Principles for the Transition in NYC

(with Joel Gurin, The GovLab)

Two evenings ago, several of us from the GovLab had a chance to present our work at Talking Transition – a two-week open conversation on the future of NYC (post the mayoral elBZmxHCmCcAEHMmqection).The event, held in a massive tent set up in lower Manhattan, has included panels, community feedback sessions, and even skits on issues like employment, environment, incarceration, and all the major challenges a major city faces.

Our GovLab panel was part of a session on “21st Century City: The Social Impact of Data and Technology.”  This opportunity required us to boil down the GovLab’s philosophy and identify 4 core principles for the transition in NYC – advice that we believe could be adopted by the incoming New York City leadership or by the leadership of almost any city.

Principle 1: DO-LEARN-DO

We describe our core operating principle as “do-learn-do.” In the same way that agile software development works by iteration – build something, try it, adjust it, and build some more – we believe that civic innovation can best proceed through experimentation and on-going assessment of the results. By adopting the concepts of agility and empirical analysis of what works the incoming New York City Leadership could position itself at the forefront of inspired city management.

The GovLab has identified three major “lines of inquiry” that we’re studying through our “do-learn-do” model. For each line we are developing a set of living labs. Our premise is that a deeper understanding of these lines can make city government more effective and legitimate. They include:

Principle 2: Tap into Public Expertise

For the next year, The GovLab’s main research focus is on Smarter Governance: Getting Knowledge In. We’re now launching the ExpertNet project, as well as other initiatives, to help cities around the world draw on the knowledge and expertise of their citizens.  “Tapping expertise” can mean anything from drawing on experienced scientists to advise the city on environmental problems, to holding hackathons where young tech geniuses can contribute what they know. We’ve posted here our Smarter Governance research agenda for you to view and annotate.

Principle 3: Leverage Open data for Social Good.

Open data on city finances, transportation, social services, health care, and many other kinds of government data can promote accountability, spur innovation, and fuel new ventures. The GovLab is studying how open government data can be made most useful to both private enterprise and civic organizations.

Principle 4: Share Responsibility with Citizens.

When citizens take on some of the decision-making traditionally done by government, the result can be greater engagement, community relevance, and better decisions. At the GovLab, we’re studying participatory budgeting – both as a new development in itself and as a model for shared responsibility.

We hope our work will continue to be of use to governments around the world – including the New York City government here at home.

You can read more about our work and these lines of inquiry at thegovlab.org. Check-out also:

Open Government Knowledge Base …a collaborative, wiki-style repository of information and research at the nexus of technology, governance and citizenship.

The GovLab Academy…an online training community that uses technology and innovation to tackle public problems

The GovLab Digest…a curated selection of major developments, findings, and views related to how we improve people’s lives by changing how we govern, delivered weekly.

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