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Surfacing the Submerged State: Operational Transparency Increases Trust in and Engagement with Government

35 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2013 Last revised: 13 Aug 2017

Ryan W. Buell

Harvard Business School

Ethan Porter

George Washington University

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Date Written: August 11, 2017

Abstract

Three studies, using original experimental as well as field data from the city of Boston, Massachusetts, show that revealing the “submerged state” - ensuring that citizens can see the often-hidden work that government performs - enhances both perceptions of and engagement with government. In Study 1, viewing a video highlighting the work performed by the government of an archetypal American town increased trust in government and support for government services. In Study 2, Boston residents who interacted with a website that visualized both service requests (e.g., potholes) and efforts by the city government to address them became more supportive of government. Study 3 leverages proprietary data from a mobile phone application through which residents can submit service requests to Boston government. Users who received photographic evidence that their service requests had been addressed were more likely to continue to engage with government than users who did not receive such evidence.

Keywords: operational transparency, trust, engagement, government services

Suggested Citation

Buell, Ryan W. and Porter, Ethan and Norton, Michael I., Surfacing the Submerged State: Operational Transparency Increases Trust in and Engagement with Government (August 11, 2017). Harvard Business School Marketing Unit Working Paper No. 14-034; Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 14-034. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2349801 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2349801

Ryan W. Buell

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan Hall 429
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-496-6918 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.hbs.edu/rbuell

Ethan Porter

George Washington University ( email )

2121 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

Michael I. Norton (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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