Notes from the seminar Ethics Management in Government: Experience in American Government, organized by the Anti-Fraud Office of Catalonia, and held in Barcelona, in January 23, 2014.
Jane S. Ley. Former Deputy Director of the United States Office of Government Ethics
Ethics Management in Government: Experience in American Government
The US Office of Government Ethics (OGE) was created after the Watergate scandal to prevent and investigate corruption and other unethical political practices. The office works at the Federal level, but some states and cities have similar bodies that deal with ethics, conflicts of interest and corruption.
The office creates written standards on what the citizen is expecting from a public officer: standards on payments, codes of conduct, etc.
Ethics or conduct is about everything that is not covered by the Law. But it is not about “general ethics” but about widely acknowledged standards and what is a correct (public) behavior and what is not.
For instance, a confidential financial disclosure procedure was created to avoid or to alert about conflicts of interest. This instrument is especially used as a counseling tool, to raise awareness on acts that can enter a conlifct of interest, more than a tool for ex-post enforcement or punishment.
Another project that the office runs is training for each and every new public officer.
There is, though, an enforcement part of the programme. This enforcement part consists in investigating people and practices that are suspicious of unethical behavior, or some information has been made public that raises questions about their behavior.
Rogelio Rajala: who provides training? Ley: every agency is in charge of deploying their own training and it’s usually done in house.
Q: what happens when people lose trust in the government? Ley: when the citizen trusts not the government, it is a very difficult situation as anything the government does does not seem legitimate. Only regaining trust is a way forward. We have to raise awareness on people acting evilly and people just acting bad but without a bad intention. This is an important task to do and it helps in recovering trust.
Jordi Tres: does the office intervenes in the selection of the people recruited for the different agencies in charge of public ethics. Ley: OGE trains these officers.
Q: how do we deal with the ‘revolving door’ problem? Ley: the dilemma is that the government wants to recruit the best brains out there, but also to avoid that these best brains (who are working for top companies) use their government position and information to be able to help somebody they are going to work with/for in the future. The latter is the goal of the OGE. But once they’re out of office, there are also laws that prevent conflicts of interest about (not) using confidential information, access to top contacts, etc.
David Morella: how to prevent excessive lobbying power of corporations? Ley: there’s a lobbying law that deals about who talks to whom and about what, that regulates donations to parties and campaigns, etc.
Ismael Peña-López: what happens in the gray area between what is fair and what is illegal, i.e. what is unethical while being legal? Or what happens when the crime has expired (i.e. not guilty, but not innocent either) or when the process of judging a person takes very long? Ley: It depends. For public employeeds, there is a code of conduct and if their behavior is affecting or can affect their duties, they can be fired, or be given other administrative duties out of their actual responsibility. For members of the cabinet, it depends on
how embarrassing they are to the president or to the one they are working for. The problem comes with elected members, who can resign but do not necessarily have to. Thus, it will depend on their voters’ outrage, what they did, etc.
Gabriel Capilla: how you deal with conflicts? Ley: our laws are not that much about conflicts of interest but more about incompatibilities. E.g. selling stock of specific companies they might own if they are in an office related with the Treasury.
Carme Olivé: what about local politics? In Spain, most political representation is based on political parties. But a mayor is somewhat similar to a mayor in the US. How can we raise awareness on transparency and ethics a the local level? Ley: the smaller the community, the more likely conflicts of interest will be avoided or found. Notwithstanding, the transparency of the whole process and the public perception of fairness is crucial.
Q: in Spain there is a good amount of people that are involved in trials and charged for different crimes, and the process is taking so long that the presumption of innocence seems not to be enough for the citizen. How can media help in bringing some light to the debate? What happens with the trade off freedom of speech (of media) vs. privacy (of elected representatives being tried)? Do we trust media? Do they help in creating an objective public opinion upon whether an elected representative should resign or be dismissed? Ley: the US do not control the press, and even if there are laws against libel, freedom of speech is very important and rarely is tampered with. And thus trust the public to make up their own decisions.
Óscar Rojas: the US have a law that deals with access to information since 1966, unlike Spain which just approved its own in 2013 and the Catalan Parliament that will very likely approve theirs in 2014. Do you think that the law should be restrictive to accessing information or very tolerant? Ley: the good thing of being a late comer is that you can benefit from what other countries have done in the field. My own principle is that the more information is out there, the better, even if one did not ask for it. And exceptions should be as narrow as possible. If the information is embarrassing to the government, that is not enough to withdraw that information. Only matters of national security, whether someone can be killed because of the disclosure of certain information, etc. would be exceptions to be taken into account.
Round table: New landscapes and new requirements for Education and their professionals.
Chairs: Jordi Collet, professor of the Departament of Pedagogy, Universitat de Vic.
Ismael Peña-López, professor of Public Policies for Development, UOC; Director of Open Innovation, Fundació Jaume Bofill.
Joan Subirats, professor of the Departament of Political Science and Public Law, UAB, and researcher at IGOP.
Fordism put us into massification, by standadizing many processes and outputs. Digitization puts us into individual needs and emotions.
Our present is a public national educational system, to educate masses, and fostered by the State. But the idea of nation is questioned, the idea of system is opposed to network, the idea of masses goes against personalization. Heterogeneity is here to stay.
If what is “public” is in crisis because of the crisis of the state (or the nation-states), how can we vindicate public education, what is public, from the individual point of view? or from the collective but non-governmental point of view?
The concept of expertise, of the expert, is also challenged.
Bauman: how to build intelligent missiles that change their trajectory as targets move or change. How do we maintain an educational structure that is notwithstanding able to adapt to the always changing targets and environment. Can we create cooperating universities? Or universities that are cooperatives?
How can we make up new methodologies and structures and, more important, how can we generate agreements and consensus on how to sustain these new methodologies and structures.
Jordi Collet: is innovation ideologically neutral? Subirats: surely not. Peña-López: as innovation is the application of technology, and technology is the realization of science, it is very difficult to avoid adding ideology in each step of application.
Jordi Collet: how to go from theory to practice? Peña-López: 1) creating spaces of conversation, of sharing, enabling platforms, networks; 2) accelerate conversation; 3) foster skills to learn how to learn. Subirats: combining self-learning and processes of collaborative building.
Ramon Grau: how do we spread the gospel of innovation? how do we tear down the ancient regime? Peña-López: it may be just to soon for many people to acknowledge changes. It will take time and pedagogy. Subirats: raising awareness on new practices, new ways of doing things.
Q: How do we foster critical thinking and critical use of technology and networks? Peña-López: we should apply technology to improve training of trainers so that those can improve learning methodologies that can act upon pre-existing inequalities, as the knowledge gap hypothesis has evidenced again and again.
Joan Badia: How do we educate for uncertainty? what happens with values? Peñ-López: same answer as before: the Internet multiplies inequalities and values. We should act on the substrate at least to change the sign from negative to positive, so that when we multiply we are multiplying in positive. But changing or transferring values with technology and methodologies may not be the best way to change them. Subirats: fostering the idea that education is a common good (not a “public” good), and that it is in the interest of everyone to take care of it, to make it possible, to build it.
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Round table: What did it mean to my personal and professional experience belonging to an innovation network.
Chairs: Miquel A. Alegre, membre de l’Institut Català d’Avaluació de Politiques Públiques (Ivàlua).
Martí Olivella, director de Nova – Innovació Social.
Enabling learning is like being a sower. The teacher seeds and grows seeds of transformation in fields of opportunity and is persistent so that seeds can germinate, grow and produce.
If there is no crisis, there is not an opportunity of change.
Innovation is about making happen things that are statistically unlikely.
- Fighting against the compulsory military service through objection of conscience or insubmission.
- For a better quality of democracy. Deliberation is not voting: citizen parlaiament.
- Rethink cities as transition towns.
Keys for transformation:
- Social innovation: structural transformation. To ask ourselves what we are doing and why is already an transformer action.
- Network: a team of teams with synergies.
- Educational: we transform ourselves by transforming others. Education for transformation = transformation for education.
Agnès Barba, founder of the Xarxa 0-6 de Bellvitge and director of the School els Encants de Barcelona.
To create a network of schools and all other people outside of schools that have to do, in some way, with education. The goal being how to make a comprehensive accompaniment to kids’ learning.
When a new school is created, the only way to create it is by taking into account all the stakeholders and agents related with the education of kids. And that is done through networks.
A basic aspect for a network to work is meeting together, talking, discussing, exchanging information, feelings, doubts, approaches, proposals.
Jordi Adell, coordinator of the Centre for Education and New Technologies of the Universitat Jaume I de Castelló (CENT).
Belonging to networks of teachers is highly transforming and reshapes how one faces their own teaching.
Educational institutions are beginning to shift from being isolated places where education happens, to be nodes of huge networks that enable learning.
Networks work well if one contributes to them: the more you give, the more you get.
Networks are a window to the world:
my classroom is the world. There still are many degrees of freedom within the educational system and networks are one of them.
There are a lot of emerging teaching and learning methodologies, many of them enabled by technology. There is a lot of innovation ongoing and we must make it visible, share it.
For complex systems, good practices do not work. Good practices are good for simple or complicated systems, but not for complex systems. For complex systems we must look not at practices, but at patterns.
For analysing and realizing patterns, theories work very well. Theory is not opposed to practice, but complementary.
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Round table: Leading today’s centers: challenges of an innovative center.
Chairs: Ferran Ruiz, president of the School Council of Catalonia.
Is it possible to consolidate and maintain innovative learning environments? What changes — regulation, budget, culture — should be introduced? What experiences can be used as a reference?
Ramon Grau, director of the INS Quatre Cantons of the Network of Innovative High Schools of the ICE-UAB.
Sometimes a change is required to enable further changes: a change of scenario, a change of team, or just building a new school or high school.
Three main ideas:
- The student should work in the classroom: listen, speak, interact. This has an impact on the inner architecture of the physical spaces.
- The student should have autonomy. Thus, no coursebooks.
- The student should be proficient in managing information. Put questions, search for answers. Students should be able to provide evidence, to explain what they have learnt.
To do this, the centre works with the “globalized” model developed after Ovide Decroly. The centre also accepts requests from other institutions (theatres, museums, fablabs) for collaboration, with which they develop the globalized work after an external request. The students then develop these requests (write a play, multimedia content for a piece of art, create a short film) that are supervised by these institutions.
Mariona Monterde, head of studies at the School Serralavella, Ullastrell.
The school is highly commited with values and quality. The classroom is not a place, but a context for learning, learning being the ability of the students to put questions to themselves. In the classroom research processes are initiated to that answers to the former questions can be find.
This research heavily relies on conversation, on the exchange of information, ideas, feelings, etc.
As this is a project based on reflection, the project explicitly includes several measures and tools to enable reflection, not only within the project, but about it: pedagogical reflection, share experiences developed in the classroom, etc.
One of the main challenges for the sustainability of the project is the high rotation of the team: experiences are lost and newcomers get lost. Thus, monitoring and tutoring of most experiences and people is the way to try to maintain some coherence and continuity of the project. With the added problem of how to draw a possible schedule, how to avoid burnout, how to avoid an overwhelming workload.
This monitoring has to be highly flexible, and provide lots of room for the newcomer to experiment himself and to change the project itself.
Not all families understand the school project. Most of the times, they feel they lose control upon the education of their children, as their children do “different things” than the ones they parents did at school. The solution is to engage parents in the educational project.
Some concluding remarks:
- The school has become a place for the teachers for continuous learning and training.
- The school has become a place for the students where to learn how to be autonomous, critical.
Joan Badia, co-coordinator of the Project Leading for learning of the Fundació Jaume Bofill.
What are the elements of leadership that explain the improvements in education? Leadership is the engine of change for education by introducing innovation.
One common characteristic of leading and innovative centres is that teachers state that they learn from the students: everyone is learning. The most significant changes are the ones experienced at the personal level, including the teaching staff. And learning means, of course, deciding, participating, exploring, sharing, designing, deciding (again).
Q: is there a room for the coursebook in this scenario? Ramon Grau: it depends on the context. If the goal is sheer literacy or the transmission of basic knowledge, then it does have a place; but if the goal is the creation of new knowledge, then the coursebook is a barrier and not an enabler. Same with homework: homework will depend on the context, on the activities that are planned: sometimes homework will not be necessary, sometimes will be required as a starting point for the following day.
Ismael Peña-López: how should families adapt to these changes? Badia: this is impossible to answer, as there is not a unique model of family or, strictly speaking, not a model. Grau: the least we should aim at is that families understand what centres are doing, that they are engaged, that they share what is being done at the school or high school.
Q: how teacher training reproduces traditional methodologies or how can it foster new ones? Grau: it is true that, generally speaking, teacher training reproduces traditional methodologies and approaches and it is practice what brings innovation in.
Q: what happens when standardized exams make it almost impossible to introduce any methodological change? Ramon Grau: why cannot we work differently in specific courses despite the pressure of standardized exams?
Jordi Adell: do we know how to make the “click” for change? Badia: no, we don’t. We know that some scenarios, some factors help, but do not know exactly how to trigger this “click”.
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Round table: Innovation in times of change of era
Chairs: Enric Roca, professor of the Department of Systematic and Social Pedagogy, UAB.
What values and what frameworks promote innovation? Which ones are a barrier to it? What characterizes innovative schools and innovative projects?
Joaquim Brugué, director of the Institute of Government and Public Policies (IGOP), UAB.
As these are times of change, it seems common sense that institutions should change too. Thus, innovation look like the best means to drive this change. But change makes change more complex. Problems become wicked, problems that cannot be simplified or reduced to simpler components. There is no simple answer or, simply, not just one single answer.
BUT: instead of trying to approach wicked problems in different and many ways, what institutions are doing is to specialize put all their effort in being more efficient and effective in their field of specialization… leaving wicked problems unsolved or, at least, providing wicked problems with one single perfect solution that actually does not solve all the complexity of the given issue.
This is the approach of a technocratic society or a technocratic organization that creates no externalities, no networks, no lateral vision.
Màrius Martínez, professor of the Departament of Applied Pedagogy, UAB.
We heavily rely on our own mindsets and mental frameworks, which drag us and stop us from looking at problems from different points of view.
Only dialogue can make these mindsets emerge, ideas be exchanged, and mindsets be changed, or adapted to others’.
There is a need to have a culture of transformation, of “why not?”, to give a chance to change, to transformation.
Once there is such a culture, innovation becomes explicit — not tacit — and can be transferred, replicated.
We have to have a systemic point of view, to look at the whole so that we can clearly frame the problems, the resources, the possibilities.
Trust and accountability, not suspicion and control.
Leadership has to be strong, but distributed, leaving room for collaboration and participation.
Provide resources, especially time, but with some planning, with deadlines, so that accountability can happen.
Emphasis on learning, on development. Innovation has to target learning, learning of the students or of the teaching stuff, but innovation has to lead to learn more and better things. And innovation has to be also an acknowledgement. The acknowledgement that (1) something is wrong and (2) it is wrong that something it is wrong. And, thus, it has to be fixed. Learning and equity are linked to innovation.
Martínez: innovation requires a shared project. And this shared project, or vision, is usually illustrated with a motto. The shared project and motto helps in building a story, a tale, a dialogue.
Enric Roca: Does everyone has to be an innovator in their same role? Can we specialize? Should we not?
Quim Brugué: there should not be such a role as “the innovator”. Instead, conditions have to be created where innovation can happen. These conditions include, most of the times, dialogue and the hybridization of approaches.
Màrius Martínez: in an innovative environment, people feel like agents, agents of change. So, yes there is a need to find agents of change. Distributed leadership is about identifying the existing talent and putting it to work. In this train of thought, maybe the term “good practices” is not as good as “practices of reference”.
Quim Brugué: we have to be aware that what we take for learning is not sheer imitation. This is the risk of having “practices of reference” which, in the end, evolve into bad copies.
Màrius Martinez: the currículum should be put in crisis and, in this exercise, the student should have a leading role.
Q: why most institutions and people deny complexity? Màrius Martinez: sometimes it is a matter of perception, that is, of not perceiving complexity. Quim Brugué: sometimes because complexity is a blocking scenario and, thus, decision-makers rather approach not complexity but simplicity, where traditional rules and tools used to work.
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Round table: Building innovative learning environments.
Chairs: M. Carme Armengol, professor, Departament of Applied Pedagogy, UAB.
How are these innovative learning environments? What needs do they fill? Why are they innovative? What can be learnt from them?
Ramon Barlam, coordinator of Projecte Espurna, ICE-UAB
4 dimensions of educational innovation:
- Person: projects addressed to the individual.
- Group: projects addressed to groupbuilding.
- Centre: projects designed at the educational centre level.
When working in a network:
- it is mandatory to adapt the activities to the needs of everyone;
- sometimes adding is better than multiplying;
- consider new tools; consider emergent methodologies;
- vindicate the professionalization of innovation.
- consider innovation that is sustainable, and not necessarily state-of-the-art.
Roser Argemí, coordinator of the Magnet Programme, Alliances for educational success, Fundació Jaume Bofill.
The Magnet Programme is aimed at fighting imbalances within the educational system, identifying school segregation and, thus, improve its its quality and the success of schooling.
In the Magnet Programme, an educational centre partners with a referent organization to transform the centre and improve the perception of quality and approval of the centre so that families increase their attachment to it.
One of the main assets of the programme is that it gathers different types of people so that they can work together.
The programme heavily relies on a strong leader, but also on an engaged team, aware of the big challenges that their (“segregated”) centre faces, but positive on the possibilities of change. The key to success in innovation is collaborative work, communities of practice, engagement in everyone’s work.
Another requisite for such a project to have success is a certain degree of stability, especially stability of the components of the team, as its results only come in the medium term.
A (still) open question is whether quality and equity can happen together and not as a trade-off.
Carme Oriol, head of studies of Joan Maragall School from the Schools that Learn Network, ICE-UAB.
Did we innovate? If yes, why did we do that? We surely innovate to survive: standing still, sitting on a fence was not an option in a changing world. The school has always felt isolated: it lies 4km away from the urban area; it belongs to a marginalized quarter from the city; it has little relationship with parents, as students take the bus to the centre [note: not usual for urban schools in Spain]. The group of students is highly heterogeneous, with many different origins and mother languages. In his scenario, the traditional way of teaching just did not work.
So, what comes first is reflecting about the issues and getting some (or a lot of) training, to find out new ways to face the new challenges. Then comes imagining what tools will be required to go on with actual action. But how to maintain continuity and coherence of the actions undertaken? Or, on the contrary, how to prevent
accelerated activism? There is a need for creating a trust chain and to organize environments that enable reflection, sharing knowledge, training.
Q: how should organizational structures of the organizations be like to be able to implement such innovation projects. Carme Oriol: maybe the newest factor is creating environments where information flows in, reflection and learning happens, and decisions and priorities are made based on evidence. More than focussing on hierarchies and making direct decisions, the organization should aim at making debate happen so that everyone can make their own decisions.
Q: in the Magnet Project, what happens after the 4 years that the project usually lasts? Roser Argemí: it is obvious that after 4 years the centres and their environment will not be radically transformed. The focus of the project is changing the inner structure of the centre so that, when the project is officially over, it actually lasts grounded on the organizational change that the centre underwent.
Q: will the “normal” school ever innovate and transform itself? Ramon Barlam: the most difficult thing is maintaining the pace of innovation. And the problem is not usually the inner structure, but the educational, social and regulatory environment. This is especially relevant in secondary education. The dimension of the centre is, nowadays, the one that causes most failures.
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