During the Clinton Administration, I had the good fortune to be a certified National ITS Architecture expert. That meant I could travel around and help local, state and regional governments build their regional Intelligent Transportation Systems architectures. At the center of this was a cooperative element: regions needed a cooperative regional architecture that had at least a modicum of information sharing in order to get federal ITS dollars.
It worked like a charm. I saw regions that previously and pervasively were at each others’ throats come together to create partnerships. When the Clintonian soft-fuzzy handcuffs were taken away by the subsequent administration, many of these partnerships predictably fell apart.
Why? Because it’s hard to collaborate in a combative environment.
Policy, in corporations or business, isn’t a neutered word. Vision, policy, and culture are often as easy as stating an intent and then putting some good rules behind it.
For Clinton, it was to make money contingent on good regional collaborative governance.
For the Obama administration, it is transparency, collaboration and participation. The stimulus package has ample hooks in it to support these goals.
The Obama Transparency and Open Government memo defines the benefits as:
Transparency: Promotes Accountability
Participatory: Improves effectiveness and decision making
Collaborative: Engages the general public in public sector work
I will add a few outcomes I can see here:
Introspection: Government and the public will become less hostile because information and respect is now a currency.
Cost Cutting: Procurement inefficiencies, poorly understood value streams and duplication of effort will become much more visible and less tolerated.
Grumbling, Bitching and Contention: Yay! When you discuss some things they can really annoy you. Government is huge and it does a whole lot. If you think you are annoyed at some of the policies of the company you work for … well, this is going to be like working for 30,000 companies simultaneously. Prepare to have an opinion and for others to have one too. In short, it’s politics!
Does Grumbling negate Introspection? Nope.
Collaboration isn’t easy, especially in a political world with hundreds of years of historic drama. We are bringing in as many people as want to participate, many of whom have felt disenfranchised, have agendas of their own, and are generally undereducated about what they are complaining about.
There will be growing pains.
Today’s communications technology gives us a new and unique ability to have an actual participatory democracy. Recent advances have led people to gravitate to camps of like-minded individuals, creating camps of group think and spin-up. This is natural.
Government 2.0 initiatives could well be the place where people of differing opinions can come and have good and vital conversations. Whether Government 2.0 sites will have the savvy community management to foster productive conversation remains to be seen.