Fiscal Cliffs, Date Night and the Greater Fools – Uniting America

Rise Up.  Own this. Look for your Leader in the Mirror.

Rise Up. Own this. Look for your Leader in the Mirror.

I love my country.

A simple statement.  Overused across the board, devoid of meaning in most contexts and yet, loaded to the hilt right now.  At this point in time, before the 2012 Presidential Election, my love of country, our love of country, calls upon us to unite despite the calls all around us to divide and descend into a political black hole.

It is an amazing time to be an American.  From the standpoint of political infrastructure we are staring at the abyss, right now.  We are pushing on the walls and constraints of political discourse in ways that will resolve either in an incredible new experiment in democracy or the destruction of hegemony, devolution into disarray and a long walk through barren lands to hopefully return to a country slightly resembling the America our parents and grandparents built.  Sound overly dramatic? Stay with me.

Fiscal Cliffs

I watched during 2011 as revolutionaries took over control of parts of Congress and the minds of one of our parties.  I literally watched it unfold in my home state of Wisconsin which was undergoing a change that no political pundit would have predicted.  In the land that literally gave birth to AFSCME, public sector unions were on the road to being abolished, normally a “third rail” in Wisconsin politics.  In that context, national political leaders decided to start testing other “third rails”.  The “debate” over the debt ceiling in 2011 was a test of what was possible in terms of touching lightening and living.  And it happened.  The GOP threatened, at the behest of Tea Party leaders, to not authorize raising the debt ceiling as Republican and Democratic Administrations had done for decades.  For this faction, it was simple political calculus.  To “win”, they must capture the attention of the world.  Much as fringe elements worldwide do when they hijack planes, invade olympics or pull our citizens into dark places in Tehran, this fringe held our economy hostage.  Pointed a gun at our head.  Pulled the trigger and prayed, to test our resolve.

The Democratic Party utterly failed to respond.  In Wisconsin, in Washington DC, across the country.  Due to decades of living with the existence of “third rails”, the Democrats simply lost their sharpness in the debate.  The Democratic Party did not have the organization, willpower or resolve to take on the tough issue directly.  By failing to take the threat seriously, the Democrats failed not just the country, but the global economy.  This party was just as culpable in the situation that they might as well as pulled that trigger themselves.

But that lack of sharpness in defending recessionary government spending, Healthcare Reform, or Medicare, or Social Security, out of fear, threatened a much more devastating outcome.  By not having an organized citizen based backing to demonstrate support for a sane fiscal positioning, we, together, drove the country toward collapse (and really only took our finger off the trigger with sequestration now facing the country).

As I will get to, because we lacked an understanding of why I love my country, and why we all do, we are now approaching that gun again with our finger at the trigger.  The fiscal cliff is no joke.  At the worst possible time in the midst of this recovery, our politicians are staring down a barrel.  While we discuss “legitimate rape” on one side and birth certificates on the other, the only areas of concrete and productive spending will be at complete risk.  On all sides.  Citizens in need will suffer, our national defense will suffer and our economy will take a self inflicted shot to the head.  Unless we rise.

Date Night

In the midst of all of this controversy life goes on.  In America, as in all of the countries I have visited in my career, we continue to turn inward to our family.  For us, it is a weekly ritual for my wife and I to go to dinner, sometimes a movie or a show, or just a drive around our great city.  We did that this week again as I figure many american households did at the same time.  But we didnt make it to a movie.

Because of some books each of us are reading (some at the behest of my incredible 13 year old daughter) we started talking about America.  Whether we should aim to be the most powerful country in the world.  Whether we should have healthcare or education or a job as a right.  Whether a strong defense is the only path to peace.  The outcome of each of these debates was interesting but far more interesting was the conversation over what is it that still makes us uniquely American.  As a country.  And if there still was the unique American, what is it that is killing her and what is it that would save her.

It was an incredibly emotional conversation.  Are we really what the polls say we are?  Are we split hopelessly down the middle?  Do our republican friends really believe what they say?  Do our Democratic friends understand their arguments?  What issues bind us?  What issues drive us apart?  And who are pulling all those levers?

I admitted, as a lifelong political ally in some circles, to having lived out the problem.  And I consider some of my closest friends as continuing to live out the challenges.  I am responsible for parts of this problem.  After much reflection we settled on a simple position that captures the essence of the poisonous current discourse.

Our political world is tilted toward “winning” elections and not creating and sustaining “states”.

It has been part of my career to advise politicians on how to “win” elections.  I am actually pretty good at it.  As are my friends.  And we can understand why a faction in the political right would suggest and embrace the debt ceiling strategy, to win.  Why it makes sense to highlight a misstep of words to characterize the other party as waging a war on women, to win.  Why it is OK to suggest killing Medicare as we know it and at the same time tell the world publicly that your intention is to save the system, to win.  Why a campaign would attack Solyndra as a waste of money while understanding deeply the need to invest in risky startups to embrace and push forward new industries, to win.  We do, and argue for, these positions because, quite simply, it is how you “win” elections.  My job wasn’t to govern, but to win.  And that, is the crux of the problem.

But the answer isn’t far from us.  The examples, as my wife and I discussed, are manyfold.  Men and women who have bucked the current system, focused on building a state that works, caring for the craft, identifying and supporting truth speakers and making hard choices about a sustainable way forward and then to work ACROSS divides to unite us as a country in funding those priorities.  Our table talk surrounded who could rise to meet this challenge?  Marco Rubio?  Chris Christie?  John Huntsman? Hilarie Clinton?  Barack Obama?  Mitt Romney?

Our conclusion?  None of them.  What is required of folks to rise and succeed in the current political world is inconsistent with what is needed to change it.  The political and corporate leaders we each know well, lack the ability to craft a state.

But, we decided, each of us has that ability.  To rise up where we are, not look outside for some white knight to come in and save the day.  That the answer was to tap into our cross-party identity to activate in our own world. To advocate for our american family inside our childrens schools.  To advocate and forward those priorities where we work.  To agitate within our local city councils and neighborhoods to demand the type of civics that are suitable to be called American.  Not everyone has the unique set of experiences to allow them to become president, but each of us has the unique capability to take back our country from a poisonous discourse, by talking again to our neighbors, advocating for our neighbors and our own needs and ignoring the constant buzz of national politics.

So with the problems identified (“Winning” over “Statebuilding”) and a focus on the solutions needed (local leadership replacing national politics) the question remained whether there was this unique thing called America, that bound us together.  There was.

Through our conversations last night we uncovered volumes of cases when America showed her true colors repeatedly.  From individuals we knew that quietly supported folks who suffered unnecessarily, to examples from our own lives.  In Law School my house burned down.  We were a bit unsure what to do and where to turn and, to our surprise, our community came to support us.  With food, clothes, offers of shelter, anonymous donations of money, support from my school, from churches, from non-profits and others. When injustice happens in America, none of us bring our political convention badges.  We bring our soul.  Look at the outpouring of support for Aurora, Colorado and Oak Creek, Wisconsin this year as examples.  There were not Democrats and Republicans at the vigils, there were Americans.

And while I have given countless speeches about it, the most powerful example of this was, and is, 9/11.  I was in the towers weeks before they came down. I have and had myriads of friends who work on that beloved island.  And what I loved, in the midst of our darkest despair, is the way we came together in that week as Americans without political cover.  We all flew our flags, I watched bankers help laborers walk home from the towers, I watched needy left-wing citizens follow the guidance of a caring right-wing mayor.  I watched brave firefighters and construction workers, selflessly run TOWARD that collapse, in order to save even one more life while risking theirs.  To understand the true unity laying dormant in America you need only remember how you felt the day those proud towers fell.  Despite the centuries of political messaging heaped on top of who we were, that shot at our country instantly stripped it away, and lay bare what it means to be an American.  We are united, not divided, at our core.  Politics has led us in a different direction.  Statesmanship can lead us out.

The Greater Fool

So, the day after a great date night, it is often hard to keep the momentum going.  Great talk, do we act?  Are we still tuned in?  Sometimes, as my wife always says, the universe is giving you an answer, but you need to listen.  When I walked into my wife’s office after coffee this morning she had DVR’ed Newsroom.  We love the show, admittedly because we are left of center types and its fun to hear our thoughts in eloquent words.  But the season finale was about everything we had just discussed.  Everyone should watch it, so they get the conclusions below.  The central point of the show is a back and forth over the idea of “The Greater Fool”.  As an aside I have issues with the example myself due to its financial roots, but the wrap up lines in the show were perfect.

There have been many people with opinions about how to “fix” our country.  How to take us back.  Regain our beautiful history.  Become what we were.  I dissent.  We have never lost what we were.  It has simply been buried under decades of communications crap laid on top by politics.

We must embrace what we are.  What we truly are.  We must act on it.  Locally.  We must unplug from stupid national attempts to control what we think and demonstrate we understand our neighbors.  We must touch what makes us all American, fight like hell for that, and work together to resolve on the details.  It will be hard, impossibly difficult, unbelievably irritating and the challenge of my generation.  But as a boy, I watched Team USA, skate on the ice, unknown, with no believers, defeat what we used to call the USSR.  It is only the fool, the greater fool, that truly thinks we can do that now in politics.  Not by finding or building a candidate.  But by acting.  In our lane.  Running our pattern.  Fulfilling our role.  Never flinching in defense.  And understanding what makes us all American.

And later today I came across a great debate on Facebook about Voter ID.  A good one.  Sid Burgess asked a simple question about Voter ID.  Good conversation about it.  A few partisan barbs but really what seemed to be real people talking about an issue.  A vital one.  The right to vote.  The discourse was intelligent and civil.   And the source, a great republican passionately embracing walkability in of all places, Oklahoma City, helps to prove that this world, this conflict, has hope of resolution.  If this lifelong Democrat in Seattle and a self-described card carrying Republican in OKC can come to together to build a civic discourse, maybe we will succeed in building a new America.

“The Greater Fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools.”

 

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How MLK would look at Government2.0 – #gov20 #opengov

MLK in the Valley - Government2.0 requires sacrifice

MLK in the Valley - Government2.0 requires sacrifice

I consider Martin Luther King a personal hero of mine.  As a child I didn’t always have the guidance I thought I needed, but luckily had a public library available and the ability to read the words of incredible leaders to give me some guidance in the way I considered the world and the way I would ultimately arrange my life.  MLK was a huge part of that and I consider his orientation every time I consider a new movement, a new direction or a new project.

So, how would MLK think about Government2.0?  Would he be concerned about the expenditure on technology instead of directly on people.  Would he be concerned about building platforms as opposed to direct aid?  I dont think so.  I believe he would embrace it, in particular the application of the Social Enterprise to Government.  Because, at its core, this new technology enables the true connection of individual spirits and souls in concerted activity with the ability to unlock the latent aspirations inside those fighting to pull themselves up in society.

As we connect we see people in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Iran and Syria embracing technology to unlock their souls.  And I have seen, heard and tweeted about friends in those areas standing up to regimes empowered only by a mobile device, rough video footage or the daring nature of a singular tweet to take down the repression of regimes with weapons with more direct consequence.  It is this type of action that makes me believe that MLK would embrace the social technology revolution in governments throughout the world.  When his revolution was effective we saw regimes move to suppress such conversations in their own societies.  Our social technologies in a civic context are working to liberate those voices, through technology, one ward at a time.

And in the United States we are seeing the same.  The civic conversation is happening in the cloud.  Tweets organized Occupy Wall Street.  The Tea Party embraces new modes of communication.  Labor Union’s have long leveraged social media to organize.  Voices are rising and modern governments in the States will realize that this is a huge opportunity here, as opposed to a threat.  The engagement of our citizens is something we have long needed, long lacked and long fought for.  A giant inside the United States has been awakened.  Our technology enables that voice.  And our government now has the call to respond, or step aside.

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Calling all authors: guest blog on innovation in government #gov20 #opengov

 
We will be bringing the blog back to life this year. I know many of you contacted me earlier to present your ideas on this platform and now really is the time.
 
Send me a note and I would be glad to have you post as often as you have great content.  Send me a note at mattmiszewski@gmail.com. Or leave a comment on the blog, send me a note on Facebook, LinkedIn or twitter. 
 

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Building the New World of Social Infrastructure #gov20 #opengov #ows

The New Social Enterprise Requires a New Social Contract #socialenterprise

The New Social Enterprise Requires a New Social Contract #socialenterprise

I am thrilled to be a part of a true revolution in technology.  Not just a promised revolution, or a politically motivated talking point, but a real shift in how we perform computational tasks.  It presents us with an opportunity to not only build great new loosely coupled systems to solve increasingly complex problems, but also an opportunity to build a whole new set of structures and partnerships designed to support the stability of this new set of systems for the next few decades.  In short, we have the desire to build an entirely new set of social interactions and personal empowerment for citizens, employees and partners.

I want to be clear that I have little interest in building individual systems that last (that is how we continue to have 30 year old legacy systems crippling business processes).  What I want to be a part of is embracing a global infrastructure that will allow for agile development (and the responsibility to kill systems quickly) of solutions that solve business problems.  This new infrastructure is more than the often overused idea of a superhighway for information.  What I am talking about is more like the transformation at the world’s ports when they stopped using manual labor to load and unload ships in transit.  To accomplish this switch there was an amazing amount of structural change that needed to happen.

But without a new paradigm, social contract or partnership, this change would never have successfully increased the flow of global commerce.  We needed a public commitment to the goal of global efficiency and a private sector commitment to embrace the new change.  We needed to make sure that each of the ports adopted an open standard so that the new machinery wasn’t different in each port requiring costly one-off adaptation or constant change.

NOTE:  Two major assumptions that the world seems to have accepted:  The cloud is how we will deploy infrastructure, software, databases and platforms.  I will leave it to legacy companies to continue to argue for our customers to build and operate their own datacenters so that these vendors can continue to extort their pound of flesh.  The conversation is over and these are merely death throws.  They may continue for another 5 or so years, but ultimately they are scheduled to die.  The second assumption is that our dominant paradigm will be social computing as the accepted UI.  Just as Xerox, Apple and Microsoft brought us the revolution of multitasking and windows as  a way to interact with computational power, now Facebook, Salesforce, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter have brought a new UI to us all.  The difference is that this paradigm has been brought to us as an open paradigm and not a proprietary one that will be used to concentrate power and profit but will rather unleash the power of computing on the masses.  Profit will, and should, drive the development of these technologies but we will not be locked into terrible technology due to propriety.  We will rather be engaged in an open standard conversation, occurring globally and in the open.  Progress will happen as a result of advancing the paradigm through providing value, not lock-in.

Structures

There are several things that need to happen in terms of structural improvements.  Network Ubiquity and Openness is required.  Much as we demanded universal delivery of things like the postal service and telephone service in many countries, we need to ensure that there is universal availability of broadband.  The dominance of broadband in cities is great, but we need to empower economic growth everywhere.  The existence of that pipe will bring economic development.  It will spur the advancement of the Social UI.  Without it, we will be dependent on the thinking and innovation in cities, which may not be bad, but we may be missing out on incredible thinking and productivity that lies dormant in other areas.  We can build better.  Their is unlocked growth potential in the more difficult to cover regions of the world, unlocked simply because no pipe yet reaches them.  The success of a child in rural India should not depend on their distance from Mumbai, it should only be limited by their aspiration, ability and drive.

Open Sourced Hardware.  As we look at a device driven society, we need to enable innovation through massively available hardware platforms as we did with software.  The Internet of Things will be driven by masses of people innovating sensors, displays, robotics, cameras and more.  Arduino is a great start, and Raspberry Pi promises to be incredible,  but we need to have more organizations embracing the idea of open hardware platforms.  As IBM helped to validate Open Source we need large corporate entities realizing the value that will come from embracing hardware as a new frontier in future computing.

Inexpensive, Open, Public Touch Interfaces.  Massive investment, both public and private, in the development and quick deployment of public touch interfaces (and non-touch gesture interfaces) will drive the new computing world.  They must be public so that the market created for them is massive and drives adoption.  If it remains open from the beginning we will have much more innovation and will avoid the proprietary tax that had developed in the past and locked down the true productivity promised.  By enabling this, we will embrace fully, in a public way, the cloud as the answer to true ubiquitous computing.  As we provide public interfaces in ways that folks have embraced (touch) we will drive rapid and massive adoption, which in turn will drive the costs of such initiatives down while continuing to provide the needed margins to the private sector companies that will arise to build them.

Partnerships

The new thinking that would go along with a shift to a new paradigm gives us the opportunity to create new and stronger bonds in society.  A few things are needed to form those bonds.  A Vibrant Public Sector is a necessary precedent for success.  The debate about the existence of a public sector and its validity needs to end.  Inside public sector organizations they have been understanding their criticisms deeply.  They believe transparency in operations will be the most effective way to accomplish the needed changes.  With a transparent and efficient public sector (with a deep understanding of the term efficient in a public sector context) the focus can be on what citizens want most from their government.  It will result in a refocusing of resources on growth oriented ideas. First, government should effort to create platforms for service delivery as opposed to direct delivery whenever possible.  When that is not possible, direct delivery of services should be accomplished with as low a cost structure as possible to accomplish the public good.  This balancing act will require wide spread and crowdsourced engagement to be successful.  This refocusing of resources will allow for the development of needed technological infrastructure whenever needed to accomplish the public good.  So, resources for ubiquitous broadband deployment can be achieved at a mill rate that is accessible to the average taxpayer.  Public touch screens would allow for efficient public transportation increasing regional productivity in the same fashion while allowing the private sector to deliver the actual applications that enable it.  Government as a platform will allow us to achieve greater and more rapid growth and will allow us to repair our public sector trust issues.

The refocusing of resources in the public sector will allow for a more efficient capital structure for private sector firms.  An Efficient and Growing Private Sector is also a necessary precondition of success.  Removing infrastructure barriers that can now be funded in the public sphere, the private sector will have a platform to deploy on, which is open, allowing for growth in both domestic product as well as in public goods.  A virtuous cycle is created allowing public investment to drive instead of frustrate private sector growth and that private sector growth will similarly drive the unity and progress of the public sphere.  The growth in the private sector will also result in extensible product lines that benefit from public investment but no longer require it to flourish.  The development of efficient public transportation routing, for instance, can easily be adapted to private logistic company needs generating a multiplier effect in the market.

Global and Local Crowdsourced Governance will allow the public to stay engaged in growth initiatives.  Decisions will need to be made regarding what items are platform related or intended for direct service delivery.  Local decisions can be driven locally and the open processes will allow the input to be gathered and shared globally.  The aggregation of multitudes of local decisions and systems will allow for an elimination of duplication waste in multiple governments while the ongoing agile development cycles will renew opportunities for the private sector, freeing them from making profits reselling existing solutions and instead put their capital to work on new and never ending issues to place into the public platforms or private initiatives.

New Social Contract (Public/Private Agreement) – An end to the war between the public and private sectors is the only way for us to have renewed and sustainable economic and social growth.  We must sit down and discuss and decide on a New Social Contract.  Citizens must control and drive the discussions.  The best part:  we now have all the tools needed to make this happen.  We have strong representatives on the side of the public sector and the private sector.  We have tools that enable broad based and open and transparent collaboration by public crowds.  This may drive wide ranging changes, from entitlements to tax shelters, from the nature of local government to different taxation structures.  It may preserve an awful lot of what we have.  But the one thing that will be certain is that we will all engage in a conversation about what we want, what we need and the future we want to build.  By driving this discussion to surround economic and social growth at the same time, we will be building a future we have consensus around and which will build a world our children can be proud to inherit.

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Are you experienced? Want to change the world? #opengov #gov20

Join the Cloud Revolution at Salesforce.com #gov20 #opengov

Join the Cloud Revolution at Salesforce.com #gov20 #opengov

As many of you know, I now work for an incredible company, Salesforce.com.  One of the best parts about being a part of their revolution is that during this continued economic downtown, we are growing and continue to hire incredibly talented people.  So, for any of you that may have reached out to me during 2011 about coming aboard, I apologize for not being able to respond to you.  That time is now over and I am happy to discuss all of the incredible opportunities at SFDC.  Go to salesforce.com/careers or just shoot me a note. We are growing in every department so regardless of how you are connected to me, take a look and lets get you on the right team.

Imagine working for a company that is intent on changing the world.  We have already changed the technology landscape and now are fully embracing the social enterprise revolution.  Imagine being a part of the fight to bring social technology to the public square.   Those limits you feel, in your legacy company, with infighting all around, stock prices going nowhere, benefits being cut can all be removed.  Come, join our revolution.

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Korea: T20 Ministers will Drive #gov20 Worldwide

T20 Ministers Meeting Incredible Success for Government 2.0

T20 Ministers Meeting Incredible Success for Government 2.0

I was heartened to hear during my keynote (goto Login Tourism Speakers) and after at the T20 Meeting in Buyeo, Korea, that nations are taking technology adoption to a new level and will continue to drive it from within their national and local tourism bodies.

The Korean organization was particularly aggressive in pursuing new technology adoption to accomplish a number of tasks:

1)  They have decided specifically to drive Government as a Platform and understand that without it the level of investment will be insufficient to support the tourism industry.  They leverage public-private partnerships in ways I have only dreamed of.  Charm Lee, in leading the tourism organizations for the nation is doing an amazing job.

2)  They applications are forward thinking and full of rich media interactions.  In this app, Korea is far ahead of the rest of the world in brand exploitation, sticky web app penetration and thought leadership.  Create your own personalize itinerary based upon your feedback during an interactive movie?  Brilliant.

And the audience attracted by this event was impressive.  from members of the European Commission, to tourism leaders from nearly every major country on the planet, to the UN, the T20 meeting was an incredible success.

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Oldie but Goodie – Plinth Project Could Guide Future of #ows #soc5

Silence can be a message, what if #ows embraced the 4thPlinth ideal?

Silence can be a message, what if #ows embraced the 4thPlinth ideal?

The #soc5 this week is really #soc1.  I want to highlight some incredible public art that embraces the Social Enterprise ethic.  The One & Other Project by Anthony Gormley in 2009 in the UK really exemplifies the magic that can happen when the Social Enterprise is unveiled.  While it was a 2009 effort, the residue remains online today in significant ways and the current “Occupy” efforts could learn a great deal about how to organize a global resistance movement in a way that embraces their powerful message without the dilution of violence or active challenging resistance.

The project was incredible.  It was a public art project held on the 4th plinth of Trafalgar Square.  Citizens could apply to spend an hour on top of the plinth and they would rotate continually for 100 days in 2009.  They did so in wind, rain and worse and the output was watched by the world.  The interest was immense.  They received over 35,000 applications and over 2400 people took part for their hour of fame.  Flickr and YouTube were active during the event and remain active today.  A community built up over the hashtag #fourthplinth and the experience became a great example of spontaneous organization which creates its own momentum and generates its own organization.

This project highlights the possibilities and the challenges in the social enterprise.  It certainly entails a small amount of risk to the creator or sponsor.  They need to give up the current illusion of control of information in any real sense and enable a democratized version of control.  But the benefits are there too.  By eliminating control techniques, the unseen value beforehand is uncovered.  Much of the presentation was unanticipated.  While some was surely frivolous, some of it was unexpectedly impactful.  And that is the value.  The benefits of the social enterprise are sometimes unseen going in but indisputable coming out.  By accepting the small risk it becomes asymmetrical and the payoff becomes obvious.

 

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