Welfare 2.0?

Living in a welfare state, I am being increasingly convinced that the next level of welfare must embrace corporate social responsibility (CSR) – in a radically different way. Not very unlike the way that the Indian conglomerate Tata has demonstrated CSR over the years (see this recent article if you are not familiar with Tata).

This radically different way of societal welfare is not just for the developing world. In fact, social media is also empowering grassroot movements, increasing social engagement and making an impact in the developed world. I believe that the best reason to embrace embrace CSR is to alleviate the costs associated with providing quality care while simulatenously strengthening the network in the local community. The “state” – federated or centralized – can only provide care up to a certain point after which it becomes prohibitively expensive. And communities cannot outsource all aspects of care-giving without losing a bit of the feeling of community. (Aside: Robots for care-giving seem to be set to play a dominant role in care-giving in Japan but Sweden approaches the same issue differently. There is room for a combination – depending on demographics and societal practices – though my personal preference is for the Swedish model. I believe it can scale better in the developing world.)

I believe that for CSR to scale up and out, it requires a trusted societal digital infrastructure. An infrastructure that encourages the creation of businesses to provide for eg. care-based services or education services while also enforcing transparency. Transparency generates trust, and trust can be used to provide deeply experiential services for consumers and citizens – while also being of value for service providers. See this article for an analysis on the economic value of trust.

Posted in business models, health care, societal digital infrastructure, sustainability, transparency | Leave a comment

Are public services different from other services?

There must be other people who also react to the notion of services from the public sector. What exactly are services from the public sector? How do these services compare to commercially provided services? Admittedly, the term “services” is overloaded, but to me – these “services” are just the provisioning of citizen rights. Are the public sector services actually a platform for service production? Something that allows commercial service providers to develop deeply engaging and experiential — and mainly trust-based services

NHIN Direct is one such platform effort for the health sector. I am posting this here and not on my health and wellness blog because NHIN Direct appears to take the form of the Societal Digital Infrastructure that I have talked about for a long time. This platform can be duplicated for the education sector and other government-driven industries.

Tim O’Reilly provides excellent commentary on NHIN in the context of a wider topic of Government as a platform. In fact, he refers to Dr Halamka’s excellent post that goes into more detail. I believe that as platforms emerge, entire sectors have the potential to innovate. The role of such public sector services are also catalytic.

Service innovation could become mainstream activity for commercial and public sector enterprises – project portfolio management is the (somewhat dull) practice most likely to absorb service innovation practices. But, how should enterprises open their practices to include external partners? The answer is far from obvious. Lot of work to be done there. And how can this spread to the masses where the seeds of innovation originate and germinate?

Consumer/citizen-centered design will eventually get there … I’m even more convinced than before.

Note: This post was started on the 28.2 but completed on 15.3

Posted in education, health care, interoperability, societal digital infrastructure | Leave a comment

Innovations in service delivery

I have been spending a lot of time looking for innovations in service creation and come up with some very interesting cases. But none so impressive that could actually get me back to health care blogging.

Listening to the Aravind talk at TED India I was left speechless. Just earlier in the day I had attended a working meeting to structure a research project around service innovation. Earlier in the week, I had attended a similar meeting around service innovation in health care. Watching the video, I was struck by how innovation was happening in practice.

What was more startling was that they were addressing the same problem – just applying the similar technologies with a different mind set (and may be a different value system). Our health care, in the western world, need not be so expensive and so unreachable. Admittedly, we do not have large volumes, but we have the technologies like telemedicine but have not deployed them correctly. The real shocker was taking the McDonald-model to health care. More so, my own realization that there is a sense of job-protection at play when we restrain ourselves in thinking of doctors “flipping burgers” (or consultants for that matter).

The move by Aravind Eye care give themselves competition, by sharing knowledge to competitors and thereby raising the bar, is truly inspiring. And at the same time, daunting for many. Have we created a society where we must hang on to job-status at any cost? Not deliberatly at any rate. Service innovation can come from beyond intelligence and capability.

Or to quote Dr. G. Venkataswamy, the founder of Aravind “Intelligence and capability are not enough. There must be the joy of doing something beautiful”.

Posted in service design, service innovation, telemedicine | Leave a comment

Open Source is more than free software

The open source movement has been popularised by the geeks, who benefited immensely from the collaborative power of the internet. The notion of open source has been around for centuries albeit in small communities where knowledge sharing was a way of life. The concept of bartering and peer production was given shape in the late 19th century. And in 2003, collaborative projects like Wikipedia emerged and have proven to be quite successful.

Yochai Benkler points out in his TED talk, that “social production” is the long term disprutive force that will challenge the players in the commercial market place. Benkler’s book “The Wealth of Networks” is made available as a source for open discussion using Yale’s annotation platform.

So as the Internet continues its growth, the notion of an open source is moving to other domains. Like the Open Architecture Network that provides solutions to a wider audience. Peer production is here to stay… and a key question is to figure how commercial players and the public sector would respond to this disruption.

Posted in Digital Home, intention-value-network, open source, societal digital infrastructure | Leave a comment

Consumer Centered Service Development – First Tuesday 23rd may 2006

As social media technologies build for interoperability, interesting things can happen. This presentation is 3 1/2 years old, but posted to slideshare 3 weeks ago. And now being linked to my blog.

Am just curious to see how this works in pratice.

Posted in consumer-centered design, consumerisation of IT, service innovation | Leave a comment

Designing public services

I have earlier blogged about service design and last week at the 1st Nordic conference on Service Design and Service Innovation conference I met a number of very skilled people from different domains. It just reinforced my thinking about the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to address the challenges of designing services.

My own contribution on Day 2 was during the workshop on “Designing public services” was enlightening. My role was not as an expert in service design, but as a consumer-citizen; a c-c trying to make a case for participatory design. I am even more convinced that consumer-centered design is critical in the design of services and even more so in the design of public services. This blog was taglined “citizen-driven design. Shaping the agenda for Society 2.0” some years ago and my search for methods and practices for citizen involvement continues. It’s not a question of “getting there” — but more on evolving democratic processes to capture the “requirements” from citizens.

My presentation – that focused on scenarios for health care and wellness – was actually making a point around “capture of requirements”. I used scenarios as a means to convey “requirements — while making the point that we need to be more intention-oriented in understanding services. I view intentions as an abstraction above needs and requirements and suspect intention-orientation will open for citizen participation while also providing a means to “manage” the design process using conventional practices like “requirements management”. Besides citizen participation, intention-orientation will also help unify practices from the different disciplines involved in service design.
So it is with some expectations I will be attending Dugnadssamfunnet 2.0 (Norwegian) arranged by the Ministry of Government Administration and Reform.

Posted in citizens' portal, intention-value-network, knowledge sharing, rich experiences, societal digital infrastructure | Leave a comment

Education as a basic right – how can we make grassroot innovation scale up and out?

I am fortunate to live in a country where basic education is compulsory and higher education is a basic right. This means, as a parent I am obliged to send my children to school (grades 1-10) and penalised if I prevent them; and my children are entitled to higher education opportunities (within certain parameters).

I have earlier blogged a bit on topics around education and my visit to Mumbai this July coincided with Hilary Clinton’s talk at St. Xavier, my alma mater. So, after reading Sagarika Ghose’s recent post on education in India and BBC’s coverage of Babar Ali I felt I had capture this in a blogpost. I hope the coverage brings support for Babar Ali to improve his efforts and more importantly energizes more people to get involved in grassroot activities to make a difference. India has earlier witnessed grassroots innovations like Abhyanand’s work in coaching poor students enter IIT.

We need such inspiration and excitement to drive the hard work that goes with making things happen. We have films like Taare Zameen Par that have sensitized the public and driven a sense of civic action. And then there is the OLPC project (Uruguay was recently reported as the first country to go all out with OLPC) and innovative technology efforts like WiHood. These solutions have an ability to scale very rapidly and can replicate the innovations from Babar Ali or Abhayanand.

However, scaling this up is hard for many reasons. Based on my work with alumni from my childhood school I have reduced them to two hurdles (1) the obvious hurdle is government lethargy and corrupt practices (2) the inaction from established educational institutions. I consider (2) to be the bigger hurdle. A hurdle that, if addressed collaboratively, can transform society rapidly — particularly rural communities that need small efforts to bring about huge change. I believe that most of the established institutions do not know how to exploit the mass-collaboration that Internet technology is making possible. This is not a technology challenge, it is about educating and education policy — it is about practices to teach, to create learning content — and to train teachers to be mentors in a networked world where sharing is “a givers gain”. This inability and subsequent inaction — deliberate or accidental — is something a country like India cannot afford. The inaction almost tends to justify government lethargy, instead of egging governments to go aggresively forward in providing local infrastructure.

I have earlier blogged on the Knowledge Commission and am hopeful that the current government will provide policy change and gradually drive infrastructural development. But I am more concerned about the other hurdle. I am an impatient soul and sense from other bloggers that we cannot wait too long for development and equal opportunity to come to the masses who need it so badly. This is not missionary work — it is about not letting the world explode because we forgot to bring along the less fortunate on this journey to the future.

PS! I have not forgotten the role of the family in the education process nor the business potential — I’ve just not reflected long enough on my experiences in the parent-teacher association. Some time soon…

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Nobel prize for Obama – Why I think it is a good thing.

Friday’s announcement of the 2009 Nobel peace prize award to Obama has drawn much comment around the globe The comments are driving introspection and reflection at mulitple levels — as witnessed by blogposts and Facebook conversations. The notion of peace is being examined and dissected and I suspect weekend conversations are going to be really interesting. In itself, this is a success for the Nobel committee!

Rambling through the blogosphere, I see my own reflections from different perspectives – starting from from the banal “what has he done to deserve this” to the business consultant in me “how do we measure success” and to the digital citizen in me “the role of new media technologies in generating debate and participation” .

What has he done: In the short time he has been in office, he has shut down the Guantanamo prison, as the first US president to chair a UN Summit he has secured a unanimous resolution on nuclear disarmament, he has supported dialogue with Iran and the discussion table, addressing the Muslim world from Cairo, challenging the situation in the Middle East — just to name a few. These are good enough for me.

How do we measure success: After the immediate WTF and knee-jerk “the award is premature”-reaction, I was embarrassed. Embarassed, because as a planning and strategy consultant I expound the values of setting direction and thinking tactically in a strategic manner — beyond just focussing on what is delivered. Delivery and execution are critical, but recently strategy thinking has been reduced to glossy-talk that is devoid of vision (like slow food, I hope we get “slow strategy” :-)). I now see the Nobel committee’s award in that light; taking a bold step to interpret Nobel’s intentions for the 21st century. They were rewarding Obama for the direction he set, for the vision he creates by small actions. One man alone cannot do but one can certainly envision. Ultimately they are rewarding a vision that is open and can be adopted by anyone. And that is the real value of the award for me — “placing a responsibility” not only Obama, but on every head of state and every citizen of the world who shares that vision. A vision of a more equitable world, a world where conflict is resolved by dialogue and non-violence, a world where people are energized so that they can make a difference. If nothing else, the award has reenergized the world in a “Yes, we can” attitude. (Aside: I wish I had statistics on how many countries and communities have been energized by the Obama presidential campaign). So Yes, the Nobel committee have acted in a very strategic manner.

New media technologies in generating participation: After my first post to the BBC-website, when this award was announced. I have been reading blogs, newspaper sites, TV programs and Facebook comments. I was struck by how little attention I paid to mainstream networks. I googled using Google’s Fastflip and got the gist of what they were saying and got a lot more background. But then, it was the blogs, tweets and Facebook conversations that caught my eye. Social media technologies are engaging people more than ever and Friday’s award tells me that all that is needed is something really visionary to generate a debate and to involve and include. Society 2.0 is here and going global every day (Yeah, I know I said I would not use the 2.0 term, it now evokes new-thinking and I’m happy :-))

A note on the Nobel peace prize would not be complete if I did not mention my disappointment that the Nobel committee failed to a true innovator in peace — Mahatma Gandhi. See this article for some context. Speaking of the Mahatma, Albert Einstein puts it best “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”

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Collaborative content creation

A big problem with laws and other technical material produced for bureacratic use is that it is – for all practical purposes – limited to those who are well-versed in the jargon or those with an immense capacity to read through technical documentation. (This is not unlike similar practices where for eg only priests could read holy scripture). Opening up content, not only by putting it on the web, but also providing tools to review and comment it is a good idea.

Therefore, Sharedbook is a very welcome technology that encourages people to collaboratively comment and annotate content. This form of collaborative action is useful in growing communities and creating a more engaging electorate (or an enterprise workforce for that matter). As a champion of more direct and participatory democracy, this move has a lot of potential of driving transparency.

I mention Sharedbook, because this is being used by some in the current health care debate in the US. See Congressman John Culberson’s effort to get his constituents to engage themselves in the debate. There are similar technologies for co-creation of content (collaboratively creating content) — and hopefully we will see the electorate actually collaborating on creating content that can become law. NB! I am not advocating that untrained people replace laywers or other experts, but that people are encouraged to participate in shaping policy and help lawyers and the experts.

Posted in collaboration, crowdsourcing, knowledge sharing, transparency | Leave a comment

Trends and ramblings

Over the last few days, I’ve been trend-hunting — political trends and technology trends. And picked up Arianna Huffington’s note on the “All for good” initiative. To me, the potential impact of this site is huge, not only is it a demonstrator of how the grassroots can serve and be served. But, it also shapes how the governed and the governors interact.

As our notion of goverment and governance transforms, the concept of community widens in scope and participatory democracy becomes more practical. I also wonder what the concept of the nation-state will be like in 2020. Anyway, what is also fascinating at this point in time is watching technology develop against the backdrop of business and political challenges — we are witnessing continuous innovation. This innovation seems to be backed up political will in the US, consider a recent remark by the newly appointed US Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra “My job is to serve as the innovation platform champion in addressing private market opportunities in support of public priorities” (see this link and my Norwegian language post on my own aspirations for the Norwegian context).

Switching tracks for just a second: I picked up this TEDtalks speech by the prolific and eclectic Ray Kurzweil, as he presented the background for establishing the Singularity University. The university, captures my own sense for the need for inter-disciplinary thinking and the need for our leaders – public service and commerce – to prepare for the digital society. And we need to expect more from our leaders (for the politicians I still these that I posed at the end of this post) . To get a sense of the rate of development watch V Ramachandran’s mind-boggling lecture of the abilities of the brain (the last 5 mins will surprise you). Research like this is well on its way to removing barriers of prejudice and of what is possible and what is not.

And as technology and science provide a basis for a digital society, we must educate at all levels of society — and I hope our effort is strong for the grassroots. Afterall, it is at the grassroots where the problems and opportunities are experienced. It is at the grassroots we can hope to harness the mental and physical abilities in large numbers. Where also these large numbers can bring about the change and stimulate innovation. If crowdsourcing can work for Innocentive, why can’t it work for communities? Which is why I am optimistic of what “All for good” and similar sites can inspire.

Posted in business models, crowdsourcing, innovation, transparency | Leave a comment