Government is an enterprise of people serving people.
This isn’t news, but it is often overlooked as we try to determine how to make our government more responsive to the needs of the people it serves. In this age of the web, smart phones, and the internet of things, one of the most visible aspects of government’s disconnection with the ways that people are looking to become connected is the technology being used to enable that connection.
A large element of the problem is how government agencies, especially at the local level, tend to think in terms of delivering tech-mediated (apps, web sites, etc.) services. These serves are typically developed and deployed in a water-fall driven methodology where once the service is up and running, it tends to stay essentially the same for its lifetime, which can be decades. Needless to say, this results in poor user-experience and a degrading of the trust that people have in their local government.
This is clearly an old model and one that the City of Boston is working to break out of.
There are lessons to be learned from the startup world here, not in terms of government running more like a business (which is a notion that seems to miss the mark), but rather when we look at startup culture and try to understand what has made it so effective at building products and services that users love to use. These lessons include the use of agile development, focusing on user experience, employing web2.0 technologies, etc.
Boston’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Department of Innovation and Technology are looking to hire two civic software roles that will be tasked with adapting the methods and approaches of the startup world for local government:
- The Civic Coder will be tasked with using a range of innovative approaches and technologies (web-based, phone-based, etc.) to build tools for the public that enable the public to better connect with government, to solve local social and civic problems, develop partnerships at the community level, etc. The Civic Coder will be expected to do outreach to the community to understand the needs and opportunities, conduct hackathons, and collaborate with partners both inside and outside government – for-profits, non-pofits, universities, etc. (search for civic on linked page)
Civic Product Manager
- The Civic Product Manager will own the City’s Citizen Relationship Management (CRM) system. This system is the foundation for several innovative, award winning civic products, including Citizens Connect, StreetBump, and the OpenBAR (Boston About Results performance management system). The CRM system remains one of the key mechanisms for managing how the public connects to their local government, and the CRM Civic Product manager will apply their skills to maintain, expand and enhance how the CRM enables these connections. (search for CRM on linked page)