10 entrepreneurs changing the way government works

I recently began reading The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good and felt compelled to highlight more people building business models around better government. The role of business and the entrepreneurial spirit as it relates to government is at times under-played or discredited (sometimes, rightfully so), but it’s the backbone of a democratic society.

Consider this the first in a series. For starters, here are 10 entrepreneurs changing the way government works.

Gov 2.0 Hero: John Lisle

John Lisle, Public Information Officer for the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in Washington, DC, shares his thoughts on leveraging social media and the value of using a little personality to connect with constituents.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Dominic Campbell

Dominic Campbell, founder of FutureGov and TweetyHall, shares his thoughts on Gov 2.0., (is that what they call it?), in the UK.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I came to government straight out of university (I’d actually wanted to work in local government since I was 17, if can you believe it) where I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to work my way around a local city council and poke, prod and challenge existing practice.

During this time, I was exposed to a wide range of public services and bodies and became very aware of the gap between image and reality surrounding people working in government. The vast majority are hard working, committed individuals who do it out of love and a real passion to change the world. But they are hindered all the way by bad management, poor leadership, a culture of risk aversion and blockers like awful IT systems that are made by robots for robots. I refused to believe things had to be this way.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Daniel Newman

MAPLight.org Executive Director Daniel Newman

shares what his organization is doing and what it means for politics and money.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

As a volunteer in politics, trying to improve my community, I realized the tremendous influence of wealthy interests which slant laws to their benefit. I co-founded MAPLight.org to shine the light of transparency on the river of money that underlies our politics and to help citizens hold their politicians accountable.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Anil Dash

Anil Dash, tech entrepreneur and former Vice President and Chief Evangelist at Six Apart (makers of TypePad and Movable Type), recently opened Expert Labs, a “new independent initiative to help policy makers in our government take advantage of the expertise of their fellow citizens.” (See Entrepreneur, blogger Anil Dash announces venture to connect tech, government experts)

Dash shares thoughts on his new role and civic venture.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Steve Lunceford

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I’m a communications guy by trade, working in media relations and strategic communications for nearly two decades. Over the last 10 years or so I’ve worked in and around the public sector for organizations like Sprint, BearingPoint and now with Deloitte. Around 24 months ago, it became obvious to me that new technologies and tools were fundamentally changing the way communicators worked — the way reporters interacted with sources, the way organizations disseminated information, the way citizens expected to interact with their government. While I was familiar with eGov initiatives and the web 1.0 services that federal, state and local governments were providing (ordering birth certificates or publishing reports on line and such), it was less apparent to me how new channels like Twitter, YouTube, FaceBook, MySpace and the like could be applied to the public sector. After all, these were “social” tools and seemed more fitting for lighter discussions and interactions, or maybe more relevant for the technology sector, not the business of government.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Dustin Haisler

Local Gov 2.0 Hero Dustin Haisler, is Municipal Judge & CIO/City Secretary of Manor, Texas.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

Coming out of the banking industry, I began my career in local government almost four years ago as the Finance Director for a small growing city in Central Texas. After a few days on the job I realized there were significant technology shortfalls that needed to be addressed. At the time, the city did not own a server and each department’s software operations were run on stand alone machines, and there was no integration. The biggest challenge was how to overcome this monstrous obstacle with an IT budget less than $100,000. We could have issued debt to pay for building a technology infrastructure from scratch, but instead, we decide to innovate most of our own solutions. After three years of software and network integration, the City of Manor is now recognized as a leader in local government technology. The amazing thing is that through innovation and creativity our city was able to make this transformation with limited funds in such a short period of time. These technologies have allowed us to further increase efficiency and transparency in our community.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Rob Rhyne

Rob Rhyne, User Experience Designer at SRA International, will present “Invisible City” as part of the Gov 2.0 Expo Government as a Provider section.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I’ve worked in Knowledge Management as a designer and developer 8 years for a government contractor. I’ve redesigned numerous systems, increasing user buy-in simply by increasing the feedback loop for the design and construction of those applications. It became obvious that user trust was directly linked to their understanding and control of the application.

Specifically to Gov 2.0, I’ve developed a concept I call Invisible City (no relation to Calvino’s “Invisible Cities”) that is a vision for an Augmented Reality that utilizes data services provided by a local municipality in a mobile application. It’s a natural combination of current mobile technology with a government that opens the doors to its data storage and collection procedures. I see the government becoming a data platform that provides application developers a rich set of information and information collection resources to facilitate citizen interaction with government.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Rita J. King

Rita J. King is CEO and Creative Director of Dancing Ink Productions and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I’ve been studying the cultural effects of digital anonymity since 1996, but when I discovered a Muslim woman in a virtual Jewish synagogue in Second Life in 2006 I realized that global culture had entered a powerful new realm. The idea of “avatars” is polarizing. Some people instantly see the benefit of this new form of identity and community construction while others, believing that avatars dehumanize people, are appalled. I was not a gamer, nor did I ever expect to be mesmerized by the virtual world of Second Life after a friend of mine who works at IBM suggested that I check it out. I was reading Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth,” and I searched on temples, synagogues, churches and mosques during my first few hours and days in Second Life, which was how I found myself at prayer services in a virtual Jewish synagogue speaking to a Muslim woman.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Beth Beck

As Space Operations Outreach Program Manager for NASA Headquarters, Beth Beck has one of the best jobs in the universe. Beth shares her affinity for iPhones and chaos via social media.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

WIRED Magazine is my bell-weather for all things new. How does that apply to Gov 2.0? I find that we, the generic government, usually lag two years behind industry in our application of new products or processes. WIRED showcases all things trendy, giving me a jumpstart on ideas for cool new applications and products. I can try out new technology and software in prototype projects and once we’ve worked out the kinks in the system, others can follow.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Nick Charney

Gov 2.0 Hero Nick Chaney, Renewal Wonk, aka “Mr. Engagement” of the Rat Pack of Canadian Public Service Renewal, shares his thoughts on Gov 2.0.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

Nick Charney: Let’s just say it’s been long, dual-tracked road. Officially, I’ve been a federal public servant (in Canada) now for just over three years, during which time I’ve held 5 different positions, each of which has taken me a bit closer to Gov 2.0.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Jim Gilliam

Jim Gilliam talks about his many Gov 2.0 projects, including NationBuilder, White House 2 and act.ly and what inspires him to make government work.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

When I found out computers could talk to each other, I fell in love. That was over 20 years ago, and I’ve spent most of my career using the internet to bring democracy to different industries. I was involved in partnering with Netscape to bring the Open Directory Project to Lycos and Hotbot back in the late 90’s. Yahoo built a directory by hand, and Chris Tolles had this crazy idea that he could crowdsource a much better version. This was probably one of the first Web 2.0 projects, before the term even existed.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Adriel Hampton

Private investigator, new media strategist, founder, co-host & co-producer of Government 2.0 Radio and Gov 2.0 Hero Adriel Hampton.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

It really was seeing how the Barack Obama campaign was using low-cost communications to allow folks from all over the nation to get involved with the campaign right from their home computers. That woke up the journalist and activist in me, and I started looking around what was going on in the tech activism space. I was also doing a lot of networking on LinkedIn, and started tinkering around a bit with the Government 2.0 group there. Then, in the summer, Steve Ressler posted on LinkedIn asking folks to check out GovLoop. I joined when Steve’s site was just shy of 1,000 people, and found it extremely valuable in terms of networking around tech-enabled government reform. I also learned a lot about Web 2.0 working with activist Jon Pincus to oppose the first big bank bailout, and I learned that there were all these great applications out there that can be used to make government more democratic, on the cheap.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Jeffrey Levy

Gov 2.0 Hero and Director of Web Communications Environmental Protection Agency Jeffrey Levy talks Gov 2.0.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I started doing Web 1.0 at EPA in 1994, and I’ve been working with great people ever since, both at EPA and not. As the new tools came along, it was a natural progression. Much of Web 2.0 meshes very well with our broad mission, after all. More specifically, I first did Web 2.0 when my team was tapped to help then-Deputy Administrator publish his blog a couple of years ago.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Lewis Shepherd

Gov 2.0 Hero Lewis Shepherd, CTO of Microsoft Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I’m an odd duck in this realm, a bit older than most of the Gov 2.0 forefront folks. I participated in Gov 1.0, and in Gov 0.9 before that, and in Pre-Wired Gov before that. As a kid in the ‘60s I was a political junkie, and I made candy money at the age of 6 by swarming parking lots for my local congressman in North Carolina and putting his bumperstickers on cars. A nickel a car for me, and no permission sought; people would at some point discover they had been driving around advertising their Member of Congress. Imagine if politicians today were remotely adding a banner ad to constituents’ personal websites and blogs! During grad school at Stanford two of my professors (Condi Rice of the last Administration, Dennis Ross of the new one) arranged a Pentagon gig for me as a Soviet foreign policy analyst in the Pentagon’s “internal think tank,” the Office of Net Assessment; it was 1985 and I already had my own PC, so I expected a shiny supercomputer on my desk at the Pentagon. Instead, I got an IBM Selectric II typewriter. I evangelized use of new technologies then, and again with my early jobs in city government.