SCVA in Government: The Value Proposition for Gov 2.0

While SCVA is a corporate valuation and management method, its principals equally apply to government, health care, education and beyond.  All of our traditional institutions are being re-architected around broadband empowered individuals.

Last week I hosted a discussion about how to advocate for the adoption of more productive government that utilizes the full potential of the internet at GovCamp Toronto.  Thank you to Julia Stowell, Omar Rashid and Mark Kuznicki for inviting about 125 of us across the community to come together.

There was great representation from the City of TorontoHere is a shot of city CIO Dave Wallace sitting beside me while I invited participants to join in my discussion thread:

The Value Proposition for Gov 2.0: Outsourcing Risk

The description:

Governments are risk averse . Traditionally there has been very little upside potential for those involved in public service to attack something out of the ordinary. Change is methodical, reactionary – made by attrition. This is the world of late adoptors.

This is a difficult mode for coping with the complex problems of our times and rapid change required to embrace Gov 2.0 (if we would would like to, for example, take advantage of moments of change to maintain or improve Canada’s position in the world).

Perhaps there is an appeal in the prospect of open data?

Governments are the custodians and regulators and third parties are the innovators and risk takers. Whatever works governments can follow and the essential experiments that turn out to be learning experiences will be played out with the investment of third parties, not tax payers.

Are any of these assumptions true? What is the right language to frame these dynamics in terms acceptable to everyone involved?

The session was an opportunity to continue the conversation along these lines that have evolved as a consistent theme for me since the first ChangeCamp.

I had great exchanges with about a dozen different open gov enthusiasts from across government.  I feel comfortable in reporting that yes, this notion that embracing Gov 2.0 as a risk averse strategy, has the potential to resonate within bureaucratic and political circles.  It could be part of messaging that will appeal to late adopters and perhaps get those first trials off of the ground.

What’s next? Was the question that we bounced around the room to wrap up the three hour unconference.

Here are the additional thoughts that emerged at our table:

1. “We have a full plate.” or “We just do not have resources to try that.” These are likely the number one kind of objection that you will hear across departments.  Listen carefully.

Gov 2.0 offers the promise of solutions that share and scale.  Most often, Gov 2.0 is not about adding new lines of service, it is about doing the same things in different, more productive ways.  In most cases, it would be a waste of resources to roll out another year of doing the same old thing without looking for ways to incorporate the internet into routines.

What you may be hearing is code for, “We don’t know how.”, “That sounds risky.”, “We don’t get rewarded for taking on things that are new.”.

2. In his opening comments David Eaves pointed out, there is a long history and many cases where governments have committed to a policy of transparency and/or public reporting in Canada.  Perhaps the #govcamp community can make an effort to examine the decisions that were made to release data and become more transparent in the past, note the reasons why and look for opportunities to apply that rationale to convince governments to apply it in new areas.

3. Tabling an ill considered RFP can be a public relations disaster for government.  Opening up the development of the RFP can help reduce this risk and lead to more progressive ideas being incorporated into governments’ competitive processes.

4. A few times our discussion came back to the need for boiler plate policy and guidelines that can be adopted across government.  We talked about why it is unlikely that anything like Obama’s Memorandum on Transparency will materialize in Canada in the immediate future and there was some enthusiasm that the #govcamp community could lead the development of expectations through the creation of open source guidelines, similar to the resources developed in corporate American by the Social Media Business Council.

2 Responses to “SCVA in Government: The Value Proposition for Gov 2.0”

  1. Keith McDonald Says:

    I wished I’d dropped by your session as well. I think risk and risk management is a caution vs. an aversion but it comes out like an aversion. Or reads like an aversion. Think of the Angel and the Devil beside both shoulders (cartoon like) and the Devil voice says: “You know the elected officials may not like it” or “the public may complain about it” or “that’s private” and the like. That’s the voice that often wins out. The open movement is offering up the other voice – the one that says: “you know this data might be useful and do some good if someone had a kick at mashing it up with other data” or “another view point here could be helpful”.

    So, I would agree that the open movement presents an opportunity for buckets of third party contributions. But I don’t think it’s fair to imply that governments are only custodians and absent of innovation – I think it fair to say the custodian aspect tends to dominate the process. Believe me, I’ve met many colleagues who work with me in the City of Toronto who are as innovative as anyone I meet outside of the City. But we come up against the legal custodial issues time and again – as will any third party who gets involved. In some ways, by extension, you suddenly become custodians yourselves.

    I actually don’t see much resistance at all to wanting to get the data out the door – it’s all the stuff that goes with “process” (legal and legislative authority to do it) that causes the concerns. We really need to get everyone focused on the administrative/legal parts to get over the hump. It’s a bit like the ongoing debate around copyright law. I think the analogy is a fair one – you have the creators who want to retain ownership vs. the user who wants to copy without paying. The law already has lots of stipulations around use but we also see lots of abuse. The Feds are trying to reconcile all these disparate factions. Good luck with that.

    The release of data sets has similar legal boundaries surrounding the legal authority to collect data and what obligations there are to safe guard it once collected (even though you may wish you could release it). As I say in my blog post – by the way, thanks for coming there ( ) – even data that would seem to be identity free has to get vetted before it can go.

    I’ve had many long conversations with our privacy office and the level of minutiae around this is just incredibly complex. It’s staggering actually.

    I don’t hear the open third party community talking about it or educating themselves to it much. I do hear the tax payer talking about it a lot. If I can offer anything to this process it’s that we need to get the privacy thing figured out or it’s going to continue to be slow going and I think you have to include the taxpayer in the group to get it done. After all they (we) are paying for it – they should have a say on what we do with it.

    At least that’s the view I’m coming to after being around the process for some 16 months.

  2. Michael cayley Says:


    If it comes off like I am casting public servants in a negative light, let me be clear that doing so was not my intention.

    I am just trying to analyze the basic economic incentives inherent in our systems. Throughout the ChangeCamp and GovCamp discussions that I have been involved in, I have been consistently impressed with the individuals who work in government. They are leading change from within, gradually shedding inertia.

    If fact, I suspect that due to the nature of our local economies, there will be better adoption of the more productive ways of doing work that broadband internet enables across government than there will be across our private sector.

    Upgrading know how and justifying investment, though worth it, is more difficult to come to terms with on a small business scale. It is up to owners. (Like Ryan Taylor. Look forward to a related project, i.e. a framework to help small businesses adopt social media from Ryan, FTJC). Though I think governments could spur with incentives like related tax breaks that would be far more important to our future than for example, the home improvement tax credit that subsidized those who already live in surplus to do things like get their houses painted.

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