New digital city pilot program

ProudCity Pilot Program

Lately, I’ve focused much of my time on ProudCity and haven’t had the time to write much here, but I wanted to share a great opportunity for cities looking for a digital upgrade.

We’ve launched our ProudCity Pilot Program that gives cities a chance to collaborate closely with ProudCity and test and give feedback on new product developments.

Cities receive one year of free ProudCity services, and we work directly with them to assess their current digital systems, how they can be optimized, and then help them quickly onboard to the platform.

It’s an excellent opportunity for cities to reboot their digital service offering and for ProudCity to learn firsthand the needs of municipal governments and help them modernize their online offerings.

A great example of this is our first pilot city, West Carrollton, Ohio, and how they moved a seven year-old website to ProudCity in 60 days. Read about West Carrollton’s pilot experience in Government Technology.

To qualify for the program, cities must launch:

  • A public city BETA (test) website within 30 days
  • An official LIVE city website within 60 days

Application deadline is Wednesday, March 30, 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, and our next pilot city will be announced Friday, April 1.

Learn more ProudCity Pilot Program.

Email me at if you have any questions.

The Mission Model Canvas – An adapted business model for mission-driven organizations

Mission Model Canvas

As we prepared for the new Hacking for Defense class at Stanford, we had to stop and ask ourselves: How do we use the Business Model Canvas if the primary goal is not to earn money, but to fulfill a mission?

In other words, how can we adapt the Business Model Canvas when the metrics of success for an organization is not revenue?

Alexander Osterwalder and I think we have the answer – the new Mission Model Canvas.

Here are our collective thoughts.

The Lean Startup is the way most innovators build startups and innovate inside of existing companies.

As a formal method, the Lean Startup consists of three parts:

The Business Model Canvas has been a great invention for everyone from startups to large companies. Unlike an org chart, which describes how a company executes to deliver known products to known customers, the Business Model Canvas illustrates the search for the unknowns that most new ventures face. The 9 boxes of the canvas let you visualize all the components needed to turn customer needs/problems into a profitable company.

From revenue streams to mission achievement

The Business Model Canvas has served all of us well in thinking about building businesses – and therein lies the problem. In a business the aim is to earn more money than you spend. What if you’re a government or a military organization or part of the intelligence community? In these cases you don’t earn money, but you mobilize resources and a budget to solve a particular problem and create value for a set of beneficiaries (customers, support organizations, warfighters, Congress, the country, etc.).

For these organizations, the canvas box labeled Revenue Streams doesn’t make sense.

In a mission-driven organization such as the defense and intelligence community, there is no revenue to measure. So, the first step in building a canvas for mission-driven organizations is to change the Revenue Stream box in the canvas and come up with a counterpart that would provide a measure of success.

We’re calling this alternative Mission Achievement. Later, in this post I’ll explain how we’ll measure and describe Mission Achievement, but first our Mission Model Canvas needs four more tweaks.

  • Customer Segments is changed to Beneficiaries
  • Cost Structure is changed to Mission Cost/Budget
  • Channel is changed to Deployment
  • Customer Relationships is changed to Buy-in/Support

The rest of this blog post explains the how and why of these changes to the canvas.

Customer segments change to beneficiaries

At first glance, when developing a new technology for use in the defense and intelligence community, the customer appears obvious – it’s the ultimate war fighter. They will articulate pains in terms of size, weight, form fit, complexity and durability. But there are other key players involved.  Requirement writers and acquisition folks look at systems integration across the battlefield system, while contracting officers, yet another segment, will count beans, measure the degree of competition and assess the quality of market research involved. The support organizations need to worry about maintainability of code or hardware. Does legal need to sign off for cyber operations?  So yes, war fighters are one customer segment, but others need to be involved before the war fighter can ever see the product.

So, the first insight is that in the defense and intelligence community mission models are always multi-sided markets with the goal of not just building a great demo but getting the product adopted and deployed.

Second, in the defense and intelligence communities almost all of the mission models look like that of an OEM supplier – meaning there are multiple layers of customers in the value chain. Your product/service is just part of someone else’s larger system.

So, to differentiate “customers” from the standard business model canvas, we’ll call all the different customer segments and the layers in the defense and intelligence value chain beneficiaries.

The value proposition canvas

Of all the nine boxes of the canvas, two important parts of the model are the relationship between the Value Proposition (what you’re building) and the beneficiaries. These two components of the business model are so important we give them their own name, Product/Market Fit.

Because of the complexity of multiple beneficiaries and to get more detail about their gains and pains, Osterwalder added an additional canvas called the Value Proposition Canvas. This functions like a plug-in to the Mission Model Canvas, zooming in to the value proposition to describe the interactions among these beneficiaries, war fighters, etc. and the product/service in more detail. Using the Value Proposition Canvas with the Mission Model Canvas lets you see both the big picture at the mission model level and the detailed picture of each beneficiary at the “product/market fit” level.

Value prop zoom bus modelIn the defense and intelligence community mission models, there will always be multiple beneficiaries. It’s important that each beneficiary gets its own separate Value Proposition Canvas.


Distribution channel changes to deployment

In the commercial world we ask, “What type of distribution channel (direct sales, app store, system integrator, etc.) do we use to get the product/service from our company to the customer segments?”

For the Department of Defense or Intelligence organizations, we ask instead:

  • “What will it take to deploy the product/service from our current Minimum Viable Product to widespread use among people who need it?” (What architecture components can they innovate on and what can’t they?)
  • “What constitutes a successful deployment? (number of users, units in the field, time to get it into the field, success in the field, etc.)”
  • “How do we turn a Horizon 3 innovation into something that gets adopted by a Horizon 1 organization?”

Customer relationships changes to buy-in/support

In an existing business, Customer Relationships is defined as establishing and maintaining a relationship to support existing customers. In a startup we redefined Customer Relationships to answer the question: How does a company get, keep and grow customers?

For the defense and intelligence communities, we have modified Customer Relationships to mean, “For each beneficiary (customer segment), how does the team get “Buy-In” from all the beneficiaries?”

Customer discovery helps you understand whose buy-in is needed in order to deploy the product/service (legal, policy, procurement, etc.) and how to get those beneficiaries to buy-in? (Funding? Mandates? User requested? etc.) In addition, the long-term support and maintenance of new projects need to be articulated, understood and bought-into by the support organizations.

At the Pentagon a favorite way to kill something is to coordinate it to death by requiring buy-in from too many people too early. How to determine who are the small group of critical people to get buy-in from – and how to determine who are the next set required to sustain the iterative development of future MVP’s – is one of the arts of entrepreneurship in the defense and intelligence community.

Revenue streams changes to mission achievement

Mission Achievement is the value you are creating for the sum of all of the beneficiaries / the greater good.

It’s important to distinguish between the value for individual beneficiaries (on the Value Proposition Canvas) and overall Mission Achievement. For example, Mission Achievement could be measured in a variety of ways: the number of refugees housed and fed, the number of soldiers saved from roadside bombs, the number of cyberattacks prevented, the increased target surveillance of sensor fusion, etc. None of these are measured in dollars and cents.

Keep in mind, there is only mission achievement if it delivers value to the end beneficiary.

Insights from federal digital design leaders

U.S. Digital Service

Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane have been on a roll lately featuring federal government design leaders on their Responsive Web Design Podcast.

The first episode, with U.S. Digital Service Designer Mollie Ruskin and Lead Front End Designer Julia Elman sharing insights into their design process and prototyping tools (OmniGraffle, Sketch, GitHub) and building the U.S. Web Design Standards, has excellent insights for those focused on this aspect of the civic experience.

Favorite quote from Mollie:

“I think that one thing that you have to just come to terms with in doing a project like this is that there are so many moving pieces and it’s a lot to keep track of all at the same time, and just to sort of like take a meditative, reasoned approach to that because it can be a daunting amount. I had been given that advice before I started, and it was about halfway through that I felt the zen of all of the pieces moving and realized that that was part of the beauty of doing this work, is that by us taking on this complex important problem, we were going to be making it easier for others moving forward. So, I would just encourage a can-do attitude and plow through those times where you feel like you’re building seventeen things all at once, because you will be.”

RWD has also featured designers from, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Department of State.

Beta government

West Carrollton BETA

West Carrollton BETA

For those unfamiliar with the concept of beta, it’s a term used in software development to push a public prototype to get design and functionality feedback, as well as test and report technical bugs before launching the project as an official service.

Standard operating procedure for government digital services is to create an extensive specifications document and develop a waterfall project management strategy for executing. Once the project is finalized internally, it’s released to the public as-is without any intention of collaboration or feedback from those who will actually use the service.

Beta has eliminated the fear associated with a big launch. Knowing that beta is the beginning of a collaborative process eases that fear and creates a feedback culture that is much-needed in digital government innovation.

More and more, particularly at the federal level, such as, government is releasing web-based projects this way, even openly and proactively discussing the beta as part of an on-going, iterative process. Locally, larger cities such as Boston are also going beta.

Beta as described in 18F’s “Project Stage Definitions“:

Stage and test working software on the public web for use by a subset of the target audience. Implement changes based on user behavior and feedback. Resolve policy compliance or technical integration issues. Define and then validate statistically significant metrics for improvement.


The objective of this phase is to build a fully working prototype which you test with users. You’ll continuously improve on the prototype until it’s ready to go live, replacing or integrating with any existing services.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

This beta release of is just a beginning. We’ve launched it with deep content in the two benefit categories you’ve told us mean the most to you: disability and education. There are many more to come. We’ll be adding new information and tools ongoing. But we wanted to get in front of you now, as we build it, so you can tell us what’s working for you and what isn’t.

At ProudCity, we’ve launched our first city beta and, as a government service provider, we’ve learned a great deal about traditional blockers to innovation, and how we can help overcome them. It’s exciting to work with governments who embrace the beta mindset, especially knowing the end product, particularly for true software-as-a-service offerings, will only get better over time.

If you work inside government, demand beta from your digital services providers and bake it into your acquisition process. If you have the luxury of an internal development team, begin building the culture and communications strategy for deploying this.

There are internal, cultural, procurement and process issues governments must address, but ultimately it’s worth redefining the way services are delivered, and these obstacles are easier to overcome than you might imagine, and will be as more governments adopt the concept of beta.

Beta government is the new standard.

How you can follow and discuss government technology news using HashtagGov


I’ve been using Slack for a while now to follow government and civic technology news and, while it’s mostly a tool for team communications, the integrations features make it a great way to manage and digest a lot of information.

Over the past year, I’ve set up these integrations to pipe in RSS or Twitter feeds by topic, organizations, government agencies and government IT media. Once a day, I log into a Slack team I created, which I’ve called HashtagGov, and scroll through the daily news. In 15 minutes, I’ve surveyed everything I need and can get back to focusing on real work.

You can now join HashtagGov and subscribe to channels that suit your interests. If you feel compelled to discuss something, feel free to chat your thoughts or share other news that might be of interest.

How it works:

  1. Join the HashtagGov community
  2. Choose your #gov channels
  3. Follow the news and join the discussions

Visit HashtagGov to learn more and get started.

Top 3 trends in modern constituent services

The end of the year is a great time to look back and reflect. All aspects of our digital society change at a faster pace every year and how local governments serve their municipalities is no exception. Let’s take a look at three major trends in modern constituent services.

Online engagement

Historically, governments have focused on in-person meetings to receive constituent input. But this doesn’t work for everyone. Younger generations are far more comfortable engaging online while disabled or senior citizens may have trouble traveling to town halls. The best constituent service is proactive and all-inclusive, two notable strengths of online engagement.

Tools like Agora empower local governments to host online town-halls. This means constituents everywhere can participate even if they are unable to attend meetings in person. By making it easy for everyone to get involved, local governments expand the reach and effectiveness of their constituent services.

Finding and engaging citizens online, whether through traditional social media channels or platforms like NextDoor, public servants have a wealth of options to ensure their communities feel heard. Not only are engaged constituents more likely to empathize with the challenges that local governments face, they are far more likely to be part of the solution.

Cooperation makes it happen

Inside departments, effective constituent services requires centralized information. Requests of all types can come in via email, phone calls, social media, or in-person walk-ins. Staff cannot be silos of proprietary information, single points of failure when sick or retired.

To effectively serve constituents, trend-setting departments are centralizing information online. Communication tools like Slack and CRMs like Romulus ensure important information is always accessible, even when specific staff members are not.

A huge advantage of centralized information is integrating with other tools like email or 311 systems. Post-Its and paper forms aren’t known for their shareability. Communication tools and CRMs help you keep track of information from “cradle to grave”, ensuring nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

Data driven democracy

Communicating changes and value delivered to your constituents should be backed by meaningful metrics. Everyone wants to provide better constituent services, but we need a sense of what that actually means.

Let’s look at two statements:

  • We are using technology to provide better constituent services than ever before.
  • We have reduced the time it takes to resolve constituent requests by 70%.

Which is a more powerful indicator to your constituents?

The first statement is subjective. The definition of “better” is pretty nebulous, and we aren’t holding ourselves accountable to a metric that the public can follow along with. Just mentioning technology fails to demonstrate how they are improving the lives of those in their district.

The second statement shows exactly the kind of impact Romulus is having on their performance. For constituent services, the time it takes to resolve requests is an important indicator of success. Technology is not an end in itself, but one powerful tool modern municipalities are using to achieve their goals.

In our digital age, constituent service has never been more important. Engaging citizens online, solving problems collaboratively, and using data to drive decision making have revolutionized how local governments are serving their municipalities. More than ever before, public servants are using powerful new tools to reach new heights in constituent services and communities are taking notice.

Thank you

Photo: White House/Pete Souza

Photo: White House/Pete Souza

Every day I get to engage with entrepreneurs, public sector innovators and journalists on re-imagining and re-energizing how government works, what it means to be “civic,” and this year has been an incredible one for many friends and colleagues.

Special congratulations and thank you’s to public and private sector organizations, including CivicActions, NuCivic, Agile Government Leadership, DataSF, 18F, U.S. Digital Service and the California Government Operations Agency.

Thank you to the many entrepreneurs that reach out and share their ideas, enthusiastically accept feedback and believe there is no greater business venture and way to leverage your technical talent than trying to make a more pleasant, civil society. There’s startup life, and there’s civictech/govtech startup life. Speaking from experience, the latter takes much more empathy and mettle.

Thank you to my friends and colleagues in the media including, but not limited to, Alex Howard, Micah Sifry, Goldy Kamali, Camille Tuutti and Troy Schneider for continuing to cover progress and make the industry more timely, relevant and beholden to principles of openness and innovation.

Thank you to Dustin Haisler, Brian Purchia and Alissa Black for regularly checking in and serving as sounding boards.

Thank you especially to Aaron Pava, Henry Poole, Elizabeth Raley, Kevin Herman, Jeff Lyon, Alex Schmoe, Andrew Hoppin for being collaborators and friends throughout 2015. I’ve never looked forward to a new civic year like I am with 2016.

For those of you reading this or have ever read or shared anything here on GovFresh, thank you <insert fist bump here>.

The work we do is hard and often thankless. Keep plugging away.

Thank you.

Why local government must go digital

Flag of WalesThe Welsh Government released a report of its findings on how local government in Wales can better leverage digital technologies and realize significant savings while still providing quality, scalable citizen services.

The report includes local and national government anecdotes and recommendations for a Welsh Digital Framework that would help Wales progress faster with respect to technology and social media solutions.

Key excerpt:

Camden recognises that digital is a critical option for delivering savings. The authority is expected to see its £350m budget reduced by £70m by 2017-18. Camden have identified that £50m of these savings will come from digital. They also acknowledge that not all digital requirements can be met in-house and that the private sector can make a strategic contribution. Rather than the private sector driving the strategy, in Camden it is often the supplier of infrastructure (cloud-hosting/email).

Download the report

HT Dominic Campbell

Why is a big deal



Enabling internal government tech shops to quickly stand up applications in a secure testing environment is fundamental to quick prototyping, and 18F’s new is a major step in realizing ultimate IT flexibility.

I reached out to GovReady founder Greg Elin who is working on “making FISMA a platform instead of paperwork,” and he replied with the following comments that are better than anything I could say on the subject:

18F’s is a tectonic shift in government IT because it replaces policy with platform. components accelerate the much needed replacement of PDF-based guidance with running code. It’s the difference between a book about Javascript and just using jQuery.

For most of the past 20 years, the CIO Council, NIST, and most agency IT shops have focused on policies and procedures to provide contractual requirements for vendors doing the work. That’s not criticizing anyone, it’s how the system was set up. The CIO Council’s authority is to provide recommendations–not write code. NIST’s mission is to advance measurement science and standards development–not build platforms.

Take the CIO Council’s enterprise architecture efforts or NIST’s Risk Management Framework as examples. They provide incredibly rich, comprehensive expert guidance distributed in documents. Unfortunately, contracts, contractors and projects implement the guidance differently enough that interoperability and reusability rarely occurs between bureaus or across agencies. In contrast, over the past decade in the private sector and on the Internet, knowledge has become immediately actionable via open source, APIs and GitHub repos. It’s a golden era of shared solutions powered by StackOverflows and code snippets, package managers and Docker containers.

If 18F’s succeeds at encompassing official policies and regulations into loosely coupled running code, then contracts are easier to write, vendors aren’t constantly reinventing things, and projects happen faster.

Learn more about

Thank you, Jake

Jake Brewer speaking at PDF 2014. (Photo: Personal Democracy Media)

Jake Brewer speaking at PDF 2014. (Photo: Personal Democracy Media)

I’m still stunned and heartbroken by the news that we’ve lost Jake Brewer.

Jake and I met six years ago at TransparencyCamp West, where I interviewed him and was able to capture a little bit of how he saw the world, and what needed to be done to make it better.

The last time we communicated was via text on his first day in his new role with the White House and, in between those years, as he has with so many others, he always inspired me with his graceful approach to change and impact.

After I got the news Sunday morning, I started to watch the interview and broke down in disbelief and sadness that I still feel as I write this.

There have been countless, beautiful anecdotes on Jake’s compassion, humility and contributions, and there’s nothing I can add that would do justice to honor the influence he’s had on me other than to say, Jake, I miss you so much, and you will be with me always as I try to live up to the standards you set for those of us still here.

Related: Micah Sifry has a great tribute and excellent anecdote. President Obama issued a statement, and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith expanded with a White House blog post. Friends have set up a memorial education fund for his children.