Engaging Government Constituents

July 4, 2011 By Aminda

While the country of France is considered a leader in open innovation, the French government has long been stereotyped as bureaucratic and closed.  However, openness is quickly infiltrating French government as shown in a recent crowdsourcing exercise to uncover lobbying practices. The project took place in connection with the French chapter of Transparency International.

Over a year’s time, 3,000 French citizens got involved, analyzing more than 1,100 reports that had been published between 2007 and 2011, connecting each lobbyist with an organization and interest. From that data, they were able to generate an interesting profile of the types of organizations getting the attention of MPs during hearings. For example, companies are more often listened to on topics like economy, energy, environmental and on transportation, culture or digital issues. On the other hand, civil society organisations are more presents in topics like development aid or veterans.

A Harvard University professor challenges government departments to apply this type of crowdsourcing projects towards reducing government waste. His idea is to ask those people most attune to government processes— the employees. By giving every federal employee one vote to nominate a wasteful government activity that should be eliminated, officials could compile a list of the top 100 choices, and then narrow those down to a list of about 50 for further evaluation. The model is based on a method many companies have adopted to solicit employee input on whether a project is going to on-time and on-budget by allowing them to anonymously buy shares of the project.

He sees opportunity to identify activities that require significant funds but do little to meet a program’s mission. Reports that are not read, for example, or service contracts that use a lot of manpower but lack value. Federal employees would gain ownership, constituents would save money; it would be a win-win situation all around.

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