Dissertation Proposal Outline – Revised Discussion Draft

Gov2.0 and Collaborative Policy Formulation in the British Columbia Government

Problem Statement: How are Gov2.0 technology and methods affecting collaborative policy formulation in the British Columbia government?

Overview

I am proposing to investigate how individuals and policy units within the government of the province of British Columbia are using Gov2.0 technologies and methods in the policy formulation process, as applied both to within-government bureaucratic interaction and outwards through citizen-engagement activities, with reference to the ongoing challenge of horizontal, collaborative policy management. My aim is to develop a theory of Gov2.0-supported collaborative policy formulation, tentatively labelled Policy-Formulation2.0.

Methods

Using inductive methods derived from the organizational research / network analysis paradigm, the analysis will be oriented around the concept of social capital as demonstrated in policy networks. This approach will be used to investigate the relationship between social capital and policy-network-wide holistic collaboration in processes of policy formulation, with the presence of Gov2.0 technologies and work-modes treated as a mediating technology.

The research will aim at three levels of analysis:

  • individual policy analyst perspective – what policy analysts do and how they do it continues to change (Roy, 2008, Howlett and Lindquist, 2004; Howlett, 2009). While the Web2.0-related opportunities and implications for information workers generally have been explored (e.g., McAfee, 2006), the implications for public policy analysts have received limited attention (McNutt, 2008; Edwards and Hoefer, 2010). This perspective will look at the policy analyst as an actor within a network assessing issues such as who they connect with (i.e., their social network), how they manage and share knowledge, what technologies they use and how they operate within a whole organization.
    • Data gathering instruments: survey (pan-organizational) and interviews (small number, e.g., 15).
  • policy unit perspective – Gov2.0 is having profound effects on collaborative work (McAfee, 2006; Taylor-Smith and Cruickshank, 2010). In this respect, Gov2.0 represents a continuation of previous CSCW (computer-supported collaborative work) systems and technologies (Koch, 2008); but by virtue of Web2.0’s open architecture, Gov2.0 expands the notion of the relevant CSCW-unit to a broader network – both within government and outward to civil society (O’Reilly, 2010). This perspective will address how different policy units organize policy formulation as a work-group exercise, and how the relevant policy network infiltrates those work-groups via Gov2.0 technologies and work modes. Measures of different policy units’ openness and collaborative approaches, how they use technology in support of policy formulation and how they interact with other policy units (their organizational networks) will be undertaken. Do differences in collaborative style, social capital within units and between units, and the use of technology change the formulation process, the skills required to develop policy, and/or outcomes of policy analysis?
    • Data gathering instruments: Document analysis, process analysis, structured and semi – structured interviews with members (approx. 5 per unit) of a small number of policy units (4).
  • process perspective – Gov2.0 has sparked renewed interest in government’s use of citizen engagement processes in order to inform policy development and enhance democracy (Morrison, 2010). A range of new tools and approaches are emerging to support the concept of Citizen-Engagement2.0 (CE2.0). This perspective will address how a specific policy unit within the BC Government – the Water Protection and Sustainability Branch in the Ministry of Environment – has undertaken a government-led policy formulation process using CE2.0 to engage stakeholders and citizens in a broadly cast policy formulation discussion.  In addition, because the policy issue under consideration in this case – modernization of the province’s Water Act – involves a complex policy formulation exercises that entails working across administrative and departmental divides, this section will explicitly investigate how Gov2.0 tools and modes applied within and across government have contributed to the meeting of the objective of collaborative, horizontal governance.
    • Data gathering instruments: case study of the Water Act Modernization process, Government of British Columbia, 2009-2011. Document analysis, process analysis, interviews with participants.

I am anticipating that these levels of analysis – individual, policy unit and policy process – will each lead to a separate publication. The complete dissertation, then, would be a document that brings together the three sections into a coherent whole.

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