October 8, 2013 | by

The GovLab Living Labs: Experiments in Smarter Governance

GovLab LogoImproving people’s lives by changing how we govern.

Current societal problems demand radical innovation in how we govern. Policy makers around the world are facing increasingly complex and interconnected societal challenges: How can we provide health care for everyone at lower cost; reduce poverty and economic inequality; reduce and prevent obesity; redesign urban environments; fight global warming; combat the threat of terrorism; increase creative flourishing and human well-being and do more in our communities with scarcer resources? Unfortunately, we are trying to address 21st century problems with outdated institutional designs:

  • Technology has lowered the cost and ease of communication, yet we still have an 18th century model of representative democracy where participation is limited to occasional voting and affords few opportunities for people to participate in governing.
  • Technology is enabling diverse experts with different skills and experience to work together, across a distance, yet we still have a 19th century model of centralized and professional bureaucracy.
  • Research demonstrates that people can and will collaborate in purposeful groups on- and off-line, yet we still have a political culture dominated by entrenched parties and deep pockets that treats a talented public as outsiders and impedes collaboration.

In our current model of government, an elite group of elected and appointed leaders is supposed to solve problems without significantly engaging the insights, experience, and brainpower of the public.

We don’t need collaboration because of a shortage of information. We produce every two days more data than we created between the dawn of humanity and today.[i] Rather, we need to engage outside expertise in order to identify relevant, specific and timely information that aligns to decision-making. But citizen engagement hasn’t led to leaders being able to use collective intelligence to govern better.

At the Governance Lab at the Wagner School of Public Service of New York University, we want to explore whether targeting opportunities to participate based on people’s expertise – not their credentials alone but also their wisdom, know-how and experience – might make it possible for institutions to work with citizens more collaboratively to the end of solving real problems, and improving people’s lives.

We are testing and analyzing how mayors and CEOs alike can leverage new tools and techniques to find those with formal training and informal know how. We want to learn how we can engage citizens and community members better who are more likely to contribute their talents in ways that speak to their passions and abilities. Through experimentation with real world institutions we want to identify when and how crowdsourcing wisely, rather than just widely, works and why.

Tapping Intelligence and Expertise: Active Citizenship

A life-saving app called PulsePoint is demonstrating the power of tapping a community’s unique talents. In 350 communities across 14 states, PulsePoint enables local 911 emergency services to notify registered and trained CPR users, which includes off-duty doctors, nurses, EMTs, police, and others, to come to the aid of their neighbors. When someone is having a cardiac arrest, PulsePoint sends out an alert to qualified people in the area: CPR NEEDED. PulsePoint has enabled 6,000 citizen rescuers to come to the aid of victims in cardiac arrest.

Read the full post by Beth Noveck in the GovLab Blog.

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June 3, 2013 | by

Our Citizens Are Our First, First Responders

by San Ramon (CA) Mayor Bill Clarkson

Mayor Bill Clarkson

Mayor Bill Clarkson

This year, FEMA’s Citizen Corp Council Program celebrates its tenth-year anniversary. Here in the San Ramon Valley (the cities of San Ramon and Danville), we have taken the Citizen Corps mission to heart to “harness the power of every individual through education, training, and volunteer service to make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues, and disasters of all kinds.”

One of our biggest Citizen Corps public health successes has been the PulsePoint Citizen Responder CPR/AED app. First proposed by our Fire Chief, Richard Price, back in 2011, the app now alerts CPR-trained citizens to nearby cardiac arrest victims in more than 100 communities across five states. The app that was successfully piloted here in our community has now been downloaded by more than 50,000 people and activated on more than 700 actual cardiac emergencies. On two occasions I was personally alerted and responded to assist.

When someone suffers a Sudden Cardiac Arrest they only have about ten minutes to live, but getting CPR started immediately and deploying a public–access AED can stop this brief clock and sustain life until advance care can arrive. The reality is CPR is only started about a quarter of time and publically available AEDs are rarely retrieved and used. The app greatly improves the chance that CPR will be started by crowdsourcing those willing and best positioned to make a difference and by providing them with specific AED location information in context with their current location.

It’s not a whole lot different than what we expect of our citizens when a fire starts. We imagine that in the first few minutes of a fire that those nearby will locate a fire extinguisher or hose and use it. If they do, they can make a critical difference that only those nearby could. If they don’t engage, the incident quickly grows in intensity and must be handled by the professionals – but only after more damage has been done. And if too much time passes, even the professionals cannot make a meaningful difference. Active citizenship is the foundation of good government and as mayors we have a responsibility to provide the platforms that enable it.

What was started and proven here is now available to your community through the non-profit PulsePoint Foundation (www.PulsePoint.org).

This article originally appeared on the back cover of U.S. MAYOR. Mayors are invited to submit the “Best Practices” of their cities. Contact Public Affairs at 202-293-7330 or send e-mail to usmayor@usmayors.org

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February 21, 2013 | by

Gov on the Go: Boosting Public Sector Productivity by Going Mobile

Governments have been less effective than the private sector in using information technology to reinvent work processes. Now, mobile technology offers an opportunity to hit the reset button, giving government the chance to redesign its business model by leveraging the power of individual citizens as co-creators.

ConstitutionMobile technology, a very powerful productivity booster, offers the public sector a chance to hit the reset button. It can not only improve internal communications and access to information within public agencies, but also enable the government to fully redesign service delivery by leveraging the power of citizens as co-creators. Mobile presents the government with a unique opportunity to drive efficiency and productivity and—at the same time—create vast improvements in the services it provides citizens. Our analysis shows that if mobile adoption rates in government were to double to 70 percent, additional value generated (in terms of government output) could exceed $50 billion annually.

Co-creation and co-production: Citizens as the solution.
Mobile technology allows governance to shift from one-way service delivery to a more collaborative, co-designed, and co-created model. As citizens come to play a more active role rather than being passive recipients, public service delivery can be transformed. Greater emphasis on creating solutions with citizens rather than just for them improves not just service delivery, but also the way the government approaches a problem. In San Jose, the PulsePoint mobile app—via sophisticated location-based services—alerts qualified citizens in a public place of the need for CPR. With the help of technology and citizen rescuers, governments can deliver effective emergency response without devoting significant new resources.

The except above is from William D. Eggers’ and Joshua Jaffe’s new Deloitte study, “Gov on the Go: Boosting Public Sector Productivity by Going Mobile” which features the PulsePoint app.

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