The workshop gathered 40 leading mathematical modellers, infectious disease researchers, clinicians and public health officials from around the world to explore the past and future contribution of the mathematical modelling to public health policy, the priorities for future research, and potential ways to enhance the relationship between the research community and public health officials.
Debategraph was used throughout the five-day workshop to the map the live discussions and to facilitate the group dialogue around the key points arising – with group members contributing directly to the map as the workshop proceeded.
Thanks to David Osimo‘s pioneering energy and imagination (and the enabling support of FutureGov and Headshift), I was privileged to have the opportunity to outline some of the thinking behind Debategraph at the European Commission’s Public Services 2.0 workshop in Brussels last month.
As David described in the agenda for the workshop:
“Over the last 3 years, we have seen a dramatic rise in user driven, web 2.0 style initiatives in and around public sector service provision. Initiatives such as Patient Opinion, Farmsubsidy and Theyworkforyou all seek to challenge, disrupt and improve on traditional models of public service delivery from the outside, built on the web 2.0 principles of openness, transparency and sharing.
Against this background the workshop “aimed to bring together the best experiences from all over Europe” to: share experience and knowledge between the people running the web 2.0 initiatives; promote a surge of collaborative initiatives; and raise awareness and better understanding between government officials about why and how to promote web 2.0 in government.
As Jimmy observed in his blog on the Huffington Post, mastery of internet campaigning is not the same as delivering government via the web. So it has been fascinating the observe the first edemocratic steps on Obama’s Change.gov site.
The Change.gov process so far has included blogging, YouTube insights and feedback (example below), threaded commenting, and the admirable step of opening up the content on the site via a Creative Commons license—and the volume and variety of the feedback on the discussions around health care (3,701 comments) and the economy (3,563 and counting) illustrate the potential and the challenges involved in processes of this kind.
Sustaining this openness to iterative experimentation will be one of the keys to fulfilling the transition team’s early promise beyond the inauguration. In part, this is because the capabilities of the web are evolving rapidly. YouTube and Twitter, for example, two of the most significant on-line tools used during the campaign, didn’t exist at the time of the last Presidential inauguration (and Twitter was only formally incorporated after Obama declared that he was running for office).
But, more fundamentally, it is because this openness to iterative and collaborative experimentation and improvement is one of the web’s deep lessons and, potentially, contains the means to transform our understanding and experience of governance.
Doc Searls refers to this wider emerging process as the "Live Web", and so, in his honour, we might characterise the opportunity ahead for the Obama transition team as being the chance to the effect significant shift towards "Live Government".
More smart people outside government than within it
For the first time in modern industrial society, governments have the chance to realise the potential embodied in Bill Joy’s observation that there will always be more smart people outside government than within it…
And, in view of the scale and complexity of the challenges faced in the early 21st century, there has never been a more urgent time to realise this latent, distributed potential.
Live Government will take many forms that we can’t see clearly yet; however, two dimensions that seem central to the concept based on current trends are:
(1) Making the data of governance fluid, transparent, mashable and easily discoverable in context; getting the data in front of the people who have a contribution to make, and ensuring that the data is continuously up to date. This trend can be seen in the US in the form the Sunlight Foundation and the recent Apps for Democracy competition—both of which owe something to the pioneering work of the MySociety team in the UK.
(2) Externalising the current policy thinking of government in a open structured form to which people can contribute continuously, directly, precisely, cumulatively, and with a high signal-to-noise ratio. This trend, still comparatively nascent, can be seen in a prototypical form in policy wikis, annotation tools and sensemaking tools (of which Debategraph is an example).
"…we’re inviting the American public to take a seat at the table and engage in a dialogue about these important issues and ideas—at the same time members of our team review these documents themselves."
It will be fascinating to see if the Obama transition team can carry this energised enthusiasm into office.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the development of the map over the last week, and to the people below for helping the map meme to circulate in the blogosphere:
The granular addressability is shown at the paragraph level in this example; however, CommentPress—which is being applied imaginatively to several publicconsultations in the UK—allows the user to define a deeper level of granularity, enabling a finer one-to-one correspondence between the source document and the map.
The hope embodied in this experiment is that in the build up to the Presidential election in November it might be possible exemplify the potential of the emerging web technologies to shift the modus of political debate (a degree or two) away from the calculated cacophony of ephemeral soundbites toward a more considered, constructive and cumulative conversation.
If you are willing to help in the pursuit of this goal—working on the transcripts, mapping and tying together the arguments, highlighting inconsistencies and areas of agreement, and holding the candidates transparently accountable to their words—please join us.
It was a fascinating day, exploring the Information Society Directorate’s long-term research agenda in this field, against a background, outlined by David BrosterHead of Unit for eGovernment and CIP Operations, of the movement of web 2.0 tools from the social and professional domain into the political and policy domains (see slide below).
“Only connect… Live in fragments no longer.” E. M. Forster, Howards End (1910).
The lightweight, collaborative, multiway technologies emerging across the web, and the new patterns of social interaction associated with them, are about to transform the shape of government, our experience of government, and our participation in government. To misquote Clay Shirky: government that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for.
But what kinds of government will emerge from this process?
A less Hierarchical Public Sector: Government 2.0 will have moved away from command and control, devolving much more decision-making to local units and frontline staff.
A Collaborative, Joined-up Public Sector: Government 2.0 will offer a more joined-up face to citizens and will use collaborative models and tools to break down silo barriers, maximise the use of precious resources and dramatically reduce process time cycles.
A Public Purpose Sector: The boundaries of Government 2.0 will be wider and more flexible, enabling creation of public value by a ‘public purpose’ sector which will be much broader and more diverse than the traditional public sector.
Empowered Citizens: Government 2.0 will enable citizens to do more for themselves, either individually or collectively, as co-producers of services and shapers of public policies.
A Feedback-driven Public Sector: Government 2.0 will be radically closer to citizens and will give multiple and real opportunities for feedback, and will ensure the feedback has a real impact in shaping its decisions.
Open and Transparent Government: Government 2.0 will be radically more open and transparent than current models in relation to policy making, service delivery, internal administration and accountability processes.
Facilitative Government: Government 2.0 will see government’s role shift much more towards creating context, orchestrating and facilitating, rather than controlling and delivering, public discourse and service delivery.