Collaborative Governance

Deriving  value from informal network knowledge pools instead of experts, is a trend that is likely to continue growing rapidly in 2008. Open source technology, social collaboration tools and a mindset change are quickly transforming the ways of traditional top-down communication, management and decision-making. Pioneer initiatives such as Wikipedia, My Space and Facebook, to name but a few, were quickly picked up by the intelligence community, international organizations, private sector multinationals, and NGOs as an alternative solution to internal knowledge management processes.

In the US, the intelligence community bravely embraced the idea of open distributed knowledge networks, and it has, since 2005, established an Open Source Center under the DNI office, set up a knowledge base intellipedia, allegedly used social networking sites in recruitment campaigns, and opened its doors to non-intelligence experts, i.e. the media, academia and NGOs in the first ever intelligence conference open to the general public. All this is done in an effort to collaborate and share knowledge that might prove indispensable in saving lives and avoiding major intelligence failures in a world where asymmetric threats and risks lurk around every corner.

The UN has followed suit and introduced its own wiki to help connect its thousands of employees stationed in different parts of the world.

Wikis and blogs are the hottest buzzwords among knowledge management, business intelligence and organizational development professionals because unlike other technologies that chiefly increase efficiency and productivity, they are succeeding in something far greater and bearing far larger consequences: mindset change – a change in how we think about work.

The Democracy Journal of ideas published in its new Winter 2008 issue an article, entitled “Wiki-Government” by law professor and director of the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School, Beth Simone Noveck. In this article, Noveck explores how open source technology can make government decision-making more expert and more democratic. She argues that “speaking truth to power” is best done not by individual experts in the traditional sense of the word, but by collaborative knowledge networks, composed of non-experts. The article touches on various themes by now more than familiar to knowledge worker professionals, such as scientific peer review as an alternative mechanism for oversight, transparency and quality control, the value-added to governments of non-professional expertise, the peer-to-patent experiment as a model for collaborative governance, and finally, digital institution building.

Opening up closed decision-making may raise some brows and prompt reservations of the kind “too many cooks spoil the soup”. It would be short-sighted, however, and unrealistic of governments to think and behave as though they could bypass a trend of this magnitude. In the current balance of power, governments no longer have the upper hand. It is smart business enterprises, non-state actors and (in)formal knowledge networks that set up both the change and the speed with which it happens. A failure to come to terms with this and embrace change would doom governments to bureaucratic mediocrity at best, and would eventually drain them of the intellectual capital they aspire to possess.


2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the Link and interesting blog!


  2. Thank you, Kris!

    Your blog and your squidoo lense on intelligence have been one of the most useful resources, not only for my Mercyhurst course, but also in my daily job.

    Greetings from Zürich,


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