Idea Flow 1.0: From Academy into Action

Written by Duncan Friend, Gov 3.0 Member
The Spring 2014 session of NYU’s Gov 3.0 class is up and running and with it comes a new flood of ideas, experience, and ambitions to change the world – or just a small corner of it – mentored by diverse leaders and change agents from both inside and outside class.Our first get-togethers have exposed some of us to several forms of electronic collaboration for the first time (Google HangoutsTruonex), awakened old Twitter accounts (#Gov30), and produced a continuing chain of email introductions and LinkedIn invites.  We’ve had bigwigs hang out (Mike Bracken) and in (Ania Calderon) and begun working our way through a series of readings and videos to immerse ourselves in the ways technology can help institutions and aspiring policy entrepreneurs to innovate to solve real-world problems.So – Action Research ahead!  In Beth’s post from the start of the semester, she set out two principal goals for the Gov 3.0 class. I’m already down with the program, but what caught my eye was her statement that the addition of an online cohort was an experiment that would “try to connect (fingers crossed) people across a distance or in the same room to mentor, coach, cajole, encourage and support each other’s desires to become more effective problem solvers.” As a doctoral student  in the KU School of Public Affairs and Administration, I have an academic interest in open government and the Rebel Alliance of individuals and institutions they’re seeking to foster to teach and experiment in this space, so this is very exciting.In turn, as the manager of e-Government Initiatives at the Office of the Kansas Secretary of State, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathy Sachs and I are honored to get the chance to bring our Kansas Business Center project to class to find expertise and insights into how we can make the process of interacting with government easier for business, along withinnovative ways to reuse data to improve policy making and drive economic development(.pdf). Pretty ambitious, but not any more so than our fellow students from all over the world. One of our first assignments was to draft a one-page summary of the problem we brought to class to work on and explain why we are passionate about it. At last count, there were over 30 of these, and I have to agree with Beth’s assessment that they were all (awe) inspiring.

Reading through the proposals immediately brought to mind the concept of Idea Flowthat Dr. Alex “Sandy” Pentland of the MIT Media Lab talks about in his new book Social Physics. While the in-person and virtual learners in class come focused on the ideas they pitched to bring them here, we are also willing participants in an experiment in social learning – an experiment that our success depends on. While you can read more about it at the links above and at the GovLab blog post on the topic, to me, the idea is that the connections we create – between us, between the networks we already belong to, and with the new and diverse ideas we expose each other to…will be the biggest asset to our projects.

That said, 30+ projects is a lot to hold in your head in a way that helps you think about ideas or connections that could help. In fact, after reading through them all, here’s how it looks:


Apparently we have something in common <grin>. But, just like the class, it’s what we don’t have in common, the diversity in the “small print” that we’ll need to bring to that big word in the middle to have the best chance of success.

How do we do that? Well, that’s the challenge of this semester. We have some tools, we have a lot of passion, and the ideas are starting to flow.  Two weeks ago, we had an online skill share in class that provided one of the first chances to explore new ideas and learn from the diverse experience of the group. In the mean time, one more idea from research presented in Social Physics:

“The largest factor in predicting group intelligence was the equality of conversational turn-taking.”

 Take your turn at

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