Overcoming Barriers—DigitalGov Summit Recap

DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit and Expo - Justin Herman, GSA - Panel 3: Public Private Partnerships - Jack Bienko, SBA; Phil Ashlock, DataGov; Lynn Overmann, White House OSTP; Mike Reardon, DOL

As government innovators, we work to improve public services every day. In essence we are already in a public private partnership. But how can your agency capitalize on existing public private partnerships to engage citizens and enhance services?

Four panelists from across government shared their public private partnerships success stories at the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday. The three other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and inter-agency work. All agreed the secret to public private partnerships was to recognize that each agency’s challenge was far too complex to solve without collaboration from outside the government.

For example, take Data.gov. Panelist Phil Ashlock, Chief Architect at Data.gov, GSA, relies on public feedback through the code collaboration site GitHub. “Data.gov on GitHub is an open source public private partnership model,” said Ashlock. “It allows us to engage with the public and other agencies to improve the platform out in the open.” With this open model, Data.gov—in partnership with its community—is striving to allow different data visualization applications to be used directly on the site, making it a one stop shop for data across local, state, federal, and international governments.

Shared Mission

Successful public private partnerships need an established mission. Panelist Mike Reardon, Supervisory Policy Advisor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, Department of Labor, has partnered with national disability advocacy organizations to establish social media accessibility standards through ePolicyWorks.org. “If you don’t include everyone (in the mission) then you’re missing a large part of your market,” said Reardon. He urges agencies interested in partnerships to clearly define and communicate the project’s requirements so all partners can collaborate on a unified goal.

Overcome Partnership Skepticism

There’s some skepticism around public private partnerships, but panelist Jack Bienko, Deputy Director for Entrepreneurship Education, Small Business Administration, recommends learning the partnership ropes. He advises finding a legal or ethics specialist in your agency for guidance on sharing information, so you can collaborate and join forces with other organizations. Bienko also stresses the importance of making connections with like-minded groups. Without reaching out to potential partners, SBA wouldn’t be able to provide educational resources, financing, and procurement services to small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Citizen Engagement Barriers

In the realm of partnerships, panelist Lynn Overmann, Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, emphasizes the importance of citizen engagement and turning to the public for creative solutions. “We do a lot of work reaching out to citizens through platforms like We the People, but we need to do more to engage the public and bring their thoughts to the forefront,” said Overmann.

All panelists believe in tapping into the power of citizen engagement through online tools and platforms and recognize the need to provide an avenue for public feedback.

Public Private Partnership Examples

Looking for more examples of public private partnerships? Check out these tools shared by the panelists.

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