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September 16, 2013

The power to govern is often asserted, but it may or may not be based on authentic social consent.  This is an important issue because open networks are changing the nature of legitimate authority and the consent of the governed.  User communities are increasingly asserting their own authority, assigning identities to people, and allocating rights and privileges in the manner of any conventional institution.  Anonymous, Five Star Movement, the Pirate Party, Arab Spring, Lulzsec and Occupy are notable examples of such grassroots, network-enabled movements – and there are plenty of other instances in which distributed networks of users work together toward shared goals in loosely coordinated, bottom-up ways.  Such “smart mobs” – elementary forms of GFNs – are showing that they have the legitimacy and legal authority and the economic and cultural power to act as “institutions” with a modicum of governance power.

By David Bollier

I recently wrote the following essay with John H. Clippinger as part of the ongoing work ofID3, the Institute for Data-Driven Design, which is building a new open source platform for secure digital identity, user-centric control over personal information and data-driven institutions.

August 27, 2013

Youth Map Milwaukee is on a mission to make the dreaded “I’m bored” complaint parents get from their kids obsolete.

The project from the Center for Youth Engagement, 4850 W. Fond Du Lac Ave., aims to map 325 resources in Milwaukee that will direct bored kids to quality activities and agencies near their homes through a website and app, which will be complete by early 2014.

“It should be just as easy for a young person to find something that is positive to do as it is to find some things that are negative,” said Reggie Moore, the project’s leader and Center for Youth Engagement’s founder and senior strategist.

The mapping initiative, launched July 31, comes at a time when Milwaukee has seen a string of shootings.

By Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service  

Youth Map Milwaukee is on a mission to make the dreaded “I’m bored” complaint parents get from their kids obsolete.

July 26, 2013

As part of the longer-term plan to eradicate poverty by 2030, “or bring it down to about 3%”, the challenge is to move far beyond the analogue methods of yore where things were guided from the top up, to a digital world where things are more user-centric.

“We need to flip the paradigm and not work in the old step-by-step process,” says Vein. Systems and policies should, according to Vein, comeafter they’ve actually started working with those looking to benefit from such development projects.

With that in mind, Vein highlighted eight principles of open development he feels should underpin any modern-day development projects of the kind The World Bank engage in.

From thenextweb.com.  By Paul Sawers

Founded in 1944, the World Bank is, as its name alludes to, a global financial institution geared towards reducing poverty in developing countries.

But as with many pre-Internet organizations, transitioning from the analog world order into one fit for the digital age is something of a challenge.

As such, Chris Vein, Chief Innovation Officer for Global Information and Communications Technology Development, at The World Bank, took to the stage at The Guardian’s Activate London: 2013 conference today to outline some of the key issues they’re facing. And, ultimately, how it’s tapping technology and open data to tackle one of the oldest problems known to man.

Vein joined the World Bank a little over six months ago, having previously served in the White House as one of its chief technologists.

In essence, Vein’s role is not only to help the World Bank embed technological innovations across its operations, but also ensure that the benefits of this are seen in projects throughout its client countries.

“In an analogue world, policy dictates delivery. In a digital world, delivery informs policy.”

“Development agencies are not exactly thought of as nimble organizations,” says Vein. “I think one of the most exciting things about the open movement, whether it be open government, open data or open innovation, is that transparency enables greater participation across governments and the development process, but also that it enables collaboration.”

More specific to The World Bank, Vein says that the organization has been tasked by its new President with focusing on extreme poverty – in other words, those who live on $1.25 a day or less. This equates to roughly 2.1 billion people around the world, which is a staggering figure.

As part of the longer-term plan to eradicate poverty by 2030, “or bring it down to about 3%”, the challenge is to move far beyond the analogue methods of yore where things were guided from the top up, to a digital world where things are more user-centric.

“We need to flip the paradigm and not work in the old step-by-step process,” says Vein. Systems and policies should, according to Vein, comeafter they’ve actually started working with those looking to benefit from such development projects.

With that in mind, Vein highlighted eight principles of open development he feels should underpin any modern-day development projects of the kind The World Bank engage in.

User-centered

This is perhaps the fundamental principle, touched on already by Vein.

“The idea is that we start with the user and really dig deep to understand the specific needs and develop solutions together, rather than just doing what development agencies often do – presenting solutions as a top-down approach. We need to start with a bottom-up approach,” says Vein.

Citing a previous project, which looked at agriculture, and more specifically women in agriculture, Vein says the ultimate remit was to figure out how the organization could improve on its delivery of services.

“In six months, we talked to every person in a village to understand their particular needs, and the challenges they faced,” he says. “It was intended for users to give feedback to The World Bank about what was and wasn’t working in a particular project.”

Data-driven

Though a user-centric approach is a base-level principle, being data-driven was cited as the most disruptive facet of The World Bank’s push to bring its methodologies into the digital age. “Technology is giving us the option to have real-time data upon which we can make real-time decisions,” he says.

“The Bank can take up to seven years to do a loan. It takes that long to go through the various processes to mitigate risks.”

However, this figure relates specifically to the old, analogue world order. With digital, and real-time data, the process can be significantly boosted to make any loan less risky, with countries, individuals and, importantly, The World Bank able to see exactly what needs addressed and the effect any cash outlay is having.

Pointing to “one of the most exciting projects” he’s been involved with in his short tenure at The World Bank, Vein highlighted an initiative in Uganda designed to curb a crop-killing disease.

“Uganda is the second largest producer of bananas in the world, and it also has an 80% use of bananas for its own internal food-basket. Bananas are hugely important to the country and the people,” says Vein.

“The difficulty is, however, there’s a disease that’s hacking away at banana plants, with the potential for wiping it out.”

Working in cahoots with UNICEF, The World Bank targeted 200,000 Ugandans, sending them an SMS that said: “Do you know of anyone who has, or has suffered from, this banana growth disease. Yes or no?”

Within 24 hours, they’d gleaned 45,000 responses and were able to map all those responses through geo-coding and create the first ever map of the entire country which helped illustrate the extend to which this disease was attacking banana plantations.

“This had never been done before,” adds Vein. “Then, within the next 24 hours, we sent another SMS asking if they wanted more information on how to solve this problem. More than 35,000 people responded with an affirmitive, and were able to correctly tell them how to stem the problem.”

Reusable

“Many organizations, development-based or otherwise, try to solve problems individually,” says Vein. “Over and over and over again – we don’t really think about how we can re-use pieces of those projects to speed up development.”

What this refers to, essentially, is not attempting to reinvent the wheel. There may be data, methodologies or other elements of one initiative that can be directly tapped for another one, and this ties directly in with the sustainability of a project.

Sustainable

How can development organizations actually sustain a project for the long-term, beyond its initial launch? “It’s about taking a modular approach to setting up projects, based on open source and open data platforms,” says Vein. “When something is created, it doesn’t have to be recreated as things evolve – you can invite the world in to help keep the solutions going and moving forward.

Another example cited was in identifying problems in schools through SMS. The project, called U-Report, solicits citizen feedback via SMS polls, then broadcasts the results through various media channels, including radio, newspapers and websites.

So that new-fangled iPhone or Android smartphone isn’t required – simple featurephones are sufficient to carry out polls and garner data at scale.

Scalable

In what Vein referred to as Pilot-itis – a fixation with pilot ‘test-bed’ projects that tend to encourage short-term thinking. While he says that this canachieve some degree of success, the world is littered dead or unfulfilled projects. Simply put, many pilot projects are doomed from the start, because they’re not given enough consideration for the long-haul. “They lack scalability,” says Vein.

In another example of a UNICEF-World Bank tie-up, a project call Edu Trac tapped mobile phones and SMS technology to help scale the project across Uganda, with a view to helping them understand the state of schools. This included things like attendance, literacy and so on.

It gives parents, students and teachers the opportunity to text, track and monitor what’s going on with education in any country.

Ecosystems

“From my days in the White House, I can tell you that ‘releasing data and people will come’ doesn’t actually work,” says Vein.

“You need to worry about the ecosystem, all the players, the organizations in a particular area, and ensure you’re working with every single one of them to understand the value of what you’re trying to do and tools to bring to the solution,” he continues.

Borrowing heavily from Code for America, it seems, Code 4 Kenya is another project from The World Bank, designed to build open data ecosystems.

“In Code 4 Kenya, we invite journalists, software developers and others to work with the government to solve and address some of the problems,” says Vein. “This helps build an ecosystem so journalists understand the inner-workings of government, the challenges that are there so they can actually report on, rather than simply what they’re being told. It’s about giving them first-hand knowledge.”

Open

Read the rest at http://thenextweb.com/insider/2013/07/09/the-world-banks-chief-innovation-officer-on-technology-open-development-and-reducing-world-poverty/
July 26, 2013

The idea of “a Siri or Wolfram Alpha for government data” — something that can connect natural language queries with multfaceted datasets — had been kicking around in the mind of MIT Media Lab and Knight-Mozilla veteran Dan Schultz ever since a Knight Foundation-sponsored election-year brainstorming session in 2011. But CivOmega, a new data-mining tool designed to answer questions about government and civic life, only became a reality after this year’s Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Hack Day late last month.

From www.niemanlab.org.  By 

Want to know how many times Beyoncé has visited the White House?

How many bills has Rep. Darrell Issa sponsored?

How many Dominicans live in New York City?

July 10, 2013

We are proud of this progress, but recognize that there is always more work to be done to build a more efficient, effective, and transparent government. In that spirit, as part of our ongoing commitment to the international Open Government Partnership, the Obama Administration has committed to develop a second National Action Plan on Open Government. 

To accomplish this task effectively, we’ll need all-hands-on-deck. That’s why we plan to solicit and incorporateyour input as we develop the National Action Plan “2.0.”

From www.whitehouse.gov/blog.  By Lisa Ellman and Hollie Russon Gilman.  Hat tip to Alex Howard for headline

July 3, 2013

A new publicly available online tool compares the Corporate Social Responsibility of prominent Australian companies and ranks them head-to-head across a range of social, environmental and governance indicators.

Excerpted from http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au.  

A new publicly available online tool compares the Corporate Social Responsibility of prominent Australian companies and ranks them head-to-head across a range of social, environmental and governance indicators.

Policy network Catalyst, this month released the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Dashboard, which draws on data from an analysis of the CSR reports of 32 companies.

July 1, 2013

How a website is built or designed may seem mundane to many people, but when the site in question is focused upon such an important function, what it looks like and how it works matter. Last week, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relaunched Healthcare.gov with a new appearance and modern technology that is unusual in federal-government websites.

Excerpted from http://www.theatlantic.com.  By Alexander Howard.
June 26, 2013

Lukensmeyer and her team have tackled some of the wickedest problems in public policy, from how to rebuild Ground Zero after 9/11 to reforming health care in California to rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

In New Orleans, for example, more than 4,000 people participated in two "community congresses" that Andy Kopplin, who was then the executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, credits in Lukensmeyer's book with turning the rebuilding efforts around. "There's no doubt that the Unified New Orleans Plan developed by citizens was the foundation for the city's final recovery plan and that it has had a significant, lasting impact on governance ever since," says Kopplin, who now is the city's chief administrative officer and a deputy mayor.

From governing.com. By Mark Funkhauser

May 21, 2013

You have two challenges in front of you.  The first is that you're leading the charge to something profoundly new, and that's going to scare people who are entrenched in something old.  The second is that what you are doing is so local, so fundamentally grassroots-based, so under the radar, that your work is probably going to go unrecognized outside of a small devoted circle for a while.

umair haque (@umairh) tweeted at 7:05 PM on Sun, May 19, 2013:

October 18, 2012

In an arena historically dominated by city hall meetings, how can planners engage the imagination of the public and capture unique perspectives? Metroplan, central Arkansas's Council of Local Governments and Metropolitan Planning Organization, has recognized the necessity of including as many voices as possible in crafting a new transportation plan.  The Imagine Central Arkansas project (ICA) gathers input from residents of a four-county region about a range of transportation-related issues that the region will face over the next thirty years.  Imagine Central Arkansas showcases a variety of interactive participation methods that can be adopted in comprehensive plan-making.

August 2, 2012

In 2005, passersby in the Albanian city of Tirana noticed something unusual: millions of white Lego blocks gracing neatly-arranged tables on a busy street. Everybody was fascinated with the unassuming white blocks. Parents with young children, elderly residents, teenagers, and every demographic imaginable intently built all sorts of structures from buildings to bridges and everything in between.

In 2005, passersby in the Albanian city of Tirana noticed something unusual: millions of white Lego blocks gracing neatly-arranged tables on a busy street. Everybody was fascinated with the unassuming white blocks. Parents with young children, elderly residents, teenagers, and every demographic imaginable intently built all sorts of structures from buildings to bridges and everything in between.

July 16, 2012

With all the options for social media today, it is a common concern we’re faced with: what is the best way to engage citizens and stakeholders cost effectively? We all want to get information out quickly to relevant audiences whose expectations for information access have grown so fast. So which outreach channel should we be focused on? According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 92 percent of adults use email which can be thought of as “the central hub of all online communication.”

With all the options for social media today, it is a common concern we’re faced with: what is the best way to engage citizens and stakeholders cost effectively? We all want to get information out quickly to relevant audiences whose expectations for information access have grown so fast. So which outreach channel should we be focused on?

July 12, 2012

For philanthropists, policymakers, and anyone who thinks deeply about how to make social progress, the challenge of assessing the potential value of new ideas and tools is a familiar one: we are all trying to figure out which new ways of working and living have the most potential to improve the world, so that we can invest our limited resources in them. A skeptical-but-curious person might ask: what is possible—and fundamentally different—because of a new technology that wasn’t before? Why does it matter? 

I think of myself as a technology skeptic. I’m always curious about new gadgets and apps, but I like to give them a serious road test before I invite them into my life, always wary that the time I invest in learning to use the thing will have greater value than whatever I get out of it. Still, technology is tantalizing: even though we know that the vast majority of innovations will alter our lives in incremental ways, it offers up the possibility of transformational change at a societal scale (the events of the Arab Spring the most vivid recent example).

June 7, 2012

Local newspapers have always been a relied-upon source for citizens, playing a complex role in the civic life of American communities. According to the 2012 State of the News Media report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, newspaper circulation is dropping while the number of people reading news on mobile devices is on the rise.

Local newspapers have always been a relied-upon source for citizens, playing a complex role in the civic life of American communities. According to the 2012 State of the News Media report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, newspaper circulation is dropping while the number of people reading news on mobile devices is on the rise.

April 23, 2012

Several weeks ago, the office of Denver’s Mayor Michael Hancock launched a two-part community engagement strategy to gather public input on important financial issues facing the City of Denver.  A series of public forums put keypad polling devices in the hands of city employees and Denver residents to test the best   ideas for how to address the City’s financial challenges.  The Mayor also unveiled a new participatory budgeting tool encouraging public feedback on key topics relative to fixing Denver’s budget gap. The new interactive tool, Delivering Denver’s Future, gives residents a unique opportunity to weigh in on how to fix the city’s broken budget.

April 16, 2012

How can we understand the travel behaviors and mobility barriers experienced by low-income populations? The answer is both simple and complex at the same time, since it requires considering the entirety of individuals’ lives, not only their travel to and from their workplace. My research team and I gathered data from a relatively small sample of low income individuals through focus group interviews. We augmented the focus group data using additional detailed information provided by key individuals who participated in the preliminary discussions.


This article is brought to you by Planning & Technology Today, the American Planning Association (APA) Technology Division’s quarterly magazine, which links planning professionals with an interest in the use of technology in land use planning and community development.

March 12, 2012

A highly inclusive model for public engagement has spurred city revitalization and helped set a precedent for citizen participation in government in a small city on the Ohio River, its surrounding county, and beyond.

A highly inclusive model for public engagement has spurred city revitalization and helped set a precedent for citizen participation in government in a small city on the Ohio River, its surrounding county, and beyond.

In recent years, tensions between a city of 57,265 versus a county of 96,656 and urban versus rural interests kept getting in the way of productive political discourse and decision-making in the area. However, it was one community-wide engagement process that opened new possibilities for collaboration.

January 27, 2012

DEADLINE : February 17 . Cities require new solutions as they face major challenges in areas such as mobility, health, safety, urban management, carbon emissions, education and tourism. In turn, solutions providers are often struggling to navigate a complex market of 557,000 local governments in the world.

Deadline for submissions: 17th February 2012.

Cities require new solutions as they face major challenges in areas such as mobility, health, safety, urban management, carbon emissions, education and tourism. In turn, solutions providers are often struggling to navigate a complex market of 557,000 local governments in the world.

January 23, 2012

Starting today through January 28, you can visit the White House YouTube channel to submit your video and text questions regarding tomorrow’s scheduled State of the Union Address. on Monday, January 30, President Obama will answer a selection of top-voted questions submitted by the American public in a live-streamed interview.

December 15, 2011

Last week, the White House announced that they are actively seeking input from citizens to help identify best practices for public participation in government and suggest metrics that will allow agencies to assess progress toward the goal of becoming more participatory. The solicitation for input is directly related to the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan which was announced earlier this Fall as a government-wide effort to reform and modernize records management policies and practices.    

September 23, 2011

Yesterday, the White House unveiled its new e-petitions platform. The online petition system, designed to generate response from the federal government, allows users to trade their name and email address for the chance to create an online petition.

See a step-by-step guided tour of the platform >>

Yesterday, the White House unveiled its new e-petitions platform. The online petition system, designed to generate response from the federal government, allows users to trade their name and email address for the chance to create an online petition.

August 19, 2011

Program features Anders Grondstedt of the Gronstedt Group.  Anders works closely with private sector and public sector organizations to create next-generation learning that uses virtual worlds and other technologies. Their customized learning programs employ next-generation digital simulations, podcasts, vodcasts, mobile learning, social media, gaming and virtual worlds; teaching people the skills they need in a context that's immersive and energizing.

Time: 16.00 Eastern/New York  (see www.timeserver.com for your respective time zone)
Where: Squirrel Island
RSVP to Beth at Beth@PublicDecisions.com

Audio Requirements: Second Life Voice Chat will be used for the audio; plug in your headset/mic or listen in over your computer speakers

Sponsor:  The group is co-sponsored by PublicDecisions and Learning Times.

August 15, 2011

Smart cities don’t happen by accident.  To help planners and policy makers better understand and manage the dynamic behavior of cities, IBM Global Business Services is introducing new analytics software and services based on their “smarter cities” strategy.  System Dynamics for Smarter Cities is an interactive model that allows leaders to observe how the core systems of a city -- such as the economy, housing, education, public safety, transportation, health care, government services and utilities -- work together and affect one another.