I love engaged conversations with enlightened folks like John Moore. His blog is awesome and definitely became a great place for me to spend more than a few hours reading some great insights. We recently had a short 140char disagreementon citizen centricity versus citizen driven Government 2.0. It is a minor differential on the surface, but dig a bit deeper and it may, in fact, be the difference between sustainable change in Government throughout the world and simply reinforcing existing modes of governance.
In his post covering the subject, John points out the basic debate. Do citizens have a strategic role to fill or a tactical one. While our default reaction to the dichotomy is to leverage citizens into strategic roles (who ever wants to be tactical ), I want to make clear that I actually think there is equity between the two pursuits. Society, government, corporations and social movements all need both. In fact, they need tactical warriors in far greater numbers than strategists, but I believe deeply that the need for both is roughly equal.
But I also believe that if Government 2.0 is pointed at fulfilling its aspiration to create Government as a Platform (GaaP) then we must insist that citizens serve both tactical and strategic roles at the same time.
The tacticalneed is clear and John points out a good example at MDOT to prove the point. I dont take issue with the need to be engaged, in fact I am passionate about it. I believe that this entire effort for Government 2.0 and GaaP is meant to change the very nature of Government itself. From the vending machines described by Tim O’Reilly into the platforms for change which are actually sustainable.
This belief comes from a bit of background. I have worked for many efforts at sustainable change in society for some time now. I have been a Civil Rights Attorney. I have run for elected office myself. I have driven campaigns and GOTV efforts for Members of Congress, Mayors, Governors and more. I was the Political Director for the Service Employees International Union in Wisconsin and care deeply about change at its core. I keynote about it in multiple countries, have done so on almost every continent (darn Antarctica) and brief every political and ICT leader I can about its importance.
But through that experience my current efforts are directed at sustainability. Not the environmental kind, but sustaining change. This experience informs the current debate.
A few core principles bring me to my conclusion that Citizens should *drive* the GaaP movement:
1) Leadership Exists in Crowds not Individuals- Both from personal and professional exploits, it became clear that this was true. From getting my SOA advice from Erik Mickelson from four layers deep in my organization when I was the CIO in Wisconsin to a belief that insight on strategic direction can help guide large corporations through the weeds (see IBM’s Jam Sessions or our own (Microsoft’s) Think Week processes), crowdsourcing strategy is incredibly effective. Not because it is socially good or politically correct, but rather, because the nature of change is that it affects stakeholders and better information is found closer to the ground than in the ivory towers I have sometimes been lucky enough to work in.
2) Current Civics is Fundamentally Broken in Many Parts of the World and Tipping Toward Apathy – The temporal nature of change efforts could not be made more clear than in the current mid-term election cycle in the USA. Change in 2008 was afoot and many of us could feel something real start to happen. But, the process became one of repaving current roads, instead of recreating new pathswhich the crowd was in fact asking for. Pure and absolute opportunity was turned into currently dangerous lack of focus and potential permanent apathy. Change movements must become sustainable and toward that end, the strategic drivers themselves must change.
3) Citizen as Object Does Not Reconstruct Civil Engagement – When citizens are merely central to the strategy, they continue to be acted upon and not engaged with to solve problems. Through engagement we can achieve co-creation, ongoing engagement and a reconstruction of the nerves that have been broken over time. Making the DMV line shorter does nothing to reengage our citizens power and intellect to make our republics better places. They relegate that activity to servicewhich happens outside of civic discourse, which is not bad in and of itself, but the separation allows the continued disinterest in civics to devolve. Citizens as drivers will reconstruct the system, not reinforce it.
4) Engaging Citizens Requires ALL to Take on New Responsibilities- John rightly points out that representative democracies were built to ensure that long term perspective could be retained in political and civil affairs. And for a century or so that certainly worked around the world, with some exceptions of course. But the current challenge is that we have some fatal examples that suggest that may no longer be the dominant paradigm. Social Security systems throughout the world are at risk, because the threat is removed by a few decades. It doesn’t seem to matter that the cataclysm will be enormous, representatives have NOT done what is needed to ensure security long term, due primarily to short term political disadvantage. The economy went through the past few years of pain partially because of less than sustainable practices by public officials, both in terms of regulation of securities and banking interests as well as the critical roles that public mortgage entities were supposed to play. Again, short term political quandaries halted multiple efforts by citizens and groups to halt the practices, but the existing structures protected short term advantage for a decade or maybe two. The result, for all of us, was catastrophic. So, the question is, if that system is not working, how do we fix it?
We fix it by treating our citizens like the adults they are and engaging them in the process. Which means they will need to take on new horizons in their consideration. They will need to ensure that they act out of mutual or shared interest and not simply out of self interest. They will need to expand time horizons beyond this quarter into a decade long and probably longer horizons. And the object of the excercise needs to be civial society’s health itself, not simply short term national, local, political or personal advantage. As citizens take their place at the strategic table, political leadership needs to embrace the precepts of “GaaP” in order to enable citizens to then also fulfil their tactical roles as spelled out well by John and others.
Latest posts by Matt (see all)
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