By Data-Smart City Solutions • November 27, 2018

This is the first in a series of features to highlight key lessons from A New City O/S by Stephen Goldsmith and Neil Kleiman. 


Key Insights

  • A new distributed operating system engenders highly coordinated relationships outside of City Hall. More outreach to communities, residents, and partners such as universities and local foundations is needed.
  • Distributed governance allows government to coordinate services to reach more individuals more responsively and with greater legitimacy.
  • By turning outward, cities can vastly expand their knowledge base from a limited set of agency metrics to a wider view that is informed by stakeholders operating outside of City Hall.
  • Some cities have already begun to listen more closely to residents in areas like planning and spending, which can illustrate the benefit of social engagement and input when properly woven into government operations.

Quick Tips

  • Technology like smartphones and 311 centers improve push and pull strategies where citizens contact government with ideas and opinions.
  • Structured discussions, where the city works to solicit citizen opinion on critical issues, must 
    • a) be well managed, 
    • b) include active listening and moderation of discussions, 
    • c) utilize trusted intermediaries such as libraries and civic tech organizations, and
    • d) evaluate results to change course based on what the data dictates.

Potential Problems

  • Traditional public/private partnerships (governing by network) are not to be confused with distributed governance. The former is about outside entities contracted to deliver a specific service; the latter is about establishing roles and rules among actors.
  • Beware of contracting services from third parties that do not produce needed information. Relationships among the city and its contractors need to enable the city to both manage and learn from services delivered.


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