Tag Archives: Social Responsibility

Serving citizens best by collaborating with them

by Craig Thomler

Government runs on rules. Policies, processes and procedures designed to address every contingency and plan for every possible risk in order to provide equity, stability and certainty.

However, as experience has shown time and time again, we cannot predict the future.

While we continually attempt to plan ahead, largely these plans are based on extrapolating past trends and experiences.

This has served us well in times of relatively stable and slow-changing societies and provides enormous capability to mobilise and focus resources towards a few large and separate goals.

However it doesn’t work as effectively during rapidly changing conditions where there are a myriad of interlocking issues. The approach can also neglect large and important changes, which are often discontinuous and almost totally unpredictable.

History is littered with enormous societal, economic and cultural shifts brought on by unpredictable innovations; gunpowder, the printing press, steam-power, radio, television and, most recently, the internet.

Each of these – and other – innovations profoundly changed how societies operated, destroying industries and creating a stream of new inventions, professions and both political and cultural challenges in their wake.

In hindsight we can often see very clearly how these changes unfolded and they can appear historically as an evolutionary process. However when living just before or during these enormous shifts it is virtually impossible for most individuals or organisations to predict outcomes ten, five, two or even a single year ahead.

I believe we are living in this type of time right now. The invention of the internet, progress in nano and bio technologies and in alternative – hopefully sustainable – sources of energy is in the process of increasingly rapidly reshaping our world. At the same time we are facing the consequences of previous disruptive innovations – most notably climate change, fuelled by enormous levels of fossil fuel use over two hundred years and population growth, fuelled by improvements in food technology and medicine.

This becomes a time of enormous challenge for governments. How do we extrapolate trends, develop policies, acknowledge and address risks which didn’t exist a few years ago?

How do we continue to serve the public appropriately when the time required to plan, develop and implement national infrastructure is greater than the effective lifespan of that infrastructure?

How do we let go of faltering systems to embrace new ways of developing and implementing policy without losing continuity of governance?

And how long can we continue to govern incrementally when living in an exponential world?

We’re in a place where there are many more questions than answers. Issues are ever more complex and multi-faceted and can no longer be in silos. Our organisations need to be more flexible and adaptive in response to an increasingly assertive community who often have better tools and information than the government departments servicing them.

Fortunately the disruptive technologies we are developing also allow us to approach many of these challenges collectively on a national and international scale.

We have the means to mobilise the brainpower of a nation – or many nations – using the internet and simple crowdsourcing tools.

We’ve already seen communities emerge online where companies ask their insolvable questions publicly, allowing scientists, academics and the general public to discuss and provide suggestions.

We’ve also seen governments willing to ask questions of their constituents, rather than rely on traditional stakeholders, academics and bureaucrats to have all the answers.

I hope over the coming years we see Australian governments embrace serendipity rather than attempt unsuccessfully to chain it. I hope we see bureaucrats and citizens working collaboratively to address major issues, working in adaptive and flexible configurations rather than rigid silos, stepping beyond ‘consultation’ towards participatory policy development and evolution.

This will require courage on the part of elected officials and senior public servants alike. It will require different types of leadership and thinking, better communications and a broader focus on connecting people over managing fixed resources.

Can we achieve this step from where we are today?

I’m optimistic that we can, but it will take significant work and pain to achieve.

Crowdsourcing ideas at US Homeland Security

Sourced with compliments from: http://www.informationweek.com/news/government/info-management/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=221600274

The federal agency plans to adopt the Transportation Security Administration’s IdeaFactory crowd-sourcing application to encourage brainstorming by employees.

The Department of Homeland Security is latching onto one of the Transportation Security Administration’s most innovative IT initiatives, a Web 2.0 crowd-sourcing portal called IdeaFactory. Like TSA, Homeland Security will use the platform to encourage its employees to come forward with new ideas on how to do things.

IdeaFactory is a custom-built, .NET Web application that lets employees submit ideas for new programs and rule changes. Other users can rate the ideas, comment on them, pick favorites, and forward them to others. When a proposal gets enough attention, it’s sent to an “idea committee” that reviews it and decides what steps to take. It’s essentially a digital, and transparent, ideas box.

The effort has been deemed a success at TSA, where 25,000 employees have posted 9,000 ideas, left 78,000 comments, and submitted 270,000 ratings. It’s led to the creation of more than 40 programs, such as the family security lanes at TSA-screened airports.

The White House has taken notice, featuring IdeaFactory on its Web site as an example of what the Obama administration is looking for in its open government initiative, and a few other agencies have mimiced the approach.

A plan to expand IdeaFactory was introduced earlier this year; DHS expects to make it available to all employees by January.

“This will definitely increase morale by allowing employees to give direct feedback, and it will also let us better communicate and share ideas,” said Larry Orluskie, IdeaFactory program manager at DHS, in an interview.

DHS is a larger organization than TSA, and DHS will have to work through technology and process issues for IdeaFactory to work there.

To help with that, DHS has assembled a 30-person group of representatives from each of its major divisions (Customs and Border Protection, Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and others) and its headquarters. The group, called the IdeaFactory Council, is putting processes in place that mirror TSA’s. One of its mandates will be to promote the adoption of ideas across the agency’s units.

DHS will encourage use of IdeaFactory internally, so that it doesn’t fall flat, and support is coming from the top. DHS secretary Janet Napolitano and deputy secretary Jane Holl Lute have been “very engaged” in the plan, said Orluskie.

Corporate Social Responsibility + Social Media = Promise of Transformation

Sourced with compliments from

http://www.csrwire.com/csrlive/commentary_detail/1257-Corporate-Social-Responsibility-Social-Media-Promise-of-Transformation

“This is a world of transparency, openness, two-way dialogue with your constituents… I just think that’s part of the game today.” So said GE CEO Jeff Immelt in response to a question I posed to him, on how his company uses web 2.0 tools to engage with its stakeholders on sustainability issues, last week at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco (see it here – scroll to 23:15). “If you’re not willing to be completely transparent on just about everything you do, and if you can’t tolerate life in a world where you’re sharing information openly and getting input from lots of different people, where they have the ability to critique, criticize, have inputs… you better find a new profession,” he said.

I was there gathering material for a research fellowship I’m conducting with Marcy Murninghan and Bob Massie on web 2.0 and corporate accountability for the Harvard-Kennedy Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative, with the Summit sandwiched between the JustMeans Social Media for Sustainability and the Business for Social Responsibility conferences. The week’s takeaways: web 2.0 holds great promise to transform the way companies engage with stakeholders, but we are still way early in the innovation curve on using web 2.0 to advance corporate sustainability and accountability!

That said, web 2.0 has already radically transformed conference power dynamics: gone is the one-way transmission of information from the stage that privileges presenters; now, thanks to Twitter and hashtags, the audience voices itself in a meta-dialogue transpiring in real-time during presentations. For example, we who followed the #justmeans hashtag throughout that conference participated in creating a steady stream of comments, criticisms, questions – and “distillations” that I characterized as a “subtle art,” sometimes capturing points better than they’re presented. Kudos to Natural Logic CEO Gil Friend for best distillation — of InnoCentive CEO Dwayne Spradlin: “Crowdsourcing vs outsourcing requires profound organizational change.”

Harnessing the power of crowdsourcing, “Getting the Message Out” panel moderator Chad Boettcher of Weber Shandwick projected the conference Twitter feed on the screen to display audience questions for Treehugger Founder Graham Hill, TriplePundit Co-Publisher Ryan Mickle, and JustMeans Managing Director Deb Berman. “I was really happy with this use of distributive technology,” said CSRwire Chair Joe Sibilia, who I ran into at both the JustMeans and BSR conferences.

Joe and I shared our concern about web 2.0 in the CSR space focusing exclusively on money-making opportunities, such as brand enhancement, to the distraction of more promising transformative opportunities, such as leveraging its connective power for movement-building. We agreed that the CSR-social media connection needs to balance its business case with its change agency.

Measuring financial or social return on investment remains elusive, however. In the “How to Calculate the ROI of Social Media” panel, “the panelists could not give one compelling business reason for the return on investment in using social networking tools,” said Joe. “Many of my colleagues are trying to measure the amount of time and effort to expend on this new technology, and that’s why we went. We left the meeting with an empty feeling about the content, with this question unanswered…”