Monthly Archives: March 2013

… how to balance local control of government with societal equality

By Jonathan Taplin, Director, Annenberg Innovation Lab
University Of Southern California; Author, Outlaw Blues

In the corporate sector, the notion of pushing power to the edges of an organization is fairly settled practice. As Lew Gerstner said when he came into IBM, “we need to lower the center of gravity in this organization.” By which he meant that power had to be pushed down from the Armonk HQ to regional managers.

The problem with this concept of “subsidiarity” (the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level) in a government function is that it gets tangled up with freighted concepts like “States Rights.” How do we push decentralization while still preserving some basic common standards that apply across the country? Now some libertarians will say that if schools in Texas insist on teaching creationism, people will vote with their feet and move to more enlightened regions. But I’m not sure that is a reasonable answer.

… how to respond to the basic tension between using the instruments of representation, what we think of as the instruments of self-government, and modes of participation.

By David Cohen, Senior Advisor, Civic Ventures; Senior Congressional Fellow, Council for a Livable World

Here are my questions that stem from my experience at initiating, formulating and implementing public policy which has lots to do with policy and politics.

A few words of caution. As important as elections are–after all it is one act that we all engage in as a people– they are not what I have in mind. I say that believing the equality of the vote in participating and counting results is a basic value that is currently undermined in countless ways.

The present systems lead to significant exclusion. How is that overcome? That leads to another aspect of the underlying question: how do we get beyond the current interest group models so that other mediating institutions or approaches will organize, be heard and compete.

I am also not talking about participation as the equivalent of a large audience in the high school gym which may have as its purpose a protest, a rally or even begin to lead to engagement. But the high school gym assemblage does not lead to sustained participation.

Differences on policy and politics are inevitable. How are agreements reached and accepted so people feel that they have been listened to, have had their say and perhaps have had a partial effect.


How can representation be strengthened so it fosters participation?
Is there room for random consultation as in a citizens’ jury. Can that
happen on highly technical questions. If not, how is expertise made understandable so that people don’t withdraw from civic engagement.

How do we educate people–and not limited to high school students– in the life cycles of issues so that their participation is not delegated only to experts. That kin of education develops participation and in the process strengthens representation.

Given the 24/7 news cycle, and the viral capacity of triggering fears that frighten decision makers, what are the immunization and inoculation steps that need to be taken to allow deliberation to breathe? Think death panels in the health care debate.
How can officialdom experiment, value its efforts at learning and learn from mistakes without being hung out to dry. That is where immunization and inoculation techniques come into play.

We value robust debate. At the same time civil discourse has to reject words that wound–racial, religious and ethnic epithets and stereotypes.

Critical thinking should be valued. What are its elements? What do we know when and how people are listened to? There is more to listening than decibel levels. Are there examples? Yes, I participated in its emergence in tobacco control efforts in the earliest internet days, nearly 30 years ago, of ordinary people fighting against a behemoth, the tobacco industry with the deepest pockets. I saw it through the use of the fax on the pro-democracy world that challenged totalitarianism in the Communist countries of east and central Europe.

Public work leads to specific outcomes:

(a) in education that engages the professions but the students and their parents as well.

(b) in health care that engages the professionals as a team and people accepting their own responsibility for healthy, but not monastic, life styles.

(c) in environmental protection and neighborhood life dealing with sorting out the issues of usage (parks, recreation, shopping, size),
housing (lot size, what mixes, shopping and parking), transportation
(what flexibilities via biking, zip car, shuttle service).

How do we elevate such work so that it known as “public work,”
a naming by Harry Boyte in his writing. Public work bridges, but does not avoid the tensions between representation and participation.

What are the ways to learn what has worked, what hasn’t, where improvements lie. This surely greater than a task for evaluators, useful and necessary as they may be.

Underlying the tension between representation and participation is the tension between the experts and informed lay people. They have to learn from each other.

How do they learn? In what ways?


… all the factors – and their relative importance – that prevent people from voting.

By Anita McGahan, Associate Dean, Research, Rotman School of Management and Munk School of Global Affairs,  University of Toronto

If only we knew all the factors – and their relative importance – that prevent people from voting.

If only we knew the lowest cost of the highest quality of healthcare.

If only we knew how to integrate education globally so that international students co-learn effectively.

If only we knew how to deliver education on the web cheaply and with high-touch customization.

If only we knew how to tap the wisdom of our elders while providing great quality of life after retirement in housing, healthcare and opportunity.

If only we knew how to operate utilities (including energy and transportation systems) safely, consistently, and cost-effectively.

If only we knew how to deal with climate change.

… how to incorporate evidence-based decision-making in our governance structures to change the status quo.

By Mihaela Ulieru, President, IMPACT Institute for the Digital Economy; and Director, Adaptive Risk Management Laboratory

What are the essential questions that we, as researchers and practitioners, need to pose or haven’t even considered yet?

Due to the lack of adequate policy frameworks, the obstacles in implementing innovative solutions at all levels are the limited capacity of social processes to manage rapid change in institutional design, planning and public services, rather than technological innovation. If only we knew how to incorporate evidence-based decision-making in our governance structures to change the status quo.

–          How to revolutionize our coercive and disabling governance structures and enable the transition to agile, participatory responsive social network operating systems which foster creativity and enable innovation?

–          How to design validation frameworks that reveal the impact of policies on the work ethics, culture and productivity in our organizations?

–          How to increase people’s work productivity via engaging mechanisms that stimulate rather than oblige, transitioning the current work organization processes from contract to commitment by fueling performance through visceral engaging architectures of participation which infuse a blissful, epic-like meaning to the purpose of work?

–          How to enable remote access to education via eLearning strategies facilitating personalized curriculum targeted at each student’s career goals via online course enrolments and credits?

–          How to enable eHealth and mobile health solutions, empowering patients to get engaged and be accountable for their health?

–          How to enable the personalized medicine revolution to transform our medical system? How to make room for the latest genomic discoveries in medical practices?

What do you think an interdisciplinary open government research network should look into?

How can we find ways to anticipate the effects of a policy before it is applied, using latest advances in predictive analytics and the wealth of data that modern information communication technologies provide? How can we accelerate the adoption of informed, evidence based governance using this wealth of data?

Are there broader categories of concern that have not yet received the requisite research attention?

Taken together, interconnected grids of communication, electricity, and transport integrated with the social fabric of citizen participants will undergird development of this century’s energy-efficient and sustainable living, hosting the institutions and technologies of transformed low-carbon economies. If only we knew how to understand and advance the interweaving of humans and ICT to create a world with social, physical, and cyber dimensions, enabling a kind of social network operating systems with citizens as “players,” and “inputs” whose interactions use the “invisible hand” of democratic informed choice to address complex, interdependent global-scale challenges such as sustainability and climate change.

–          How to enable the deployment of such socio-technical infrastructures while supporting the transition to a post‐manufacturing, innovation- and knowledge‐based green economy and society?

–          Which governance models and structures are appropriate for such socio-technical infrastructures? What is the role of knowledge governance and social computing in this broader context?

–          What are the principles of management and engineering that will infuse these emerging socio-technical complex large-scale systems with the ability to discover a variety of potential solutions in the collective intelligence repertoire to meet future challenges as they arise?

–          How to redefine indicators that expose the impact of the convoluted effects of interdependent socio-political-economic factors on the current global dynamics, negatively affecting the overall wellbeing and sustainability of life on Earth? How to define new indicators of wealth and social well-being in a global context?

…how innovations in science and technology change the way we work together to enhance our well-being.

By Beth Noveck, GovLab Continue reading