Announcing the Center’s Challenge Grant Competition Recipients
Earlier this year, our Center welcomed proposals on ideas about government management and operations two decades from now, as we mark two decades bringing similar ideas to government since 1998. We received close to 80 proposals with creative thoughts on alternative scenarios for the future of government, and we are grateful to all of the applicants who brought ideas forward. The five finalists will write as individual subject matter experts, and will prepare an essay expanding their vision for a compendium later this year. Summaries of each essay follow.
Essay #1: Government No Longer Thinks in the Present; It Lives in the Future, by Lori Gordon, BRAINQ
Fast-forward to 2040: The government faces a nation that is increasingly dynamic and evolving, driven by escalating socio-technological-economic changes. Networks - both digital and human - are hyper-social. Emerging technologies are breaking new molds to capture, translate, and secure data. Yet the disparity in wealthy versus poor draws deeper divides, and environmental flux aggravates our daily living and basic purchasing patterns (water, electricity).
This acceleration to extremes stressed government capacity and caused it to chase a growing number of mission-essential priorities. But rather than continue recklessly, the government regrouped, reassessed, and took a smarter approach to manage the complexity.
Now it draws from societal innovation which has been more effectively communicating, contracting, and managing services given its quicker adoption of new technology, processes, and "mature" work roles that creatively use AI, blockchain, and IoT to make faster predictions and decisions. It has adopted the gig economy concept which has shifted the size and pattern of work across agencies. It has identified where startups can fill voids in government services, getting the public what they need more efficiently and effectively.
Boldly, the government no longer thinks in the present; it lives in the future. It looks at unorthodox approaches to understand and solve societal challenges, and leverages or leads advancements in analytics to make sense of the broader, complex world that places requirements on its missions and resources. It operates from the idea that it is no longer defined by geographic borders, but by thought centers, and that it must reorient and reorganize its people, processes, and infrastructure to more closely mimic societal demographics and growth patterns. After several decades of being 'caught in the headlights' as society reached farther, thought bigger, and pushed boundless innovation, government is taking a razor-sharp focus on the future to bring thoughtful change and success.
Essay #2: 2040: New Way for Government: Case Study of a Mission to Mars, by W. Henry Lambright, Maxwell School, Syracuse University
In 2040, after years of preparation, a multi-national, multi-sectoral consortium is ready to set off on a great voyage to Mars. The “Mars Together Project,” as it is called, involves space agencies from the U.S., Russia, China, Canada, Europe, Japan, and India. It is undergirded by hundreds of industrial firms and universities, and thousands of scientific researchers from all over the world. Many companies involved are not only contractors, but share in the costs, a process exemplified by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The collaboration is led by NASA. Administrative leadership is needed to make the most of the expertise that has been assembled. The Mars Together Project is a logical step in a progression of collaborative programs that began with the International Space Station (ISS) and was succeeded in the 2030’s by a global project to build a base on the Moon. Along the way, government and private companies have found incentives to cooperate to explore. Public interest in Mars has been stimulated by soil-sample returns to Earth indicating strongly that Mars once had or still has life. In 2040, human spaceflight and robotic technology have been merged in the interest of exploration.
This essay will track the evolution of collaborative relations among governments and the private sector, beginning with ISS, then projecting lunar collaborations, and finally the ultimate collaboration to go to Mars. Discussed will be barriers to this enterprise, particularly those resulting in conflict and how they are overcome. The essay will focus on the forging of organizational mechanisms that enable large-scale collaborations. Leading nations and private entities to cooperate requires satisfying their most vital interests while persuading them to move in a common direction. Collaborative leadership also necessitates coping with domestic and international politics at the same time, building a grand coalition required of a grand challenge.
Essay #3: Local Government Management and Service Delivery in a Smarter More Connected World, by Marc Ott, ICMA and Lee Feldman, City of Fort Lauderdale, FL
In Smart Solutions: Technology Serving Communities, a 2017 publication by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and IBTS, the authors describe a variety of ways in which local governments are exploring technologies, applications, and data to provide higher quality and more effective services for their residents and businesses. While there are interesting case examples, it is clear the smart cities movement is just getting started, and one can envision disruptions to long-held assumptions and practices in local public administration through the promise of ongoing advances in sensors, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and equipment, drones, distributed access to services, information, data, and other technologies not yet developed.
To realize the promise of “smart cities and counties,"" local governments will need to make changes in management, staffing, and workforce development; policy design and program implementation; public-private, and other kinds of partnerships; indicators and performance measures; financing and budgeting strategies; and other administrative activities overseen by elected and appointed executives and their staffs. The essay will explore future visions of currently accepted responsibilities of local government (land use regulation and zoning; transportation planning; building codes and permitting; public works; facilities management; police, fire and EMS; parks and recreation; social and human services; community/economic development) and how traditional local government obligations and management approaches may be dramatically altered by technology changes between now and 2040.
Essay #4: A Networked Ecosystem with Borderless Organizations and Talent, by Sukumar Rao, The Parnin Group
Strategy shapes structure and operations.
In 2040, our strategic vision for Government is a citizen-led, networked ecosystem, in which the citizen shapes and drives Government management and operations as a leader and co-creator. The networked ecosystem includes the private and non-profit sectors as part of the value delivery chain, with equal responsibility and accountability for service delivery.
To execute this strategic vision, Government in 2040 is a hybrid structure with borderless organizations and talent.
A Customer Champion (accountable entity) serves as the primary touchpoint for seamless personalized citizen experience across all levels of Government (Federal, State and Local). The customer champion orchestrates the delivery of services, which are performed by partners in the ecosystem. There are no departments or agencies in the formal structure with network of teams organized around major customer lifecycle events or transactions (customer journeys).
These networks of teams are formed around specific objectives with clear timeframes – teams are disbanded once the outcome or objective is achieved. The objectives are modular and decomposed as smaller problem areas - in aggregate, they help achieve a strategic goal (as an example: improve the access to, and the quality and transparency of, school choice options for K-12 students). The teams are multi-disciplinary in nature, composed of team members from public, private and non-profit sectors - the best minds brought together to solve the complex problems in 2040.
Operations complement the structure and are provided by ecosystem partners. The “Government” function mostly limited to policy making, with its primary role as a facilitator and enabler of service delivery. Administrative functions are provided as core shared services across the enterprise in a competitive marketplace. Finally, operations are lean in nature and leverage advances in technology – they are digital, automated, and driven by artificial intelligence.
Essay #5: The Future of Government: Agility, Automation, Coproduction, Dignity, Trust & Volunteers, by Lori Frecks, University of Nebraska-Omaha
Changes in governmental operations and management before 2040 will be driven by advancements in six areas. First, automation increases the amount and sources of data collected and decreases drudge work. This frees employees to focus on data quality and using data to make better decisions. Employees will also have time to invest in coproduction, the second area of advancement. These coproduction efforts will cross all silos including departmental, organizational and practice fields. They will also require superior communication, collaboration, negotiation, interview and project management skills and competence with the technologies supporting coproduction efforts.
Third, community members will be frequent and active volunteer participants in these coproduction efforts by providing both labor and input in the form of ideas, feedback and opinions. Their nonemployee status will require management and operational adaptations, but their involvement will yield many benefits. Fourth, trust in government will increase through volunteer involvement in operations and decision making. Trust will also increase as transparency and openness in government operations become the default for government, with rare exceptions for justified reasons.
Fifth, aided by the quality and quantity of data available from automation and the support of a trusting public, government organizations large and small will be able to embrace an agile approach to problem solving. Governments will be able to experiment with multiple trials of innovative solutions derived from a wide variety of sources. Governments will also be able to frequently alter plans in response to evolving data and feedback. Lastly and assuming our automation-driven societal changes are humanistic, all governmental operations and management will focus on treating both the public and employees with dignity and respect. Together these interconnected concepts will lead to a wiser and more inclusive government in 2040.