Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

Participatory Government (Obama’s first memo)

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2009 at 9:49 am

Pleased to see some of President Obama’s first executive memo’s having to do with open and participatory government.  Below is the Memo re: Transparency and Open Government.  Lot’s of good stuff.  My personally favorite “Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government.”

Full text from memo:


SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.

Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.

I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.



Common Purpose (Thank you Mr. President)

In Uncategorized on January 20, 2009 at 11:28 am

Just watched our 44th president being sworn in, feeling a great sense of hope and personal responsibility.  A number of items stand out from President Obama’s inauguration speech, but  one quick item which I wanted to post about was:

what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.”

Common purpose.  What is this generation’s common purpose?  Is it unique from previous generations?  Is there indeed atleast one common purpose which a majority of citizen’s connect with?  How might we keep this connection to a common purpose vibrant?

I’d like to see a national dialog around our common purpose, both democrats and republican, as active citizens. There have been a number of impressive efforts to harness social media services to enable citizens to submit and vote on ideas for what the new administration should focus on. Such as Change.org’s Ideas for America and Obama’s Citizen Briefing Book.

Perhaps we also need a dialog to shape our underlying shared backbone — our common purpose — from which we can unite and source our ability to be patient and  flexible for the common purpose as we move forward to deal with the major issues of our society.

Something I’l be looking into for birrbit to see how we might support this effort.

I heart soup.io (low friction lifestreaming)

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2009 at 2:35 pm

I am by no means an experienced micoblogger/lifestreaming (let alone blogger..).

That said, I heart Soup.io.  Easy to use, no sign-up to get started, user experience is dead simple and intuitive. Though it’s a crowded space, it’s a service worth checking out.  Really like how easy it is to share and repost within Soup.io, facebook, twitter, etc..

My soup can be found at Justin’s Soup.

Open source my life? or atlest goals, or atleast…

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Or at least the public accountability to achieve my 2009 goals.  Have been giving this some thought.  No doubt publicaly stating a goal and finding a group to support (read: hold feet to fire is critical).  But how how open could you make your life?  Daily reporting?  I’ll be enlisting  few friends to start with, but I like the idea of a more public systems. Something like here are my goals in detail, here’s where I’ll likely struggle, here is what I am committed to by X date, etc.. and then have it be public.  Like: a month before a goal is due your facebook status reads: “Justin needs to have completed goal of planning 8-course meal for 20 friends, please ask him how he is  doing..”  Options are endless, but think of the public humilation..

Certainly services like 43Things are popular tools.  Just came across Stickk which ups the stakes by having you set-up “commitment contracts.”  So in the event you don’t meet your goal by a specfic date,  you forfeit a pre-pledged amount of money to a designated person (could be a person, charity, or worse “anti-charity//foe”).

Ps: this post keeps my two posts a week resolution alive..

New Year’s resolution: Minimum two blog posts per week

In Uncategorized on January 4, 2009 at 10:40 am

See title above for self-explanatory post.  Please help me keep this New Year’s resolution.

Collective Control (or efficacy): how to spark social action

In Uncategorized on January 4, 2009 at 10:20 am

O.k. so it’s premature to say collective control is the spark for large scale direct social action, but I am convinced it’s important.

In some of my research around birrit, I have been exploring what are the unique group dynamics and individual thoughts/perceptions which drive large numbers of people to engage in direct action.  Much has been written about the role of a concept called “social capital” defined as the collective value of all ‘social networks‘ and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other.  This concept was made popular by  Robert Putnam in his book Bowling Alone.  In his book, he wrote: “Henry Ward Beecher’s advice a century ago to ‘multiply picnics’ is not entirely ridiculous today. We should do this, ironically, not because it will be good for America — though it will be — but because it will be good for us.” Putnam is not suggesting here that we must expand an already stable level of networking and civil interaction. He has found an overall decline in social capital in America over the past fifty years, a trend that may have significant implications for American society.

While Social capital is an important concept, it is difficult to measure and I believe only part of the solution.  I think equal or perhaps more important is the concept of collective control and it’s related construct collective efficacy.  Not much exist in way of easily digestable information, most of the analysis is still academic and can be found research publications, here are a few:

Exercise of Human Agency Through Collective Efficacy

Collective Efficacy Earls

PersonCenteredSociology–Collective Control

Strangely enough, I did my undergraduate degree in psychology and conducted some of the early research around collective control with Professor Stephen Wright. So I’ll borrow a bit from one of our reseach briefs (strangely I still have a hardcopy).

Collective Control: The impact of Discrimination on Perceived Group-Level Control.

“A condition of collective control exists where the individual perceives the situation as one in which control is possible, and that the required behaviors are beyond the capacity of a single individual, but are within the capacities of a group to which the individual belongs.”

(Sounds like a pretty important component in understanding how to increase citizen-led direction action….)

The study goes on to say: “This important group component was initial explored with the concept of collective efficacy. Bandura (1996) argued that people have a sense of collective efficacy, that they can solve problems and improve their lives through concerted effort”

Why we should be thinking more about this vs. social capital:  Collective control is a core construct at play when groups form to tackle a shared challenge or opportunity.  Collective control serves as a useful tool in satisfying the strong need for control in situations where personal control is not possible and to avoid the negative consequences of uncontrolability.  Our ability to understand how this plays out when people organize online and interacte via online social networks is an important element to driving more and more effective citizen-led activism.

I’ll be share more about collective efficacy in the months to come.