By Duncan Friend, Doctoral Student, University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration
Thousands of mid-career public servants in mid-to-upper management return to school each year in MPA programs across the nation. Many of these are city and county managers. However, the core curriculum standards do not include an explicit focus on the intersection of public administration and emerging technologies for civic engagement. 162 MPA programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration, and the “common curriculum components” are here.
… how to, in turn, solicit and incorporate the experience and inside knowledge of the bureaucracy held by mid-career, mid-level public managers in Masters programs in Public Administration nationwide (in an iterative way) in answering the big questions of the Governance Lab research agenda
The career-option students in MPA programs are not only in the best position to take advantage of the tools and data-driven decision making that are of great interest to the GovLab Research Network, but these public managers are well-experienced in the mechanics of bureaucracy, along with the tensions between responsiveness and efficiency, social equity, and individual rights. They’ve already signaled by going back to school that they’re open to learning about new things, and interested in moving up in responsibility. Act now.
… how to take advantage of an already existing “information broker” model in over 25 U.S. states to unleash a new wave of economic development, open data innovation and entrepreneurship, and civic engagement
More than half of state governments have a model in place similar to the Information Network of Kansas, charged with improving access to government information. Could this vehicle be used to drive even more economic development, open data innovation and entrepreneurship, and civic engagement? I think so. Help us figure out how to take it to the next level.
… how to create a sustainable (financial, technical, governance) model for the operation of state archive digital preservation programs – the foundation of long-term open data and democratic accountability
Stated with nothing but love and deep admiration, many state archives are desperately struggling to make the transition to ingesting and preserving electronic records, some 20 years after such records began to be created (many of which may now be lost forever). The Council of State Archivists is just starting on a State Electronic Records Initiative (SERI) in an attempt to address this issue.
How bad is it? Their 2012 Phase I report states: “Less than half of the state archives reported that they have an electronic records program, and only five of those indicate that their programs address all stages of the lifecycle. More than one-third of the state archives said they have started an electronic records program but little or nothing had been implemented. One-quarter of the state archives and all four territorial archives participating in the survey indicated that they had done nothing to manage and preserve electronic records.”
Data can’t be open if it no longer exists. How can you help? Learn more here.
… how to assess the assumptions and choices “built in” (intended/unintended) to the design of participatory technologies, along with any constraints or path dependency they create for how they are deployed to ensure transparency in technology “enhanced” engagement activities and outcomes (Code is Law)
Science, Technology, and Society (STS), along with other interdisciplinary programs, have long studied the values embedded in technology design and impact of deployment choices. If new technologies become the key to new governance models, we should look carefully for non-obvious (and perhaps non-democratic) biases in the technologies used to “enhance” participation and provide information in support of or about the democratic process.
… how today’s high-school debaters and journalism students are engaged in politics (and what they think about it), we might learn something from them. And, we might be able to put new tools and technologies in their hands to change tomorrow
I just judged a round of six high school students speaking extemporaneously on American foreign policy topics today. GovLab goals are not that complicated (smile)
… how data and technology could be used to promote and showcase – in a neutral way – “the meaning and value of vigorous political arguments, competition, and mobilization around pivotal decisions within associations and institutions, as well as within the polity as a whole. Do not just portray these as breakdowns of managerial discipline (and democracy). Show us the facts and figures and which groups care, why, and how they are engaging others to win contests or work out compromises. That is what democracy is all about.” (Theda Skocpol)
How can technological tools be devised and popularized to show the democratic process in action, working effectively or not working at all? Just as you need to visualize the problem, and you need to visualize success, you must be able to “see” the people, organizations, and actions that lead to both in order to fully participate.