Share your Ryde: LONGING FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT
An explorer ― of beauty, consciousness, empowerment, structures of technology and open governance ― I intertwine a creative spirit with a passion for human progress. An experienced web communicator, project manager and analyst, I excel at managing complex flows of information and believe in the power of collective intelligence. My sense of observation helps me to assess internal and external needs of businesses and governments.
I am an open government advocate with 12+ years of experience as Web manager. I also have experience in communications, lobbying and fundraising. I live in Quebec, Canada, where there has been no open government. My efforts over the last five years have focused on the potential of Web 2.0 (which is not yet recognized today by the government of Quebec). I tried twice to build new horizons, by proposing two major projects, both having to do with citizen engagement.
OPEN GOVERNMENT | For several years, I’ve been passionate about open government. It has mostly meant observing other countries develop initiatives while being utterly disappointed for not putting my shoulder to the wheel, since Quebec is not yet an open government. I have spent the last five year of my life at proposing projects to the government of Quebec and Francophonie, in an attempt to make them move towards an open government policy. This year (2011), I collaborated with Government in the Lab (Massachusetts, USA) to propose open government strategies of organizational transformation. In December 2010, we designed the Open Government and Francophonie project, similar to the Open Government Partnership, but adapted to OIF Francophone countries.
EDGERYDERS | In November 2011, I joined the Edgeryders team as Engagement manager. This position has many advantages. Detatched from the Quebec scene, it will allow me to continue building communities and encourage advocates from many countries to keep pushing and asking for more transparency, participation and collaboration with citizens. At our disposal is a powerful platform (Edgeryders), conceived for bringing people together, value skills and knowledge we need to ensure growth, prosperity, social development in what I hope will be a just, transparent, collaborative and sustainable new world.
CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT ASPIRATIONS
PANDEMIC PREPAREDNESS | My first attempt at proposing citizen participation - from 2006 to 2010 -, was the project Zonegrippeaviaire. I wrote a business plan for the first participative and collaborative project of an online community of practice to be presented to the government of Quebec. This project was about pandemic preparedness and citizen engagement. The concept of open government was not yet set in 2006, but the global sphere of Flublogia and U.S. HHS innovated by laying the foundation of engaging the public to prepare for a pandemic. Plans and strategies were designed to be developed by involving the public directly. This community of bloggers and government managers demonstrated how public knowledge and citizen perspectives can help public health professionals to deal with some of their most difficult challenges.
Zonegrippeaviaire was building bridges of collaboration between the Francophone and the Anglophone sphere of Flublogia. A team of volunteer translators helped cross the barrier of languages. This experience was the foundation for a multilingual vision.
I presented the business plan for the Zonegrippeaviaire project to the interdepartmental committee of pandemic management. The committee commissioned a market study on social media in the Spring of 2007. The conclusion of this market study was that "Social media is immature and not credible. Do not bother to invest time or money." The government used this market study to reject the project. However, I remained the main administrator of the bilingual international forum Zonegrippeaviaire.com and kept it running until January 2010. This forum was better structured than FluTrackers.com (based in Florida, USA) and welcomed daily twice as many visitors.
MULTILINGUAL VISION OF COMMUNICATION STRATEGY| In November 2010, I blogged about a multilingual vision of open government (see my post ‘Oui, je parle français’ http://lynerobichaud.blogspot.com/2010/11/strategies-de-communication-multilingue.html). John F Moore, from Government in the Lab, integrated this vision in a We-Blog and reached impressive results, with hundreds of content contributors from several continents writing in eight languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Japanese, Arabic and Russian.
OPEN GOVERNEMENT PARTNERSHIP – FOR FRANCOPHONIE | In December 2010, in collaboration with John F Moore, I created a project for the deployment of open government throughout the world, aiming at the participation of 39 Francophone countries and 977 of their cities. From February to September 2011, I knocked at every door of the government of Quebec. We also approached several delegations of the Association des parlementaires de la Francophonie. Quebec’s final answer (on September 1st) was: "There are no solutions. There is nothing at the government of Quebec that allows the launch of this project." Rejection of the project was also based on this answer:" This project does not meet entrepreneurship criteria."20 days later (on September 20, 2011), forty-six UN countries engaged in the Open Government Partnership. The main Francophonie countries are absent from this partnership: France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg (and Quebec).
INFLUENCE | Although the Open Government and Francophonie project was rejected, I influenced the Deputy House Leader of the government of Quebec, Henri-François Gautrin, commissioned for an analysis of the potential for Web 2.0 by Premier Jean Charest, to include a section on open government in his analysis. Quebec has been very slow to engage in an open governement initiative. The Charest government clearly fears that the snake node of corruption will explode publicly. Meanwhile, the integrity of the state and confidence of Quebecers to their institutions, are crumbling.
PAST ACHIEVEMENTS / GOALS
- Improved quality of life of a community (by succesfully changing the legislation).
- Founded a bilingual online forum about pandemic preparedness based on citizen collaboration with governement, and administrated it for 3 years.
- Influenced the government of Quebec to include open government principles in an analysis of the potential of Web 2.0.
- (Personal, most important achievement, highly intuitive) Reached self-realization, unleashed a sleeping, dormant potential force (individual empowerment).
- GOAL: Influence government of Quebec to implement an open government initiative. DIFFICULTIES: Corruption and mafia issues. Risk aversion. Absence of leadership from higher spheres. Focus on information security rather than on transparency, participation and collaboration. NEED: A complete change of thinking is needed. Leadership.
- GOAL: Influence main Francophone developed countries to join the Open Government Partnership, or agree to collaborate to Open Government and Francophonie Project.
DIFFCULTIES: Corruption and mafia issues. Risk aversion --- an aversion to anything that is perceived as a threat to information security. Absence of leadership from higher spheres.
Government managers resist change, when they must adopt new management styles, including their perception that they cannot manage government employee performance if they are not on the (physical) site, poor understanding of how government employees use new technologies and they are reluctant to give employees and officials the means to work more collaboratively (individual, community and organisational empowerment).
NEEDS: A complete change of thinking is needed. To implement innovation and open government principles, there is a need for strong coordinated leadership and sustained commitment from higher spheres. Leaders also need to replace their directive leadership by a collaborative leadership (I often talk about the soul of leadership).
Compared to other sectors, government organizations are often fundamentally against change. To introduce innovative and widespread practices, strong leadership and planning for change is crucial. Leadership is necessary to promote meaningful change.
By understanding and taking advantage of new technologies, governments can provide more citizen-focused services, better coordinated actions between the various departments and governments institutions, and more accessible services to citizens. Better communications with citizens also allow improve policy design and decision making. Flexible teams and better ways of working together can help governments to provide better services, often at lower cost.
Managers must challenge policies and practices that undermine innovation in government and look for better results. Most importantly, for innovation to become possible in government, there should be policies, guidelines and tools for collaboration and investments in new working methods with good results.
There should be policies and structures to support flexible teams working to achieve specific project goals. Collaboration should be promoted, by helping government employees to be flexible, and dynamic groups to pursue specific goals. To facilitate collaboration and horizontality (instead of verticality), government managers should encourage employees and elected officials to do their work in a collective environment.
Higher spheres leaders should articulate their vision for public management to be more modern, more transparent --- more open government --- and better connected by a judicious use of virtual environment and new (disruptive) technology. Leaders should formalize and legitimize innovations that occur informally and support, promote those that have been formally recognized.
I keep repeating that citizens are human beings, and not numbers. Citizens are real people with real aspirations, dreams that are worth to be achieved, and citizens have an extraordinary range of rich life experiences. Governments should recognize the strengths of their citizens, and celebrate their qualities. Governments should look for all possible ways to create constructive teams where government employees, officials, and citizens enjoy collaborating together.