The Governance Lab (GovLab) works to improve people’s lives by changing how we govern. We build, study and implement experimental, technology-enabled solutions that advance a collaborative, networked approach. Our work is predicated on the following: Institutions that govern themselves more collaboratively solve problems faster and with greater success. Greater engagement leads to more legitimate democratic governance and also to better solutions for citizens.
of U.S. adult internet users that have gone online for raw data about government spending and activities in 2010 40% Rainie Lee, and Aaron Smith, Kay Lehman Schlozman, Henry Brady, Sidney Verba, Social Media and Political Engagement. Pew Internet & American Life Project. October 19, 2012.
of U.S. adult internet users go online to read the text of legislation 22% Rainie Lee, and Aaron Smith, Kay Lehman Schlozman, Henry Brady, Sidney Verba, Social Media and Political Engagement. Pew Internet & American Life Project. October 19, 2012.
A New Approach to Governance Complex problems, from climate change to poverty, will require collaboration to tackle. The last decade has seen remarkable advances in technology but our democratic institutions have been slow to adopt. We are frustrated by political systems where every day is Election Day. Citizens have expertise, experience, talents, ideas and abilities that could offer new insights and solutions. A new vision of governance is emerging: one where leaders and citizens work together – enabled by technology – to solve society’s biggest problems and create a new form of democracy.
THE CENTRAL HYPOTHESIS When governments and institutions use technology to open themselves to diverse participation and collaborative problem-solving, and partner with citizens to make decisions, they are more effective and legitimate.
WHY THIS APPROACH TO GOVERNANCE IS COUNTERINTUITIVE Many believe that increasing public engagement: Does not lead to effective decision-making or problem-solving. Doesn’t work because lack of time, education, and motivation can keep people from engaging or can make their participation unhelpful. Is a sham because decisions are ultimately made by government officials, often in secret, and often in ways that are determined by party politics. Will never work because government officials are not willing to admit they need help formulating problems, fail to formulate them meaningfully, or are not ready to adopt collaborative solutions. Could even increase corruption, bias and regulatory capture.
GovLab’s Action Research Approach Our methodology is to implement real-world collaborative projects and study their outcomes. We will: Develop practical designs for processes, technologies, and institutional arrangements to support collaborative democracy. Put these designs into practice with institutional partners. Do research on the outcomes to advance our understanding of different approaches. Use that understanding to design the next projects. “Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.” Kurt Lewin, MIT (1944)
RESEARCH THAT MATTERS Quest for fundamental understanding? Consideration of use? Pure basic research High High Low Low Use-inspired basic research Applied Research Bohr Quadrant Pasteur Quadrant Edison Quadrant
Why This Kind of Research Is Important What we learn could help to transform dysfunctional institutions. By learning what approaches lead to the best outcomes, we will be able to offer blueprints for effective, legitimate collaboration. IDEAS PRODUCT RESULTS TEST LEARN BUILD
LIVING LABS The Living Labs will provide the technical and personnel infrastructure to support conducting experiments with real world partners and studying what works. Methodology Pose a problem that has the potential to advance our general understanding of the challenge of institutional innovation Have multiple institutional partners committed to implementing what we design and willing for us, or others, to do independent research and assessment of the results Share research results and turn that understanding into improved institutions, processes and practices to make public decisions, provide for public goods and solve public problems
Focus of Living Labs: Institutional Innovation We focus on collaboration between institutions and networks of people. Networks bring a diversity of ideas, experience and expertise. Institutions serve and maintain the public interest. Institutions also uniquely control the functions of legislation, regulation, and taxation that are powerful tools for governance. Together they offer exciting new options for ways of solving problems.
THREE PARADIGMS FOR INSTITUTIONAL INNOVATION Getting Diverse Knowledge In Institutions seek input from citizens or experts to inform how they make decisions. Example: A national government enlists a global network of scientists to inform its strategies on climate change. Pushing Data Out Institutions publish the data they collect so that citizens can analyze and use the data to detect and solve problems. Example: A national government releases hospital infection records, leading developers to create a hospital safety search engine that enables parents to make an informed decision about where to take their sick child. Sharing Responsibility Institutions delegate responsibility to citizens, or enable citizens to seek solutions themselves. Example: Legislatures from Chicago to New York to Porto Alegre, Brazil are experimenting with handing control over the spending of millions of dollars to citizens instead of professional politicians.
How can institutions seek input to inform how they solve problems and make decisions? (Getting Diverse Knowledge In) Citizens have expertise, experience, talents, ideas and abilities that could offer new insights and solutions. Today, technology-based tools make it easier and faster to obtain public input in a manageable format. To create a deeper understanding of this approach, we will study: How do we target requests to participate? (Identification) What incentives cause people to share their knowledge and expertise? (Motivation) How do institutions use the input? (Readiness and Integration) What are the legal and cultural impediments to being open to expertise? (Challenges and Barriers) What is the resulting impact on people’s lives? (Impact) 1ST LINE OF INQUIRY:
We are looking to create experiments that test strategies for public institutions to identify expertise? There a different techniques for identifying expertise, including: Reputation, Recommendation, Credentialing, Experience and Self-Reporting. Through controlled trials across different partner projects, we want to identify which techniques for identifying expertise are best at solving problems in different contexts. EXPERIMENT Imagine testing the efficacy of letting people self-report their skills versus targeting people with certain credentials? Research Initiative IDENTIFYING EXPERTS
EXPERIMENT Imagine comparing the impact of a prize versus a badge on similar kinds of crowdsourcing. Research Initiative INCENTIVES We will create experiments to study how to create incentives for people with diverse knowledge to engage in different settings There are various incentives, including: Badges & Status Prizes & Monetary Rewards Fun & Play Professional requirements Advancing stakeholder self interest Other intangible factors (i.e. satisfaction)
EXPERIMENT Imagine following a crowdsourcing project through from input to final decisions to assess the quality of the policy. Research Initiative UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT Our interest is in understanding which processes translate into outcomes where the solutions developed better address the problem. We are not focused simply on whether the participation “worked” but on the nature and impact of the resulting outputs and outcomes. We are also looking into the “readiness” of institutions to integrate input and the processes they use to do so.
Institutions publish data in open formats and encourage people to hack and mash up that data to create new tools, visualizations services, and solutions. For example, a city publishes its budget and encourages journalists to spot fraud and researchers to spot cost-saving opportunities. We will study: What are the incentives for institutions to push data out? (Institutional Motivation) What are the most effective formats for sharing data? (Platforms and Technology Specifications) What kinds of information best enable people to work with societal institutions to develop solutions? (Actionable Information) How are citizens currently using government open data? What are untapped opportunities? (Citizen Use) What are the legal and cultural impediments to pushing data out? (Challenges and Barriers) What is the resulting impact on people’s lives? (Impact) How can and do institutions publish the data they collect so that citizens can analyze and use the data to detect and solve problems? (Pushing Data Out) 2ND LINE OF INQUIRY:
EXPERIMENT Imagine comparing what happens when a government agency articulates what it is hoping people will do with the data versus when it simply publishes the data. Imagine comparing what happens when the data is published in different formats. Imagine doing a study of 100 companies currently using open government data to understand whether they make money from it and why. Research Initiative WHAT ARE THE INCENTIVES TO PUBLISH? We will create experiments to study how to create incentives for institutions to clean and publish data for public re-use.
EXPERIMENT Imagine following the use of a government dataset from its initial release, tracking the individuals, organizations, and companies that use it, assessing the outcomes of their work, and determining how well they have helped solve real-world problems. Research Initiative UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT Our interest is in understanding which processes translate into solutions that help solve the problem at hand. We are not focused simply on how many datasets are published but on which problems are solved. We also look at the relation between how data is shared (standards and eco-system of tools) and the use/impact of open data.
The first two lines of inquiry will study ways to improve information flow between government and the public, in situations where government is the final decision-maker. Openness can also involve govern- ment connecting people to each other and to institutions to the end of distributing responsibility for a function typically reserved for government. We will study: How do we identify the characteristics that provide for a fertile ecosystem of peer-to-peer governance? (Identification and Targeting) How we can best use technology to manage collaborative decision-making between government and citizens so that they can solve hard problems together? (Best Practices) What are the incentives for institutions to distribute responsibility? (Institutional Motivation) What are the incentives for citizens to take on “government work?” (Citizen Motivation) Does public co-creation and open innovation yield more effective decision-making and actions? (Effectiveness) What are the legal and cultural impediments to pushing data out? (Challenges and Barriers) What is the resulting impact on people’s lives? (Impact) How can institutions share responsibility with citizens, or enable citizens to seek solutions themselves? 3RD LINE OF INQUIRY:
Research Initiative DIVVYING UP TASKS AND ROLES We want to understand how we can use technology to manage collaborative decision-making between government and citizens so that they can solve hard problems together. We are particularly interested in identifying the characteristics that provide for a fertile ecosystem of peer-to-peer governance, and ways to create an environmental context for problem-solving and behavioral change. EXPERIMENT Imagine running parallel projects that test which platforms and incentives work best for coordinating tasks done by peer-to- peer citizen networks across a distance.
Research Initiative UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT Experience suggests that citizens will take on “government work” for personal satisfaction, as a form of self- expression, and for other reasons. But how effective is it when they do? Does this citizen action yield better health care? Better educational outcomes? More jobs? EXPERIMENT Imagine following a series of government/citizen projects from their inception to their outcomes, to understand the impact of such initiatives as the Fire Department App, a participatory budgeting experiment, or a coding challenge.
Sharing what we learn from the Living Labs Launching the Open Gov Academy: A free, online platform for those interested in teaching and learning how to work more collaboratively to solve public problems that improve people’s lives. (funded by Knight Foundation) Hosting Civic Tech U: A community of policy entrepreneurs with a specific social good project for which they need to build the technical, operational, and communication skills to move it closer to implementation. The program includes skills share, lectures, and one on one coaching. (funded by Knight Foundation) Deepening GovLab Observatory: curating, analyzing and distributing research findings (Research Digest and Blog)
GOAL METRIC To mobilize the talents and expertise of researchers from different disciplines to develop insights that bridge perspectives and impact policy practice. Did leading thinkers and doers participate in the GovLab activities? Was the experience worthwhile? To advance our understanding of the Central Research Question about the effectiveness and legitimacy of open governance practices. Did real world institutions ask to partner with us? Did our experiments translate into ongoing changes to how those institutions work? Did institutions adopt the practices and platforms we tested? To promulgate a new theory and vocabulary of open, decentralized and networked democracy. Did other leading academics and authorities cite our work? Did people use the training materials? To create new mental models for redesigning public institutions. Uptake of more open ways of governing and solving problems; discussion of open government in the media. To analyze legal and policy frameworks affecting open institutions. Legislative action to change current statutes. To share and turn that understanding into improved institutions, processes and practices to make public decisions, provide for public goods and solve public problems. Number of platforms designed and built and uptake for their use. Number and uptake of written materials.