We have been working to model collaboration in, with and around public institutions for years now, honestly with mixed results. Edgeryders own formative experience at the Council of Europe involved a meeting between the Big Government and Internet smarts to discuss policy at the edge. Starting in 2014, our projects FutureSpotters and Future Makers Global supported UNDP to get closer to citizen driven innovation. We've seen more honest exchanges and better public-civic partnerships, and heard some good personal stories. Last year we tried our most radical exercise to date - convincing cities to earmark a public space for grassroots, informal community experimentation (read more here; see pic below).
Among the many things which work and don't, we noticed an important thing: innovative roles were played by individuals who were not necessarily in senior public sector positions or did have specific mandates to be ‘innovative’. It became clear that sympathetic, open-minded, dynamic civil servants and other officials can be fundamental enablers of change, as they discover new ways to step outside citadels of restrictive and regulated administrations and work more effectively with external partners in civil society and the private sector.
Meetup in the central park of Rustavi (Georgia), where a civil servant intermediated a takeover of park areas by the community, which organised several actions - festival, social cafe, zebra painting, skaters' contest and other fun activities. Photo credit: Sophia Freya
Can we shine some light on these efforts? Is there a need for deeper learning and exchanges across countries and domains of practice? Following a keen interest of UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub to continue this line of inquiry, we are now co-designing a program, a Hackers Bureaucrat Fellowship network which would aim to:
- Acknowledge and celebrate innovators in public administrations across many countries, types of public sector organisations, and interests.
- Encourage them to continue on their path by creating an associated 'fellowship program'. Fellows are nominated not only on the basis of what they have achieved in the past, but largely on the basis of what they are trying to achieve for the future.
- Permanently connect them into a wide peer-to-peer support network with feedback loops and horizontal and cross silo multiplication for enhanced impact.
- Put innovative practice on the radar of senior management, with increased recognition of innovation as a key factor in promotion.
- Mobilize a movement of public servants who design and execute novel solutions for stubborn policy issues, indirectly addressing issues of decreasing legitimacy and trust of citizens in institutions, effectiveness of governing and development.
@Alberto @Bob @Elami5 @Mao @Nadia and I will be in Turkey end of the month to meet people whose experience is valuable to shape this new program. If you know of champions or unsung heroes pushing the boundaries of what is possible in a bureaucracy and blazing the trail, talk to us. At the moment the interest is in any geographic region or strategic topic, and a bigger focus rests on the mechanisms through which systems are bent