By the members of the MacArthur Research Network on Opening Governance

A New Paradigm: Opening Governance

Society is confronted by a number of increasingly complex problems — inequality, climate change, access to affordable healthcare — that often seem intractable. Existing societal institutions, including government agencies, corporations and NGOs, have repeatedly proven themselves unable to tackle these problems in their current composition. Unsurprisingly, trust in existing institutions is at an all-time low.

  • to guide the targeted advancement of Network activities;
  • to catalyze opportunities for further collaboration and knowledge exchange between Network members and those working in the field at large.

Open Governance = Collaborative and Data Driven Governance

The Network has identified two lines of research that, taken together, can radically transform our understanding of how to open governance most effectively, and represent a new science of open governance:

  1. Data-Driven Governance –Explores how governing institutions can leverage quantitative evidence (including big, open and small data) to improve decision-making.

I. Collaborative Governance

Central Themes: Collective Intelligence, Cross-Institutional Collaboration, Expert Networking, Incentives for Co-creation and Participation, Citizen Science, Open Innovation

  • What kinds of incentives best catalyze participation?
  • How can different actors in the same space best be encouraged to collaborate? How can experts working in separate disciplines develop a common vocabulary to enable knowledge sharing and undertake collaborative work?
  • How can new, technology-enabled opportunities for initiating change be communicated to engineers and others capable of acting on those opportunities?
  • How can institutions be re-designed to become more collaborative?
  • What are the ethical implications of fostering collaborative governance, particularly in the form of public-private partnerships?
  • Data Science Expert Network –a platform for collecting and making searchable the skills, experiences and interests of data scientists so that they may be used to create new opportunities for participation in efforts to address public problems.
  • DCENT — a Europe-wide project creating privacy-aware tools and applications for direct democracy and economic empowerment.
  • Distributed Internet Governance — the exploration of tools and techniques for improving Internet governance and, subsequently, informing the development of a roadmap for 21st Century distributed global governance.
  • Fostering Collaboration Between Fire Departments — developing pathways for distributed fire departments to share knowledge and better coordinate responses to emergencies.
  • Harvard Ether Dome Challenge — a prize-backed challenge undertaken at Massachusetts General Hospital seeking to determine the optimal incentives for participation in crowdsourcing projects.
  • Open Government Network of Innovators — the development and study of an expert network connecting government innovators around the world to enable knowledge sharing and targeted requests for information.
  • Smarter Crowdsourcing at the FDA — testing the effectiveness of expert networking in the staffing of regulatory review panels of medical devices.
  • Nesta: an innovation charity with a mission to help people and organizations bring great ideas to life.
  • MIT Media Lab: actively promoting a unique, antidisciplinary culture, the MIT Media Lab creates disruptive technologies that happen at the edges, pioneering such areas as wearable computing, tangible interfaces, and affective computing.
  • Collaboration with the Social Labs Community to share best practices and develop new initiatives with those working on the front line of governance innovation (First meeting will take place in July 2015 at Nesta, UK).

2. Data-Driven Governance

Central Themes: Big Data, Open Data, Small Data, User-Centered Design

  • Small data: information on the activity of an individual, collected by a business or institution and made accessible to that individual; and
  • Open data: the release of data — often government data — to the public, in formats that enable easy access and re-use.
  • What types of information contributed by a citizen or community are most useful in developing and optimizing public services, and how can that information be made actionable?
  • How can data be analyzed for or by governing institutions to uncover new opportunities for change?
  • How can distributed governance stakeholders better coordinate to improve outcomes?
  • Crosscloud — a set of protocols and tools focused on giving Internet users greater control over their personal data.
  • Digitally-Enabled Distributed Ethnography — fostering human-centered public innovation through a greater understanding of both citizens and people working in the public sector.
  • Quantified Communities — drawing on citizen input and data to prioritize strategic investments in infrastructure, housing and business development in Arizona.
  • Open Data, Networks, and Entrepreneurship — the mapping of an emerging ecosystem of open data businesses, including collaborators, competitors and business perceptions of how they fit within the open data community and the larger startup environment.
  • See Something, Tweet Something (Designing Governance to Combat Sexual Violence) — leveraging social media data to improve the reporting of and response to sexual violence in India and Arizona.
  • Small Data Derived Behavioral Insights to Mold and Sustain Healthy Household Choices — providing individuals with data regarding the choices they make at the grocery store to inform more healthy decisionmaking.
  • Harvard Berkman Center: a research center with the mission to explore and understand cyberspace; to study its development, dynamics, norms, and standards; and to assess the need or lack thereof for laws and sanctions
  • MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory: the largest research laboratory at MIT, which studies three key focus areas: artificial intelligence, systems and theory.

III. A New Science of Governance Innovation

Bringing together the Collaborative and Data-Driven Governance streams to yield new insights into Opening Governance as whole and to develop a new science of governance innovation. To date, the contours of open governance have not been clear, and its study has been largely ad hoc rather than scientific. By defining the two core strands of open governance and developing empirical, systematic means for studying them individually and collectively, the field can be pushed forward into a more rigorous and well-defined area of scientific study.

News and insights from the @macfound Research Network on Opening Governance

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