Eaves.ca: Why StatCan is (or could be) Google

David Eaves is somebody you need to know and love as I do. He’s been doing some great work on public sector renewal, negotiation and how government can learn from open source software.

His recent post Why StatCan is (or could be) Google is fascinating and well worth a read. David’s thesis is that StatCan needs to give away the data for free while at the same time attracting a whole new generation of creative Gen Y geeks to build its relevance in the future.

First, distinguish and separate what you do: “Creating and organizing information about Canada” from what makes you valuable: making this information universally available to citizens.

Second, make yourself the centre of a data gathering, sharing and analyzing eco-system: There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people out there who could do amazing things with StatCan’s data.

Eaves poses an amazing challenge to an institution that is, like many public service agencies, under pressure to act more like business, looking at new business models and additional revenue opportunities. This orientation isn’t bad in itself, but often public institutions learn all the wrong lessons from the private sector.  At the same time, their public good mandates are often well-suited to their being linchpins in the coming network economy. Look to Umair Haque’s work on “Edge Economy” for clues on what the emerging economy looks like.

Publicly funded content creation can create huge downstream innovation and public good possibilities in a world of long-tail and so-called “crowd-sourced” economics. But the management of many publicly funded institutions have been moving in the wrong direction – trying to capture, limit and monetize content instead of making it freely available to the public. Eaves’ piece on StatCan is an important shot across the bow of why this approach is counterproductive to its stated goals.

#ChangeGovCA: What and who is the change we need?

Join the conversation on Twitter with tag: #changegovCA
Join the conversation on Twitter. tag: #ChangeGovCA

Recent political developments in Canada have taken us all by surprise and left many of us confused and disillusioned, but also super-engaged. This a tremendous opportunity and a moment for real dialogue among Canadians about our politics, our democracy and our individual citizenship.

Many of us are watching with rapt attention what’s going on in the transition to an Obama administration in the United States. I’ve been amazed at how the technologies of participation are being married to the philosophy of transparency in very real and exciting ways. An administration-in-waiting that blogs with open commenting! And offers a Seat at the Table for open policy conversations and submission of documents!

Inspired by these developments and the work of Laurence Lessig and Joe Trippi with Change-Congress.org and Open-Government.us, I registered the domain ChangeGov.ca, with an eye to it being a place for a new conversation for a multi- and non-partisan movement of Canadians interested in changing our institutions of government to reflect our times. I don’t know what this might become, but I’m inviting people interested in democratic renewal and the principles of politics embedded in the philosophy of the open web to join and open the conversation.

Leave a comment on this post, or join the conversation on Twitter by using the tag: #ChangeGovCA. You can follow the conversation at search.twitter.com or using the awesome search pane on the powerful TweetDeck twitter app.

Obama campaign learnings by Rahaf Harfoush

Rahaf Harfoush heard Will.I.Am’s call Yes We Can and decided to join the Obama campaign at Chicago HQ. Now Rahaf is no ordinary door-knocker. She is a Gen-Y social media maven, consultant and frequent collaborator with Don Tapscott, including on Wikinomics and Grown Up Digital.  So now that everybody and their brother is looking to the groundbreaking Obama campaign for insight, Rahaf is a close-to-the-frontlines voice you need to pay attention to.

Her excellent presentation is online at her blog. Video is online at the Rotman site, including an intro by Alexander Manu, formerly of the Beal Institute and currently professor of Business Design at Rotman. I’m embedding the slides here:

Great story and insights. Most important insight for me was that the social media tools worked because the underlying strategy and philosophy of the campaign was itself new, different and consistent with those tools:

  1. The 50-state strategy
  2. Targeting the “disaffected center”
  3. Small donor focus

Social media isn’t a set of tactics, it is an orientation and philosophy and needs to integrate a focused brand and clear compelling message together with an inclusive and adaptable approach as well as an organization that is culturally ready to live those principles.

Strategy, message, culture. As powerful as these technologies are, it is the subtleties of their use and the human behaviours they enable that is the key to unlocking their value.