“You Wouldn’t Understand Because You’re Not Actually a Public Servant!”
abhi nemani

I am reminded by Michael Lipsky’s Street level bureaucracy when I read your encounter, Abhi

He talks about how the police officer, the teacher, the social worker etc. are the eventual implementers of whatever app/algo/policy that is designed far away from where the action is. Economists tend to call this the Principal Agent problem.

Principal Agent Dilemma

These street level bureaucrats are also often on the chopping block when the afore-mentioned policy breaks down or doesn’t appear to be delivering expected results. That’s where I think this perception that advisors, consultants, civic tech startup folks are far-removed / insulated from the on-the-street reality and so “don’t belong” or “don’t get it”. *Love to be called out if wrong here :)

Sometimes, civic tech doesn’t get it either because no matter how much human centered design is spoken of and rah-rah’d, the end-user, I’d argue, is often and incorrectly presumed to be the “oh-so-noble” citizen when whatever is being designed should probably be for the proverbial street level bureaucrat as end-user with the recognition that the citizen is the end-beneficiary. There are some solid examples where this happens in civic tech land.

Apologies if sounding pedantic and Kudos for bringing attention to this curious phenomena of in-group out-group.

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