In a recent draft paper (available here, and below), I’ve speculated that enterprise collaboration systems in government can serve to expand the notion of who in government can contribute to policy analysis; and that open data can expand the idea of policy analysis to those working outside of government.
Comments are welcome from any reader. Note that this draft is currently under review and is intended for: Parson, Edward A. (ed.). forthcoming. A Fine Balance: Expertise, Evidence and Democracy in Policy and Governance, 1960-2011. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
“Contemporary Practice in Policy Analysis in the British Columbia Government”
Frank, Friendly, Fearless Friday Seminar Series
University of Victoria – School of Public Administration
Friday September 14, 2012 – 2:30pm
Tom Shoyama Boardroom, HSD A373
Abstract: Policy-making is hard, and it can often be made harder still when the issue or environment is complex. Profound uncertainty, rapid emergence and multiple issue interconnectedness are some of the features of a complex policy environment that challenge public policy makers. One approach to dealing with complexity in a public policy context is horizontality, the act of working across the various ministries and divisions of a government in order to harness the organization’s capacity and resources and direct them towards the solving of the complex problem. And one prominent mechanism for meeting the horizontality challenge is the promotion of greater organization-wide collaboration, knowledge sharing and active knowledge seeking amongst a network of knowledge workers. The emergence of Web 2.0 tools and approaches has raised the possibility that we have entered a new knowledge management era – Enterprise 2.0 – that can address the horizontality problem, facilitate the sharing of knowledge across government and promote transformative governance. Based on semi-structured interviews with policy analysts as members of corporate policy units, and a web-survey of 129 practising policy analysts in the Government of British Columbia, this research is aimed at the question of how governments can deal with the challenge of policy complexity by supporting horizontal policy formulation, and what barriers might stand in the way of the sharing of knowledge and efforts by public servants to collaborate with colleagues. From the web-based survey and the interview data, it appears that attitudes (which measures what the respondents’ values and experience tell them is the right thing to do), followed by norms (measured as what respondents hear from their colleagues and superiors as being important) were the strongest and most consistent predictors of the intention to collaborate and share knowledge. A third measure – perceived behavioural control – was weakest, indicating that while policy analysts may believe and be told that knowledge sharing and collaboration are the optimal path, they may not feel they have the authority or latitude to do so. It also appears that a policy analyst’s organizational social network is instrumental in being able to locate knowledge sources and collaboration opportunities outside of their immediate location. But there was little evidence that technology networks to date play a prominent role in facilitating a knowledge organization; in fact, the data indicate that policy analysts may refrain from sharing knowledge with colleagues using technology networks in order to avoid contributing to their colleagues’ information overload. The significance of the present findings lies in the implications for public sector organizations to provide support for knowledge workers to make effective use of the social network, technology and organizational capacity to jointly solve problems. The results point towards strategies for organizational leaders to promote and support a knowledge organization, and towards tools for policy unit managers and individual policy analysts to navigate the challenge of responding to complex policy issues in a world of too much information and not enough knowledge. Caution is advised that attempts to impose knowledge management technology solutions may face significant barriers where the organizational culture is not aligned with open knowledge sharing and collaboration. The potential power of organizational social networks to bridge between the organization’s various sub-cultures is one possible path for helping to build the knowledge organization.
I had originally meant to stay in the shadows, but I will now be presenting an original paper with the super-long title of “From Massive Mainframes to Massive Data, Databanks to #OpenData, ‘As We May Think’ to Thinking Machines: Computer-Supported Policy Analysis and the Future of Practice.” This will be delivered at the symposium on August 20 2011.
The draft paper is a high-level survey of the application of computer technology in support of the policy analysis function in western governments over the post-World War II period, and points to possible future implications for practicing policy analysts arising from continuing technological developments and as the consequence of three emerging phenomena: the massive data era, the open data movement (something I’ve written on recently) and anticipated advances in artificial intelligence.
It is a very rough working draft, but the basic ideas have been set out. If you’re interested, it can be found here. Comments are really appreciated.
I learned yesterday that the following paper has been selected as the winning essay in the competition held annually in honour of Dr. Sylvia Ostry. Thanks to Dr. Rod Dobell, Jodie Walsh and Julie Longo for comments on an earlier draft, and thank you to the Public Policy and Governance Review at the University of Toronto School of Public Policy and Governance for this honour. This is the pre-publication version; the published version appeared in the Public Policy and Governance Review, Vol. 2, no. 2, p. 38 (May 2011).
#OpenData: Digital-Era Governance Thoroughbred or New Public Management Trojan Horse?
Governments collect, generate and compile vast amounts of digitized data continually – e.g., census and survey work by public statistics agencies (Dillon, 2010), or the monitoring of system conditions across a range of domains from the natural environment to public health (Hodge and Longo, 2002) – as a purposeful data-collection activity aimed at fuelling policy-oriented research. In addition, as governments do the things that governing entails – e.g., collecting vital statistics, administering the tax system, recording government operations activity, managing public infrastructure and natural resources, surveying and recording public and private lands, processing regulatory requirements or managing social service delivery – a wealth of digital data is amassed as a result (Cate, 2008).
Recently I Tweeted a link to an article called "How to write 1000 words a day for your blog" which I thought had some good productivity tips for thesis writers. @webnemesis wrote back: " would like to see someone write a blog post on how to write 1000 words of substance for yr dissertation every day". Of course I answered: "Challenge? Accepted!" When I was nearing the end of my PhD, I added up the number of words I had to write and divided them b … Read More
Gov2.0 and the Policy Analyst – Resistance is Not Futile?
Dissertation Proposal Discussion Draft
A Preliminary Outline for a Proposed Research Design
Gov2.0 has emerged in recent years as a particular implementation of e-gov, built on the framework and technologies of Web2.0, such as weblogs and microblogs (e.g., Twitter), wikis (e.g., Wikipedia), social networking (e.g., Facebook) and social tagging (e.g., Delicious). Gov2.0 is defined here as instances where Web2.0 approaches and technologies are applied to public-sector governance, administrative, service-delivery and policy–making functions.
Gov2.0 has a lot of hype attached to it. But is it transformative? That is, does the implementation of Gov2.0 cause significant change in activities of government and governance processes? The proposed research project examines the effect on public policy analysis settings from deploying collaborative information and communication technologies in new ways – specifically whether new Gov2.0 collaboration modes represent transformational technologies in the context of policy development. We have a long experience with the application of computer technology in government settings, but questions continue to arise and the questions themselves have changed: from an era of e-government a decade ago when the questions were principally managerial and technical, the issue is now framed in terms of new Gov2.0 technologies and whether the technology can transform the nature of policy work.