspectives who generate new knowledge and technology, or otherwise bolster organizational resources.  Recent executive branch policies encourage and support open innovation in the federal government. The President’s 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government  charged agencies with taking specific action to support transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Similarly, the Obama Administration’s 2013 Memorandum on Open Data Policy—Managing Information as an Asset   instructs agencies to support these principles by sharing government data sets. The Preview Report for the Second Open Government National Action Plan, released October 31, 2013, specifically states that the United States will commit to “harness the ingenuity of the public by enabling, accelerating, and scaling the use of open innovation methods such as incentive prizes, crowdsourcing, and citizen science within the Federal Government.”
This report showcases seventeen case studies that offer a mosaic view of federally-sponsored citizen science and open innovation projects, from in-the-field data collection to online games for collective problem-solving. Its goal is not to provide line-by-line instructions for agencies attempting to create or expand projects of their own; each agency has a unique mission with distinct challenges that inform project designs.  Rather, it offers a sampling of different models that support public contribution, potential challenges, and positive impacts that projects can have on scientific literacy, research, management, and public policy.
Some case studies represent traditional but well-executed projects that illustrate how citizen science functions at its best, by contributing to robust scientific research.  Other projects, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s International Space Apps Challenge, evolve from these traditional models, demonstrating how open innovation can address agency-specific challenges in new and compelling ways. Through this progression, the evolution of citizen science begins to take shape, and the full possibilities of open innovation begin to emerge.”

NEW: The Open Governance Knowledge Base


In its continued efforts to organize and disseminate learnings in the field of technology-enabled governance innovation, today, The Governance Lab is introducing a collaborative, wiki-style repository of information and research at the nexus of technology, governance and citizenship. Right now we’re calling it the Open Governance Knowledge Base, and it goes live today.
Our goal in creating this collaborative platform is to provide a single source of research and insights related to the broad, interdiscplinary field of open governance for the benefit of: 1) decision-makers in governing institutions seeking information and inspiration to guide their efforts to increase openness; 2) academics seeking to enrich and expand their scholarly pursuits in this field; 3) technology practitioners seeking insights and examples of familiar tools being used to solve public problems; and 4) average citizens simply seeking interesting information on a complex, evolving topic area.
While you can already find some pre-populated information and research on the platform, we need your help! The field of open governance is too vast, complex and interdisciplinary to meaningfully document without broad collaboration.
Here’s how you can help to ensure this shared resource is as useful and engaging as possible:

  • What should we call the platform? We want your title suggestions. Leave your ideas in the comments or tweet them to us @TheGovLab.
  • And more importantly: Share your knowledge and research. Take a look at what we’ve posted, create an account, refer to this MediaWiki formatting guide as needed and start editing!

Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Opinions and Ideas


The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of crowdsourcing was originally published in 2013.

As technological advances give individuals greater ability to share their opinions and ideas with the world, citizens are increasingly expecting government to consult with them and factor their input into the policy-making process. Moving away from the representative democracy system created in a less connected time, e-petitions; participatory budgeting (PB), a collaborative, community-based system for budget allocation; open innovation initiatives; and Liquid Democracy, a hybrid of direct and indirect democracy, are allowing citizens to make their voices heard between trips to the ballot box.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Bergmann, Eirikur. “Reconstituting Iceland – Constitutional Reform Caught in a New Critical Order in the Wake of Crisis.” in Academia.edu, (presented at the Political Legitimacy and the Paradox of Regulation, Leiden University, 2013). http://bit.ly/1aaTVYP.
  •  This paper explores the tumultuous history of Iceland’s “Crowdsourced Constitution.” The since-abandoned document was built upon three principles: distribution of power, transparency and responsibility.
  •  Even prior to the draft being dismantled through political processes, Bergmann argues that an overenthusiastic public viewed the constitution as a stronger example of citizen participation than it really was: “Perhaps with the delusion of distance the international media was branding the production as the world’s first ‘crowdsourced’ constitution, drafted by the interested public in clear view for the world to follow…This was however never a realistic description of the drafting. Despite this extraordinary open access, the Council was not able to systematically plough through all the extensive input as [it] only had four months to complete the task.”
  • Bergmann’s paper illustrates the transition Iceland’s constitution has undertaken in recent years: moving form a paradigmatic example of crowdsourcing opinions to a demonstration of the challenges inherent in bringing more voices into a realm dominated by bureaucracy and political concerns.
Gassmann, Oliver, Ellen Enkel, and Henry Chesbrough. “The Future of Open Innovation.” R&D Management 40, no. 3 (2010): 213– 221. http://bit.ly/1bk4YeN.
  • In this paper – an introduction to a special issue on the topic – Gassmann, Enkel and Chesbrough discuss the evolving trends in open innovation. They define the concept, referencing previous work by Chesbrough et al., as “…the purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.”
  • In addition to examining the existing literature for the field, the authors identify nine trends that they believe will define the future of open innovation for businesses, many of which can also be applied to governing insitutions:
    • Industry penetration: from pioneers to mainstream
    • R&D intensity: from high to low tech
    • Size: from large firms to SMEs
    • Processes: from stage gate to probe-and-learn
    • Structure: from standalone to alliances
    • Universities: from ivory towers to knowledge brokers  Processes: from amateurs to professionals
    • Content: from products to services
    • Intellectual property: from protection to a tradable good
Gilman, Hollie Russon. “The Participatory Turn: Participatory Budgeting Comes to America.” Harvard University, 2012. https://bit.ly/2BhaeVv.
  •  In this dissertation, Gilman argues that participatory budgeting (PB) produces better outcomes than the status quo budget process in New York, while also transforming how those who participate understand themselves as citizens, constituents, Council members, civil society leaders and community stakeholders.
  • The dissertation also highlights challenges to participation drawing from experience and lessons learned from PB’s inception in Porto Alege, Brazil in 1989. While recognizing a diversity of challenges, Gilman ultimately argues that, “PB provides a viable and informative democratic innovation for strengthening civic engagement within the United States that can be streamlined and adopted to scale.”
Kasdan, Alexa, and Cattell, Lindsay. “New Report on NYC Participatory Budgeting.” Practical Visionaries. Accessed October 21, 2013. https://bit.ly/2Ek8bTu.
  • This research and evaluation report is the result of surveys, in-depth interviews and observations collected at key points during the 2011 participatory budgeting (PB) process in New York City, in which “[o]ver 2,000 community members were the ones to propose capital project ideas in neighborhood assemblies and town hall meetings.”
  • The PBNYC project progressed through six main steps:
    •  First Round of Neighborhood Assemblies
    • Delegate Orientations
    • Delegate Meetings
    • Second Round of Neighborhood Assemblies
    • Voting
    • Evaluation, Implementation & Monitoring
  •  The authors also discuss the varied roles and responsibilities for the divers stakeholders involved in the process:
    • Community Stakeholders
    • Budget Delegates
    • District Committees
    • City-wide Steering Committee  Council Member Offices
Masser, Kai. “Participatory Budgeting as Its Critics See It.” Burgerhaushalt, April 30, 2013. http://bit.ly/1dppSxW.
  • This report is a critique of the participatory budgeting (PB) process, focusing on lessons learned from the outcomes of a pilot initiative in Germany.
  • The reports focuses on three main criticisms leveled against PB:
    • Participatory Budgeting can be a time consuming process that is barely comprehensive to the people it seeks to engage, as a result there is need for information about the budget, and a strong willingness to participate in preparing it.
    • Differences in the social structure of the participants inevitably affect the outcome – the process must be designed to avoid low participation or over-representation of one group.
    • PB cannot be sustained over a prolonged period and should therefore focus on one aspect of the budgeting process. The article points to outcomes that show that citizens may find it considerably more attractive to make proposals on how to spend money than on how to save it, which may not always result in the best outcomes.
OECD. “Citizens as Partners: Information, Consultation and Public Participation in Policy-making.” The IT Law Wiki. http://bit.ly/1aIGquc.
  • This OECD policy report features discussion on the concept of crowdsourcing as a new form or representation and public participation in OECD countries, with the understanding that it creates avenues for citizens to participate in public policy-making within the overall framework of representative democracy.
  • The report provides a wealth of comparative information on measures adopted in OECD countries to strengthen citizens’ access to information, to enhance consultation and encourage their active participation in policy-making.

Tchorbadjiiski, Angel. “Liquid Democracy.” Rheinisch-Westf alische Technische Hochschule Aachen Informatik 4 ComSy, 2012. http://bit.ly/1eOsbIH.

  • This thesis presents discusses how Liquid Democracy (LD) makes it for citizens participating in an election to “either take part directly or delegate [their] own voting rights to a representative/expert. This way the voters are not limited to taking one decision for legislative period as opposed to indirect (representative) democracy, but are able to actively and continuously take part in the decision-making process.”
  • Tchorbadjiiski argues that, “LD provides great flexibility. You do not have to decide yourself on the program of a political party, which only suits some aspects of your opinion.” Through LD, “all voters can choose between direct and indirect democracy creating a hybrid government form suiting their own views.”
  • In addition to describing the potential benefits of Liquid Democracy, Tchorbadjiiski focuses on the challenge of maintaining privacy and security in such a system. He proposes a platform that “allows for secure and anonymous voting in such a way that it is not possible, even for the system operator, to find out the identity of a voter or to prevent certain voters (for example minority groups) from casting a ballot.”

Implementing Open Innovation in the Public Sector: The Case of Challenge.gov


Article by Ines Mergel and Kevin C. Desouza in Public Administration Review: “As part of the Open Government Initiative, the Barack Obama administration has called for new forms of collaboration with stakeholders to increase the innovativeness of public service delivery. Federal managers are employing a new policy instrument called Challenge.gov to implement open innovation concepts invented in the private sector to crowdsource solutions from previously untapped problem solvers and to leverage collective intelligence to tackle complex social and technical public management problems. The authors highlight the work conducted by the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the General Services Administration, the administrator of the Challenge.gov platform. Specifically, this Administrative Profile features the work of Tammi Marcoullier, program manager for Challenge.gov, and Karen Trebon, deputy program manager, and their role as change agents who mediate collaborative practices between policy makers and public agencies as they navigate the political and legal environments of their local agencies. The profile provides insights into the implementation process of crowdsourcing solutions for public management problems, as well as lessons learned for designing open innovation processes in the public sector”.

Platform Strategies for Open Government Innovation


New paper by B. Cleland, B. Galbraith, B. Quinn, and P. Humphreys: “The concept of Open Innovation, that inflows and outflows of knowledge can accelerate innovation, has attracted a great deal of research in recent years (Dahlander and Gann, 2010; Fredberg et al, 2008). At the same time there has been a growing policy interest in Open Government, based in part on the assumption that open processes in the public sector can enable private sector innovation (Yu and Robinson, 2012). However, as pointed out by Huizingh (2011), there is a lack of practical guidance for managers. Furthermore, the specific challenges of implementing Open Innovation in the public sector have not been adequately addressed (Lee et al., 2012). Recent literature on technology platforms suggests a potentially useful framework for understanding the processes that underpin Open Innovation (Janssen and Estevez, 2013; O’Reilly, 2011). The paper reviews the literature on Open Innovation, e-Government and Platforms in order to shed light on the challenges of Open Government. It has been proposed that re-thinking government as a platform provider offers significant opportunities for value creation (Orszag, 2009), but a deeper understanding of platform architecture will be required to properly exploit those opportunities. Based on an examination of the literature we identify the core issues that are likely to characterise this new phenomenon.”
 

Choose Your Own Route on Finland's Algorithm-Driven Public Bus


Brian Merchant at Motherboard: “Technology should probably be transforming public transit a lot faster than it is. Yes, apps like Hopstop have made finding stops easier and I’ve started riding the bus in unfamiliar parts of town a bit more often thanks to Google Maps’ route info. But these are relatively small steps, and it’s all limited to making scheduling information more widely available. Where’s the innovation on the other side? Where’s the Uber-like interactivity, the bus that comes to you after a tap on the iPhone?
In Finland, actually. The Kutsuplus is Helsinki’s groundbreaking mass transit hybrid program that lets riders choose their own routes, pay for fares on their phones, and summon their own buses. It’s a pretty interesting concept. With a ten minute lead time, you summon a Kutsuplus bus to a stop using the official app, just as you’d call a livery cab on Uber. Each minibus in the fleet seats at least nine people, and there’s room for baby carriages and bikes.
You can call your own private Kutsuplus, but if you share the ride, you share the costs—it’s about half the price of a cab fare, and a dollar or two more expensive than old school bus transit. You can then pick your own stop, also using the app.
The interesting part is the scheduling, which is entirely automated. If you’re sharing the ride, an algorithm determines the most direct route, and you only get charged as though you were riding solo. You can pay with a Kutsuplus wallet on the app, or, eventually, bill the charge to your phone bill.”