Toward Metrics for Re(Imagining) Governance: The Promise and Challenge of Evaluating Innovations in How We Govern
18 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2015 Last revised: 23 Mar 2018
Date Written: April 18, 2013
Governance — how institutions analyze information and make decisions to solve collective problems — is broken. Around the world, we face increasingly complex challenges ranging from widespread poverty to serious ecological crises that threaten our planet’s future. Yet trust in traditional institutions of governance is at an all-time low. At the same time, we are living through the greatest era of disruptive innovation and rapid experimentation since the Industrial Revolution. Tremendous progress in information and communication technologies, including big data and social media, are empowering individuals to engage with one another — and with traditional institutions of governance — to tackle problems collectively. Groups of individuals with diverse social, intellectual, and professional backgrounds can now use technology to collaborate in new ways that can drive progress more rapidly and effectively than ever before. From local and federal governments to leading universities and Fortune 500 companies, institutions have an opportunity to reevaluate how they solve problems in the networked age. While there is good reason to believe that breakthroughs may come from recent innovations such as communitybased problem solving, behavioral economic insights about human behavior, or predictive analytic experiments, there are limited studies measuring exactly how productive it is to use these kinds of new governance techniques. Without a deeper understanding of whether, when, why and to what extent an intervention has made an impact, any initiative we design will be sub-optimal and will produce less than the desired results. If we are going to accelerate the rate of experimentation in governance and create more agile institutions capable of piloting new techniques and getting rid of ineffectual programs, we need research that will enable us to move away from “faith-based” engagement initiatives toward “evidence-based” ones.
This Paper is an attempt to describe the promise and challenge of evaluating new practices of problem solving in governance, specifically citizen-engagement interventions. The purpose is to inform those innovators who are eager to develop a deeper insight into what works for the key steps, opportunities and challenges involved when assessing impact. In addition, the paper aims to develop a foundation for further interdisciplinary research and debate. This paper summarizes the recent lessons learned in the field of evaluation and examines how new methods could help assess the impacts of participatory governance and emerging social technologies used in governance. This work is not meant to be a comprehensive review of current approaches to evaluating new governance initiatives but is intended to frame the issues involved, and suggest where work needs to be done to develop better assessments. We are also providing an annotated and open bibliography for further reading, inviting others to expand upon it.
Keywords: Open Governance, Metrics, Impact Assessment
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