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Intelligent Governance: An Alternative Paradigm


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Current governance principles and practices are misaligned with the realities of the modern world. Striking this ‘right fit’ between knowledge, resources, processes and outcomes in complex environments where different groups have something to contribute towards shared outcomes – even while pursuing their own objectives – this is what we call intelligent governance.

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Intelligent Governance: An Alternative Paradigm

  1. 1. Intelligent Governance An Alternative Paradigm by Gilles Paquet & Christopher Wilson Centre on Governance, University of Ottawa 27 June 2016 1
  2. 2. Governments at a Tipping Point • As we heard from almost all of our speakers at the conference, governments are on the verge of fundamental change • We offer three scenarios: 1. Governments will redesign themselves in order to help us, the citizens, to collectively achieve heights we previously thought were unobtainable; 2. Governments will become regarded as institutions of little social value and be ignored in favour of technological solutions for coordination; or 3. Governments will become the enemies of democracy. The foundations of all of these scenarios are currently in place. 2
  3. 3. The Modern Context • We have a modern world characterized by uncertainty, non-linearity, unpredictability, and emergence. • We have universal education & access to information with global connectivity • i.e. the original rationales for constructing our public institutions as we did – representative government w/ centralized expertise, resources and authority -- have disappeared. Citizens no longer need governments in order to coordinate among themselves. • An ongoing decline in public confidence in the ability of governments and their leaders to resolve issues that matter to citizens – now as low as 10% • According to the Clerk of the Privy Council, all the important issues facing Canada are multifaceted, requiring collaboration across silos internally, and across levels of government and sectors externally. • …Nevertheless, there has been a decades-long failure of governments to address the issue of social coordination in favour of mitigating the effects of this failure through redistribution • An increasingly diverse citizenry, which simultaneously increases the probability for social conflict as well as the potential for social innovation 3
  4. 4. Traditional Managerial Paradigm The traditional paradigm suggests government is about some combination of coordination, stabilization, redistribution & pedagogy -- with coordination being the most important In this paradigm, the primary function of the bureaucracy is to protect & preserve administrative institutions, consistent with constitutional processes, traditions, values & beliefs This paradigm assumes: • A simple, certain, predictable, Newtonian world • That values are widely shared • The ‘big lie’ of leadership o That someone always has the answer o Leaders are always ethical and effective & therefore worthy of following • That someone is always in charge • That policy is expert-driven, centralized and top-down, in the form of ‘Big G’ Government • Collaboration is generally ignored or considered an impediment to decision making • Technical rationality prevails – ie. objective science leads to good practice 4
  5. 5. Traditional Managerial Process Involves • Problem definitions that are presumed to be given & well understood • Various mental prisons constrain thinking, either through: • Bounded disciplines (eg. rigid epistemologies, claims of certainty, logic models); OR • Ideologies (eg. nationalism, socialism, perfection of markets, absolute need for leadership) • Answers that are assumed to be readily available, but require advocating & negotiation • Leading to an ongoing process of elite accommodation • Heavy reliance on positivistic notions of knowledge • Restrictive notions of knowledge (science-based, technical rationality) • Creating knowledge and policy silos • A governance culture dominated by redistribution (esp. since 90’s) • Collaboration only as a last resort in a process that is assumed • “we all say we want to collaborate, but what we really mean is that we want to continue doing things as we have always done them while others change to fit what we are doing.” -- former US Surgeon General, Jocelyn Elders • Governance design is largely absent • The whole is lost • No one thinks about how diverse groups can be together, let alone work together 5
  6. 6. Governments out of sync • While this paradigm seemed to work for a long time, the pressures from many public sector challenges - some of which are existential – show it is out of sync with modern realities • According to Canada’s Privy Council Clerk, the federal Public Service is unproductive; lacking in agility; somewhat learning impaired; and worn out. • This is not perceived as the fault of public servants themselves, but… • The principal challenge is the escalating pace of change, including technological change and the complexity of the issues • Governmental interventions are increasingly based on incomplete understanding, insufficient resources, and/or partial authority, leading either to their ineffectiveness or to unintended consequences. Although failure is frequently systemic, it is assigned as a personal failing. • The value contribution of the public service is being diminished. “I think people in this country have had enough of experts” - Michael Gove, Brexit champion & current UK justice minister • Administrative conservatorship that sacralizes the status quo and imposes severe learning impairment on institutions 6
  7. 7. When Emotion Trumps Fact “what to do when unreason becomes the enemy, and your fact bombs do nothing but bounce of an ignorant or unwilling target? Welcome to 2016, where facts are to political argument what the albatross was to the Ancient Mariner. The rules of engagement have changed and politicians can no longer labour under the misapprehension that facts remain trump cards.” - Andrew Macdougall, Ottawa Citizen, 25 June 2016 For 300 years, our whole edifice of a non-partisan, public service has been built on objective, expert knowledge as a basis of decision making, in order to counter ideas like “l’état c’est moi”. If facts aren’t needed, what becomes of the public service? Of democracy? 7
  8. 8. Leadership 1867-2010 2010 was the year after the “Great Recession” of 2008- 2009, when citizens generally became aware that, not only were their leaders unhelpful, but that their leaders were, in many ways, often complicit in their misfortunes 8
  9. 9. The Monopoly of Governments on Social Coordination Has Ended: Alternatives Exist • Historically, businesses represent what we do; not-for-profits represent who we are; and governments represent how we coordinate what we do and who we are. • No longer. There are a growing number of alternatives to social coordination that are not provided for by governments • Private-public partnerships, community-based initiatives, and ‘whole of government’ approaches in which the work of the public interest is being defined by groups other than governments • The blockchain, cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin & Ethereum) and the erosion of public finance • From government as the ‘central authority’ to the network as ‘the authority’ o Gov’t not required to authenticate degrees, licences, deeds, birth & death certificates, pensions, insurance claims, votes, etc. • Citizen participation and coordination in previously public domains o education (MOOCs), health (MumsNet), transportation (Uber), planning (City 2.0), disaster relief (Ushahidi-Haiti), space exploration (Galaxy Zoo) • Citizens are framing democratic debate (DemocracyOS;;and outside elected representatives 9
  10. 10. The Challenges to Governments • Old Paradigm: Someone has to be in charge • However, between 2010 and 2011 Belgium functioned without any government at all for 589 days -- no one was in charge, because opposing Flemish and Walloon parties were unable to agree on how to form a governing coalition. Belgians clearly did not see a functioning, elected government as being all that critical. • Old Paradigm: Governments are the voice of the people • Despite solid support from US business leaders and representatives of the US government for the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’, a rag tag group of individuals and companies rallied against it, including Craigslist, Flickr, Google, Mozilla, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, Wikipedia, and Wordpress. On 18 January 2012, 115,000 websites went offline in protest of SOPA, most notably Wikipedia, in the largest protest action in human history, involving millions of people worldwide, including over 10 million US voters. Over night SOPA was dead. • Old Paradigm: Governments have the power to coerce us to comply • Silicon Valley’s Internet leaders recently suggested that next gen leaders dissatisfied with the status quo are in effect seceding from the traditional US power centres (Boston, New York, Washington and LA) through such innovations like MOOCs, Kickstarter, Uber, Bitcoin, YouTube, and Blogger. • “It’s no longer clear that [government] can ban something it wants to ban anymore.” • Without that coercive power, and with value generation shifting online, the voices of the established powers are less credible & the legitimacy of centralized government is increasingly called into question 10
  11. 11. Alternative Paradigm (intelligent governance) • Where we need to go as a society, we can’t get there with the old public admin paradigm of management and leadership. • There is an growing amount of experiential data that is suggestive of an alternative paradigm, one we call intelligent governance, that: • Assumes an uncertain, unpredictable, complex, emergent, Quantum world • Assumes no shared values in our pluralist world • Where social learning & stewardship are the keys to effective governance • Where no one is, or can be, in charge • That is driven by multiple stakeholders, is decentralized and bottom-up, and operates via shared ownership and small ‘g’ co- governance • Where collaboration is seen as essential for comprehensive knowledge, resources and power, & its skills are systematically developed; and • Where epistemic rationality prevails, that is, where practice informs science and we learn by doing 11
  12. 12. The Alternative Process of Intelligent Governance • Collective inquiry constructs a shared problem definition • The various parts of knowledge must be brought together • The facilitation of a ‘possibility conversation’ rather than trying to fix the problems of the past • Multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder, imaginative, future-oriented dialogue • Assumptions are tabled, & the -isms factored in and exorcized • Answers are evolved through experimentation and prototyping • The focus of governance is on social learning • Leveraging a diversity of knowledge and experience as the means of wayfinding • Integrative thinking is used to generate social innovation • Creates a governance culture permeated by the need for coordination • Both physical & social technologies of collaboration are utilized • Key factors in the design of governance regimes • Governance is by design, omnipresent & ongoing 12
  13. 13. Possibilities • A culture shift from ‘Government’ to ‘governance’ practices that enable the public sector to fulfill a guiding and steering role to both reduce social conflict and maximize social innovation. • Governments openly recognize that they can not control anything that matters in the lives of their citizens. They adopt a distributed ‘co-governance’ model that is inclusive & focused on co-learning. • In adopting an intelligent governance approach, governments add new value as collective brokers, facilitators, educators, angel investors, and conflict mediators inspiring new relationships with businesses, not-for-profits and citizens that foster social learning and innovation. • More of the total potential of Canadian society becomes engaged in ongoing experiments to deal with complex, socio-economic problems and to take advantage of new opportunities. • Governments are reoriented towards developing the skills, processes, mechanisms and practices that promote collective stewardship by design. “How can we help?” becomes the maxim of government. • Governments become capable of using technology to connect to citizens and groups of citizens to co- learn, help generate new resources, conduct joint experiments, co-develop prototypes, be mutually accountable, and to co-govern. • OR, citizens increasingly opt out of a world of government that no longer appears to add value or has the leverage to coerce them to comply when they act virtually. The social coordination functions of government become increasingly performed by technology and artificial intelligence. • OR, governments seek to re-impose an illusion of control on a world that is essentially uncontrollable in ways reminiscent of strongman governments of old. 13
  14. 14. How to Obtain the Future We Want? • In every government, there are good things happening, great collaborations cutting across many boundaries involving passionate people trying to make a real difference for communities and people • Unfortunately, their stories tend to be marginalized, because they don’t fit with the narratives of the existing management-leadership paradigm • We need to shine a light on these stories and circulate them broadly, to show that the alternatives do work, and that they can produce successes that are good for both citizens and governments, while demonstrating the new value and legitimacy that is being created • And then we need to document how they did it, what skills and practices did they employ, and share these too so that we can all learn together how to build a better future collectively 14
  15. 15. Thank You Gilles Paquet Christopher Wilson Emeritus Professor Telfer School of Management University of Ottawa Ottawa, ON Tel: 613-562-5800, x 4729 Email: Senior Research Fellow Centre on Governance, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON Tel: 613-355-6505 Email: 15