Category Archives: Government transformation

CfP Special Issue Agile Government and Adaptive Governance in GIQ

Special Issue on Agile Government and Adaptive Governance in the Public Sector

Governments around the world have to respond faster to citizen needs, like the expectation of 24/7 availability and personalized access to government services generated by the so-called ‘Facebook generation’. Seamless user-centric experiences on social networking suites, such as Weibo or Twitter, as well as online marketplaces such as Amazon, increase the demand for similar experiences with government services. In addition, industry trends, such as Big Data, predictive analytics methods, and Smart City approaches drive the need to create internal capacity and skill sets to evaluate, respond to, and implement new technologies and internal processes.

The previous new public management era has left many government organizations with a reduced skill set and limited capacity to upgrade their IT infrastructure. As a result, their capability to innovate has been deteriorated due to increasing incentives to outsource especially IT development and services. The HealthCare.gov rollout disaster in the U.S. was a clear indication that the role of information management experts in government is oftentimes limited to contract management tasks, such as planning and oversight. One response from government organizations is to create internal innovation labs, organize hackathons, hire Chief Innovation Officers, or try to recruit industry expertise into government.

We observe first organizational, structural, managerial, procedural, and technological changes to address the changing internal and external environments of government organizations. As an example, the UK and US governments have adopted new organizational structures in form digital services teams that are able to respond faster to ad hoc needs of their internal government clients. They have adopted an agile government approach designing software in a more information- and user-centric way that is standard in the IT industry. Once software is developed, it is shared widely across all levels of government and no longer siloed in one department. In addition, governments need to adapt to changes in their internal and external environments and create systems that allow them to scan trends and identify developments, predict their potential impact on the organization, and quickly learn and implement responses (Gong & Janssen, 2012).

This special issue therefore invites papers that address open research questions that were posed in two recent Viewpoint pieces in Government Information Quarterly by Janssen & Van den Voort (2016) on adaptive governance and by Mergel (in press) on agile government. Adaptive governance should ensure that an organization is able to deal with the changes, while protecting it from becoming unstable. The main characteristics of adaptive governance are decentralized bottom-up decision-making, efforts to mobilize internal and external capabilities, wider participation to spot and internalize developments, and continuous adjustment to deal with uncertainty (Janssen & Van den Voort, 2016). An agile government introduces user-centric software development approaches implemented together with agency-based project managers to shorten the implementation cycle, improve the outcomes of IT projects, and make sure that user needs are considered (Mergel in press).

For this special issue, we welcome conceptual, empirical, qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods research papers. Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Conceptualization of agile government and adaptive governance, implication, benefits and theory building;
  • Specific or distinguishable agile software development approaches for governmental organization and/or digital public service;
  • Agile software development project management (e.g. Scrum method) in governmental contexts;
  • The impact of applying agile government or adaptive governance on the culture, organizational structure, business processes and individual behaviors;
  • The impact of agile government and adaptive governance on policy-making processes, including information acquisition, negotiation, policy formulation, evaluation and examination;
  • Information sharing and organizational learning in agile government and adaptive governance environments;
  • Adaptation at different levels, traceability and accountability in agile government and adaptive governance projects;
  • Principles and approaches to enable/increase adaptability;
  • Coordination/mediation mechanisms in adaptive governance;
  • Pros and cons of adaptability, barriers and drivers, challenges and opportunities, balance between adaptability, stability, and accountability;
  • In-depth and comparative case studies of agile government and adaptive governance in public sector; and
  • Whether, and how, agile development approaches lead to user-centric digital government services, processes, and applications.

Special Issue Guest Editors:

  • Ines Mergel, University of Konstanz, contact: ines.mergel@uni-konstanz.de
  • Yiwei Gong, School of Information Management at Wuhan University, contact: yiweigong@whu.edu.cn
  • John Bertot, iSchool at University of Maryland, contact: jbertot@umd.edu

Special Issue Format

Each submission is subject to a rigorous double-blind peer review process with at least two independent reviewers. Authors can contact the guest editors for additional information.

The deadline for manuscript submission: January 1, 2017 Extended Deadline until February 15, 2017

References:

Gong, Y., & Janssen, M. (2012). From policy implementation to business process management: Principles for creating flexibility and agility. Government Information Quarterly, 29(Supplement 1), 61-71.

Janssen, M., Van de Voort, H. (2016): Adaptive governance: Towards a stable, accountable and responsive government. Government Information Quarterly, 33(1), 1-5.

Mergel, I. (in press 2016): Agile innovation management in government: A research agenda. Government Information Quarterly, 33(3), 516-523.

Award: Research stipend from IBM’s The Center for the Business of Government

 

IBM – The Center for the Business of Government has announced a new round of winners of their research stipends. I won an award to write about my research on digital service transformation in the U.S. federal government.

Here is the announcement text:

The Center for The Business of Government continues to support research by recognized thought leaders on key public management issues facing government executives today.

The Center for The Business of Government continues to support reports by leading thinkers on key issues affecting government today.  We are pleased to announce our latest round of awards for new reports on key public sector challenges, which respond to priorities identified in the Center’s research agenda. Our content is intended to stimulate and accelerate the production of practical research that benefits public sector leaders and managers.

My report will focus on the following topic: “Implementing Digital Services Teams Across the U.S. Federal Government”

In 2014, the White House created the U.S. Digital Service team and the General Services Administration’s 18F group. Both groups are using agile software development processes to design and implement high-profile software projects. The results of this report include lessons learned during the scaling up efforts of digital service teams across the departments of the U.S. federal government. These will focus on managerial design aspects, organizational challenges, motivations of digital swat teams and their department-level counterparts, as well as first outcomes in the form of digital service transformations in each department. This research report aims to support the presidential transition team’s efforts by outlining the current efforts of scaling-up digital service teams and their lessons learned, as well as observable outcomes of digital service teams across the U.S. federal government.

IBM Report: Social Intranet – Insights on Managing and Sharing Knowledge Internally

Mergel_IBM_SocialIntranet_GraphicIBM The Center for the Business of Government has published my new practitioner report titled “The Social Intranet – Insights on Managing and Sharing Knowledge Internally”.

The report highlights four different social networking sites (think: Government’s own internal Facebook) that are designed to increase collaboration and knowledge sharing opportunities among public servants. The insights are based on qualitative interviews I conducted with public managers who were in charge of designing the social Intranet sites and a review of the existing press coverage and academic literature on enterprise social technologies.

I included four different cases at different maturity stages and with different audiences and purposes:

  1. The Department of State’s Corridor site
  2. The intelligence community’s iSpace
  3. NASA’s SpaceBook, and
  4. The Government of Canada’s GCconnex site.

The full report is available via IBM’s report page here.

Here are a few media articles that covered the report:

Please let me know if you have any questions!

 

White House releases new #DigitalGov Strategy

The White House released a new digital government strategy “Digital Government: Building a 21st century platform to serve the American people“, followed by a Presidential Directive. In the directive the President points out: ”

The main points of the roadmap include:

– data.gov is a starting point for new forms of data innovation
– tool/device agnostic (Bring Your Own Device)
– digital government is not about mobile apps/smartphones, instead it’s about connecting people to the data and have them help each other -> important for mobile-not-haves
– private sector and citizen innovators as central parts of the strategy

Crowdsourced Ideas Make Participating in Government Cool Again (PA Times October 2011)

The PA Times, published by the American Society of Public Administration, has just issued a special edition called “From Bureaucratic to Cool: A Call for Public Service”. My article on “Crowdsourced Ideas Make Participating in Government Cool Again” describes how government agencies on all levels are turning to Open Innovation platforms to collect the wisdom of the crowds either from their employees or from the public in general. They are closing an important gap that social media platforms so far were not able to address: open innovation platforms are proving a mechanism for targeted knowledge sourcing and knowledge incubation. Innovative ideas and knowledge are not hidden among thousands of comments on Facebook or retweets on Twitter. One of the most prominent examples is Challenge.gov run by GSA – that has just celebrated its first anniversary.

Here is the full reference:

Mergel, I. (2011): Crowdsourced Ideas Make Participating in Government Cool Again, in: PA Times, American Society for Public Administration, Vol. 34, No. 4, October 2011, p. 4 & 6, Special Issue: From Bureaucratic to Cool: A Call for Public Service.

Here is the original text that was cross-posted as an editorial on Crowdsourcing.org:

Challenges as game changers for collaborative knowledge incubation in the public sector

Harnessing the knowledge citizens and government employees are willing to share on social media applications in the public sector is one of the most difficult things to do in the era of Government 2.0. Every day thousands of citizens are commenting on government Facebook posts and blog entries or reshare information published on Twitter. Rarely has government the opportunity to harvest innovative ideas and knowledge that is published through these channels. The main reason for many agencies to set up an organizational account is still “to be where the people are”. Recently Open Innovation platforms have started to address this disconnect and are providing an easy access to participate in making government cool again.

Opening government to crowdsourced ideas

Social media tools, such as blogs, Twitter or Facebook, are great channels to collect and encourage citizens to provide their insights on the issues and plans of government. Unfortunately, today’s standard social networking services do not have the capability to automatically extract and collate new knowledge or ideas from content that citizens are submitting through the existing commenting channels. In some cases the sheer volume of comments makes proper analysis very difficult. The challenge is to extract new ideas or valuable insights from the influx of comments in a productive and efficient way.

One challenge that agencies are facing when they are using social media is that it is really difficult to access the knowledge that is potentially created in retweets or Facebook comments. For one, the sheer volume of comments an agency receives has become unmanageable. Dashboard solutions, such as Radian6 might help to give a general overview how the “temperature” is among audiences retweeting and commenting on issues government is concerned about. It becomes far more challenging to actually curate content and extract new ideas and innovative knowledge out of the steady flow of information that comes into government with every tweet or comment.

Open innovation platforms are designed to fill this gap. Using a crowdsourcing approach, government can use the platform for an open call to a large, usually undefined group of people (all citizens, potential contractors or industry representatives, citizen programmers, etc.), so that many different people can contribute to the solution of a complex government task. The platform then helps to direct and coordinate the input of citizens (or application developers, knowledge matter experts, companies, etc.) – which is oftentimes messy and overwhelming on social media channels. These Open Innovation mechanisms to crowdsource solutions are useful for issues where expert knowledge might not be available or is too expensive to access. They also help to improve participation and engagement of citizens. Crowdsourcing provides a platform for governments to engage citizens directly into the decision making process.

Virtually any topic can be crowd-sourced within government, meaning that agencies can post an issue in the form of a “challenge” and ask for the submission of solutions. The focus is on innovation, creativity and the generation of new ideas from stakeholders and/or subject matter experts. In some cases the Open Innovation platform allows participation not only to submit their ideas, but also to provide additional information on how their idea can be executed, and every participant can comment on all other submitted ideas. The agency will select the best solution or set of solutions and the winners are often compensated in some way. This approach is more cost effective than the traditional requests for proposals, which are often time-consuming and have a very specific design criteria and solution in mind. A challenge opens the conversation and allows the “crowd” to come up with the solution, often without rigid requirements.

Open innovation platforms are design to coordinate and streamline the submission and influx of innovative ideas. Local governments are also using open innovation platforms in a similar fashion. New York City’s “NYC SimpliCity” is used to generate cost-saving ideas from employees. The City of Mesa, Arizona’s iMesa program is a response to the economic downturn, designed to collect citizens’ ideas to save money. Harford County, Maryland’s Idea Factory also solicits ideas from constituents designed to stimulate new ideas and innovation. Some of these platforms allow citizens to vote on each other’s ideas and earn “points” for every online activity they perform on the platform. In some localities these virtual points can be traded in for real-life products, such as a ride with the police chief for a day in the City of Manor, TX (see http://www.cityofmanor.org/labs).

Platforms and their use differ depending on the goals and needs of each agency. Some platforms, such as the New York City Simplicity platform are used for internal purposes only. City employees are asked to help the city be more innovative and help to save costs during major budget crunches (http://www.nyc.gov/html/simplicity). Other platforms are mostly used to crowdsource citizen ideas on how to innovate government operations, such as Harford County’s Innovation portal (http://harfordcountymd.spigit.com/Page/Home).
 

Designing challenges

While we truly observe only the first lighthouse projects and experiments with Open Innovation platforms, designing challenges is relatively easy. GSA’s Challenge.gov for example provides the platform for free to all federal agencies and challenge administrators can follow a relatively straightforward process.

The devil lies in the detail. Here are a few lessons learned from Open Innovation administrators who started to experiment with their local platforms:

  • Start by carefully crafting the problem statement you want your employees or citizens to solve. The challenge has to be posed in plain language so that non-experts immediately understand the problem.
  • Experiment with challenges in-house first before opening the floodgates to the public. Your internal sandbox can provide valuable insights to streamline the process for public challenges.
  • Design participation incentives: Think about monetary and non-monetary give-aways that no one else offers and make it worth participating in the challenge. Showcasing submitted solutions on your website can be an incentive for citizens to participate – others might want a monetary return on their time and ideas invested in helping government.
  • Set a time limit: Close your challenge after a predefined time and make sure that you communicate the duration and elapsed time to your participants. Having that one time opportunity to submit an idea can also serve as an incentive for participants.
  • Create a transparent evaluation process: Post the evaluation steps and experts involved in judging the submitted solutions prominently on your website.
  • Communicate how you plan to implement the final solution. Throughout the implementation process make sure to show the value of the crowdsourced solution: How much money was saved? Why are government operations now running smoother than before?

The following table provides an overview of current open innovation platforms on all levels of government:

  Agency name Platform name

Platform open to

Employee idea generation

Citizen idea generation

Local
government

New York City NYC Simplicity  x
Mesa, AZ iMesa  x  x
Maricopa County, AZ Idea Factor for “Rewarding Ideas”  x
City of Manor, TX Manor Labs  x
Harford County, MD Harford County Innovation portal  x

State government

State of Washington Transforming Washington’s Budget  x
State of Vermont BroadbandVT.org  x

Federal
government

Department of Veterans Affairs VAi2 – Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative  x  x
NASA NASA Idea Central  x
GSA Challenge.gov  x

Figure 2: Local, State and Federal Open Innovation Platforms

Challenges and prizes in government have the potential to reinvigorate government operations, inject new ideas into government that otherwise need to be purchased from vendors and consultants. An important effect of the platforms is a new-found transparency and accountability: Citizens and employees feel that their voices are heard and are willing to participate and engage with government again in the future. A win-win all around!

Author bio:

Ines Mergel is Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs, Center for Technology and Information Policy (CTIP), Syracuse University. eMail: iamergel@maxwell.syr.edu