Government “of the people, by the people, for the people” expresses an ideal that resonates in all democracies. Yet poll after poll reveals deep distrust of institutions that seem to have left “the people” out of the governing equation. Government bureaucracies that are supposed to solve critical problems on their own are a troublesome outgrowth of the professionalization of public life in the industrial age. They are especially ill-suited to confronting today’s complex challenges.
Offering a far-reaching program for innovation, Smart Citizens, Smarter State suggests that public decisionmaking could be more effective and legitimate if government were smarter—if our institutions knew how to use technology to leverage citizens’ expertise. Just as individuals use only part of their brainpower to solve most problems, governing institutions make far too little use of the skills and experience of those inside and outside of government with scientific credentials, practical skills, and ground-level street smarts. New tools—what Beth Simone Noveck calls technologies of expertise—are making it possible to match the supply of citizen expertise to the demand for it in government.
Drawing on a wide range of academic disciplines and practical examples from her work as an adviser to governments on institutional innovation, Noveck explores how to create more open and collaborative institutions. In so doing, she puts forward a profound new vision for participatory democracy rooted not in the paltry act of occasional voting or the serendipity of crowdsourcing but in people’s knowledge and know-how.
The ultimate goal of Smart Citizens, Smarter State is not simply a more competent regulatory state, but a transformed relationship between government and the governed. To policymakers and bureaucrats, Noveck makes the case that soliciting citizen expertise can make governance more effective; to democratic theorists, Noveck argues that providing expertise is a genuine form of civic engagement… The strongest characteristic of Smart Citizens, Smarter State is its intellectually modest approach: It builds on existing programs, can be scaled up quickly or slowly, and is predicated on experimentation rather than centralized decision-making. That makes it a great reform agenda for those who have been burned by sweeping overhauls and grandiose promises before.
Richly informative, unafraid to address problem areas (transparency and elitism), [Noveck] offers an inspiring prospect of smarter cities in a smarter future.
I strongly recommend Smart Citizens, Smarter State to the new generation of scientists emerging at the interface of computing and public policy. Those with technology and ‘hard’ sciences backgrounds would hugely benefit from a comprehensive understanding of government and policy domains in order to set new research agendas with significant potential for wider impact. At the other end of the spectrum, those with politics and social science backgrounds would find it very helpful for understanding the current technologies of expertise and the new trends in public decision-making, offering great promise for transforming the ways that governments should operate under the ongoing data revolution.
Smarter Citizens, Smarter State is a valuable contribution to a debate that will continue as technology plays an increasing role in almost every aspect our lives.
Noveck offers an optimistic but realistic approach that aims to offer a theoretical and practical road map of policy making, champions more than transparent government, and encourages readers to not perceive citizens as mere passive policy bystanders. In a society that facilitates collaboration and allows for political institutions that are open by default, this approach calls for a fundamental transformation of how government engages citizens in policy making.
New peer-to-peer technology platforms have radically democratized how information spreads, how capital flows, and even how cabs get hailed in the twenty-first century. But our government itself remains a largely closed system, with relatively few opportunities for public engagement and collaboration. In this book, Beth Simone Noveck lays out a fresh and ambitious vision for a more democratized democracy, one in which our government takes full advantage of the Networked Age and the vast resources of its citizenry. Highly recommended!
A ringing call to arms for anyone who believes that government is busted and citizens could do more than anyone else to fix it. Following in the footsteps of John Dewey, Noveck explores the fundamental changes needed to bring to bear the vast resource of citizen expertise and ability in a time of rising demands and dwindling resources. The book summons smart citizens everywhere to action, be they makers, hackers, data analysts, or everyday experts. It also challenges members of the existing elite, daring them to imagine a more populist—and smarter—future.
Smart Citizens, Smarter State is a manifesto for a new way of governing. Digital technologies, Noveck argues, create abundant opportunities for governments to learn from their citizens and provide better services. Written with optimism and passion, this book brings the open source revolution to public administration.
Crowd-sourcing works wonderfully in creating open-source software and online encyclopedias. Can it work in governance? Beth Noveck, who has spent years creating means of engaging citizens on the Internet, argues it can, if done wisely. This book—informed by experience, breathless energy, optimism, encyclopedic knowledge, and an extraordinary intellect—should be required reading for all who are interested in the question.
The endless debate that assumes ‘expertise’ and ‘democracy’ to be in conflict is here unpacked—and then carefully, intelligently reassembled from the perspective of new tools such as digital data and new ideas, including crowd-sourcing distributed expertise. The result? A false choice is demolished, replaced by a commonsense strategy that welcomes expertise without diminishing democracy’s robustness.
- 368 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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