We live in an era of unprecedented technological innovation with ingenious new advances for achieving clean energy, eradicating disease and providing greater wellness, more equitably and effectively delivering education, and improving the quality of human existence and expression. At the same time, we are experiencing clear deficits within centralized institutions of government and civil society: deficits of agility, innovation and capacity.
These traditional institutions are failing to tap into the diversity of expertise and experience of individuals and communities, rendering us less able to quickly discover, recognize, implement and scale innovative approaches to pressing problems and making it impossible to translate technological innovation into social progress.
Our current system of centralized government institutions is designed for an earlier age of limited, one-way communication. Consider:
- Our 18th century model of voting for representatives doesn’t maximize the flow of personal or community preferences from people to government.
- Our19th century addition of professional bureaucracy doesn't maximize the flow of expertise, widely distributed in society.
Put another way, we can’t make the best decisions in government on how to improve people’s lives if we limit public participation and feedback to voting every few years. And we can’t adequately take advantage of people’s talents, abilities and desire to play a role in governing if we relegate their service to civic engagement disconnected from the real power, money and decision-making.
Governments appropriate plenty for innovation in society. They fund research grants; invest in broadband infrastructure; support science education. But they spend next to nothing on reinventing government institutions by informing and empowering citizen to participate. There is no other industry, and not one as big as the public sector, that doesn’t regularly improve on its core business model.
New technology has the potential to transform governance and produce a more open and participatory political culture with effective institutions that engender trust.
New technology makes collaborative problem solving possible. In this course, we explore how we might use technology -- from big data to social media -- to redesign our systems of governance to devolve power from centralized, hierarchical institutions and evolve more robust collaboration among individuals, groups and institutions including government and the media.
Through blogging assignments, discussions and a final design project, participants will apply what we learn about innovation to the issues about which they are the most passionate.
- At the Start of Term – Each student will define a focus area and set up an individual or group blog on the topic(s) of greatest interest. For example, one or more students might create a blog on innovation and veterans’ affairs or tech and poverty alleviation or participatory governance and New York City. The goal of the blogs is to demonstrate mastery and engagement while exploring ways to use tech-enabled participatory strategies for addressing challenges. We will provide assistance with getting every student set up with a blog and associated Twitter feed.
- Before Each Class – Students will watch the assigned video and prepare the readings prior to each class. All videos will be freely available on the web and all materials will be distributed in a course reader or available freely online. For additional reading on the topics of the course, there are four books I recommend purchasing: Beth Noveck, Wiki Government (2009); Steven Johnson, Future Perfect (2012); Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (2010); Laurel Ruma, ed., Open Government (2010)(link). You should either buy a tech dictionary or be prepared to look up terms online.
- In Class – Students will attend and participate actively. Please arrive in class prepared to discuss readings and videos. Because lectures will be online and watched prior to class, class time will be used for conversations, demonstrations, and design problems. Attendance at all classes, given our limited time together, is essential: if you must be absent, let me know in advance.
- After Class – Students will write a blog posting on their blog (or a guest post on another class blog) reflecting on how the innovations discussed that week (with specific references to the assigned videos and readings) could lead to improvements or challenges for their field of interest. Students will complete five short and five longer postings.
- Final Assignment– Students will design a policy innovation in their area of interest and prepare a written and 5-minute multimedia presentation of their design (Presentation Sign-Up)
- Design a project involving Neighbors Helping Neighbors--decentralized peer production--in an area that you are passionate about. In other word, this should be a problem centrally focused on getting decentralized groups of people to collaborate to the end of improving lives.
- Create a project page on Truonex.com
- Upload your project by May 15th. Your project should include the following:
- Write the headline that will appear the day after the launch of your project in the New York Times
- Write the tweet to pitch your project
- Write the detailed project description in five pages, answering the following questions (supplement your text with video, photos, mockups or doodles to explain your project)
- What problem does it solve?
- Why does the problem matter and need solving?
- How do people collaborate to solve the problem?
- What tools will they use?
- What incentives will you put in place to encourage them to work together?
- How much is it likely to cost?
- What will it take to implement? Who has agreed to do what? What kind of partnerships need to be formed?
- What can government do to make this project work better?
- How do you measure success?
Prerequisites: Intro to Policy or by permission of the Professor. No formal technology training assumed or required. But an interest in technology is a must.
Grading: Your grade will comprise: Blog postings (40%); Final Project (40%); and Informed, class participation (20%).
Book Access: Wiki government : how technology can make government better, democracy stronger, and citizens more powerful / Noveck, Beth Simone
Wiki Government Electronic Version
Holdings:NYU Bobst Main Collection (JK1764 .N68 2009 & JK1764 .N68 2009)