On March 8, 2010, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued guidance to Federal agencies strongly encouraging the use of…crowdsourcing (link to pdf). Specifically, using crowdsourcing to further the objectives of "creating a more transparent, participatory, and collaborative government."
Why? Tim O’Reilly put it quite well last fall when he wrote Gov 2.0: The Promise of Innovation for Forbes:
Meanwhile, with the proliferation of issues and not enough resources to address them all, many government leaders recognize the opportunities inherent in harnessing a highly motivated and diverse population not just to help them get elected, but to help them do a better job. By analogy, many are calling this movement "Government 2.0."
Citizen participation is, unfortunately, limited primarily to voting for officials and bond measures on election days. It’s not people’s fault: we have lives to live, you know. The existing means for adding our input to government decisions are poor, with limited visibility.
Yet what if citizen participation occurred much more easily, much more regularly? Bringing the voice and ideas of the governed to a wider range of issues affecting us would be a powerful mechanism for bringing about improvements.
The private sector is increasingly looking to crowdsourcing and open innovation, as Stefan Lindegaard has chronicled. It’s a trend that led us to release ContestSpigit. The benefits are multiple, and the results are leading more organizations to leverage these approaches.
So it’s great to see the Federal government adopting industry best practices by actively, enthusiastically supporting "the use of prizes and challenges as tools for promoting open government, innovation, and other national priorities." And the White House is savvy in describing the benefits of crowdsourcing:
- Establish an important goal without having to choose the approach or the team that is most likely to succeed;
- Pay only for results;
- Highlight excellence in a particular domain of human endeavor to motivate, inspire, and guide others;
- Increase the number and diversity of the individuals, organizations, and teams that are addressing a particular problem or challenge of national or international significance;
- Improve the skills of the participants in the competition;
- Stimulate private sector investment that is many times greater than the cash value of the prize;
- Further a Federal agency’s mission by attracting more interest and attention to a defined program, activity, or issue of concern; and
- Capture the public imagination and change the public’s perception of what is possible.
That’s a great set of benefits that can apply to any type of crowdsourcing initiative. At the local level, the City of Manor has been working with Spigit for Government to do exactly what the Federal government is planning. Here’s how Manor CIO Dustin Haisler described the effort on GovLoop (registration required):
On October 27, in conjunction with the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, the City of Manor launched Manor Labs (http://www.manorlabs.org). The Manor Labs platform is a Software as a Service (SaaS) powered by Spigit, designed to crowdsource our governmental research & development. One of the most successful components of the platform has been the “gaming” or “incentive” component. In order to build sustainable engagement on the platform, individuals are ranked and rewarded based on their input into the process. Participants receive “Innobucks” for various actions (commenting, voting, etc.), which can be reinvested in other ideas or traded in for tangible products and the Manor Labs Store. This points-based innovation doesn’t just reward the people who have ideas that are implemented; it rewards everyone who participates in the process.
How do I know the system works?
With a population of 6,500 people, only 35 full-time employees (including police) and very little budget; we have implemented 5 solutions since the platform’s launch a few months ago.
Local experimentation has borne fruit, and delivered results. Great to see the concept move up to the Federal level. Kudos to the White House for challenging conventional thinking here, and applying advanced principles of innovation to help solve our challenges.
(Cross-posted @ the Spigit Blog)