Strategic Concept 6: Facilitating collaboration that breeds better solutions

Purpose:  Encourage communication and collaboration to maximize information exchange and improve decision-making

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.”  Oliver Wendell Holmes

Description:  With more than 38 million residents, California ranks first in population among the states. As a service provider, California government compares favorably to other states by having one of the lowest ratios of state and local government employees to residents – we rank 41st.  Nevertheless, due to the size and complexity of California, there are more than 130 agencies, boards, bureaus, commissions, councils, and departments within the Executive Branch with more than 220,000 employees.  No one entity has a monopoly on good ideas.  Providing effective means for communicating between stakeholders, external and internal to government, is integral to the wise stewardship of public money and trust.  Emerging technologies and business needs make collaboration imperative to the act of governing.   The successfully implemented Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Program saw the coordination of federal, state, and local governments along with private sector food retailers to better deliver food stamp benefits to more than 1.4 million California households.  The connections this process created across levels of government and with the private sector, allowed the California Department of Social Services to extend the EBT program to include farmers markets and restaurants. 

Strategy 1:  Establish common technology standards and strategies to maximize the sharing of information resources

Strategy 2:  Establish public-private partnerships to promote innovative technology solutions to business problems

Strategy 3:  Streamline access to government services and information assets

Bottom Line:  Collaboration tools provide a valuable channel for the state to engage residents and business as well as gather their input on the policy issues that are important to them.  In addition, these tools provide a framework for state employees to share best practices and work together to support the delivery of efficient government services.  

The essay that follows explores the idea of Facilitating collaboration that breeds better solutions playing out in the future.

Government at La-Z-Boy Speed Todd Sander
Public CIO, July 2008

I was talking with my son about a paper he's writing for a summer school course at The University of Arizona.  He was sitting in our family room holding his laptop and collecting research from the Internet using the wireless connection that, I must admit, he helped me set up.  He was telling me about the various Web sites he was visiting, the material he was collecting from around the world, and the project team members he was collaborating with via instant messaging and Facebook from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy recliner.  I couldn't help but think back to my own experiences researching and writing school papers.  I'm sure many of you, much like myself, remember a vastly different experienc

It wasn't long ago that the search for information required multiple trips to the library and a hard-earned familiarity with the card catalog and Dewey decimal system.  Successful navigation often resulted in a National Treasure-like search through rows and rows of books with the hope that at the end, we would stumble across just the right book that held the potential for making us look smarter than we probably were.  More often than not, I arrived at the cryptically defined location only to discover that I couldn't find the book I needed.  Either I had misinterpreted the clues somewhere along the way or someone else working on the same project had beaten me to the singular prize.

It amazes me how fundamentally our world has changed.  Almost without noticing, we have moved from a world of information scarcity to information overload.  Our challenge now isn't finding enough information about a particular subject, but making sense of and qualitative judgments about the almost limitless variety of data and information that's available.

At a recent gathering of the Digital Communities CIO Task Force, members spent a good portion of the day talking about how social networking and collaboration tools are beginning to affect the operation of local government.  Pressure to change the way that information flows and is managed within an organization is coming both from newly hired employees (some were almost born with digital devices in their hands) and citizens who have come to rely on mobile communication devices and free-flowing information to manage their day-to-day lives.  Even so, some CIOs believe they have more than enough to worry about with existing systems, ever-changing security requirements and expensive infrastructure demands.

To many in government, the Web 2.0 stuff - social networks, blogs, wikis, instant messaging systems, viral videos and virtual communities - may sound cool, but it's more appropriately left to college campuses and consumers.  They say there's really no place for Web 2.0 tools in government; I have even heard them described as "technologies in search of a problem."

I disagree, and a look at government across the country shows what business calls Web 2.0 technologies are in some places quietly becoming foundational components of what government is now beginning to call Government 2.0.  It's bringing a new kind of order to the information turmoil all around us - and just in time.

Go to "From Goals to Action".