The UK Government has announced its reform programme for the civil service - while this might not sound so exciting, it could mark a significant advance for crowdsourcing better policy and ultimately have profound implications for how government works around the world.
Article contributed by Michael Harris CEO @ Guerilla Policy
Most governments face a similar set of pressures - less revenue, growing deficits, tough-to- crack social problems, eroding public trust and legitimacy. Anyone familiar with how crowdsourcing has helped business and NGOs to develop better ideas, more quickly, from more places, can quickly begin to imagine how it could also help governments develop better policy.
This will be an age of collective action via the internet, as discussed at last month's Personal Democracy Forum in New York . The US Federal government has been using crowdsourcing, especially hosting challenge competitions for solutions, for many years. But as William D. Eggers and Rob Hamill recently pointed out, there are at least five roles that crowdsourcing could play in government - not only competitions but also crowd collaboration, voting, labor and funding.
The UK Government now seems to have got the message. Its recently published civil service reform plan includes potentially radical ideas on â€˜open policymakingâ€™, including:
- commissioning policy development from outside organisations such as think tanks;
- crowdsourcing questions to shape the definition of the problem (not just consulting on solutions);
- using â€˜Policy Labs' to draw in expertise from a range of people and organisations and test new policies before they are implemented;
- making more data available freely so experts can test and challenge approaches effectively; and
using web-based tools, platforms, and new media to widen access to policy debates to individuals and organisations not normally involved.
Perhaps most importantly, the plan has a new "presumption in favour of open policy making, with policy developed on the basis of the widest possible engagement with external experts and those who will have the task of delivering the policy".
For years, experts on government policy & technology have been developing ideas on how policy-making can be (and needs to be) re-thought for the age of social-networking, social media and open online collaboration.
One of the things that is most surprising is the interest and support they are receiving from government departments, given that much of what has been said represents a critique of how policy gets made at the moment.
Government, so often characterized as being resistant to considering new ideas - especially where these ideas are likely to reduce the power of government - should be congratulated for thinking seriously about how to open-up policy.
Despite the current widespread cynicism about politics today, we should take government at its word and seize this opportunity. In the spirit of crowdsourcing, we need to suggest to government how it can use crowdsourcing to produce better policy, and demonstrate this so that it becomes the norm.
Government has opened the door. Now we need to push on it. What do you think? How can we push forward? How can the government use crowdsourcing?