Networking Distributed Public Expertise: Strategies for Citizen Sourcing Advice to Government
Type of work: Working Paper
Categories:e-Government | Information Society | Innovation
The potential of crowd sourcing has captured the imagination of many managers and professionals across all sectors of society, but left many others quite skeptical. This is not only because conceptions of the wisdom of crowds appear counter-intuitive, but also, if taken literally, these concepts can be misleading and therefore dysfunctional for governments seeking to adopt innovations in distributed collaboration. This paper challenges conventional notions of the wisdom of crowds, arguing that distributed intelligence must be well structured by technical platforms and management strategies. After clarifying these conceptual issues, the paper explains how collaborative networking can be used to harness the distributed expertise of citizens, as distinguished from citizen consultation, which seeks to engage citizens – each on an equal footing. Networking the public as advisors aims to involve experts on particular public issues and problems distributed anywhere in the world. The paper then describes the lessons learned from previous efforts to citizen source advice, and why governments should again pursue this strategy as a means to inform policy and decision-making. This is followed by a set of nine strategies for fostering the bottom-up development of governmental initiatives aimed at harnessing distributed public expertise.