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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

The Future of Civic Engagement

From its earliest days, American democracy has been rooted in vigorous civic engagement. More recently, there have been fears that increasing distrust in institutions will lead to large scale disengagement in civic life. However, some optimistic observers are hopeful that the millennial generation will create new momentum for civic involvement.  But what will that involvement look like? And importantly, what are the implications for the perceived legitimacy of government action in society?

According to a new book, New Power, authors Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms observe that “Participation needs to be much more than a website that allows you to point out occasional potholes in the street; it need to be a constant and compelling experience that keeps people working together on the things that matter.” In their view, “The goal of new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.”

The IBM Center, as part of its 20th anniversary activities this year, is looking 20 years ahead. It recently held the third in a series of “Envision Government in 2040” sessions, with participants focusing on the role of citizens in government (the first session focused on the future of work in the public sector; the second assessed...

Four Reasons Why Hiring Veterans Makes Good Business Sense

With nearly 1.3 million active-duty troops, and another 865,000 in armed forces reserves, the United States boasts one the largest military forces on the planet. That fighting force, however, makes up less than 0.5 percent of the American population.

Because of that, many Americans outside of the military have little exposure to the skills and experiences veterans acquire during their years of service, says Col. Dan Friend, the current Army Chief of Staff Senior Fellow at the Kellogg School of Management. And that lack of exposure can become a challenge as veterans look to enter the workforce after their military service, and as prospective employers look to hire talent.

The challenge is awareness, since much of the population is not routinely exposed to the military, Friend says. Because of this gap between the military and the citizens they serve, common perceptions of military service are often distorted—especially when those perceptions are often formed through portrayals of service members in movies or on the news.

Friend wants to do his part to change such misconceptions, because in his view, service members and veterans could benefit—but so could organizations that may be underutilizing a skilled and loyal...

All Agencies Can Now Buy Innovative Tech at Shark-Tank Speed

Have you been watching enviously as the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), the Homeland Security Department’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program and various other exceptional entities have been able to snap up new technological wonders from Silicon Valley and elsewhere? Using what’s known as “other transaction agreements,” a blessed few government agencies have been able to circumvent onerous acquisition rules to quickly purchase innovative technologies.

Well, envy no longer.

The General Services Administration’s new AAS Express Program just opened fast-buying capability to all agencies. Express offers high-speed, streamlined source-selection for innovative commercial items and processes—for a fee, of course. But the opportunity—known as a commercial solutions opening, or CSO—to lay hands on fast-evolving, mission-critical new tech and processes in as little as three months or less may be well worth the money. Especially if your department or agency doesn’t already have OT authority.

In the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, enacted Dec. 23, 2016, legislators permitted Defense, Homeland Security and GSA to test CSOs as a new way of making the federal market at least tolerable, if not inviting, for advanced technology companies and entrepreneurs. GSA seized the opening to offer the option governmentwide...

Yes, Your Coworkers Are Secretly Changing The Office Temperature

Few office debates are more fraught than the thermostat. While some of us envelop our goosebumps in desk blankets, others bask in glacial air-conditioning, unfettered by the dissonance between summer heat and open-layout freezers.

Then of course there’s Jim, who always seems comfortable. No one likes Jim.

As summer approaches, these temperature debates will only intensify—sometimes escalating into full-blown arguments. According to a new, nationally representative CareerBuilder survey of over 1,000 full-time, private sector American workers, nearly half say their office is either too hot or too cold.

This temperature dissatisfaction has bottom-line influence, as 51% of respondents say that working in an office that’s too cold hurts their productivity, while 67% say that working in an office that’s too warm does the same.

What’s worse, according to this survey, 15% of workers say they’ve argued with coworkers about the office temperature, either in person or via messaging platforms. And to confirm your deep-seated suspicions, a striking one in five of us has secretly adjusted the office thermostat during the summer (13% of survey respondents said they made it cooler, while 6% made it warmer).

Spend one summer in an office, and you...

Agencies Need to Take More Risks in Acquisition

The recently released president’s management agenda states that efforts to transform government through major acquisitions are hamstrung by processes that “remain captive to a risk-averse culture that rewards compliance over creativity.”

No wonder. The Federal Acquisition Regulation contains a mind-numbing 1,917 pages of policies and procedures that government acquisition officials must follow when buying goods and services. Navigating these rules can be daunting for contracting officers, who often live in fear of something going wrong.

But even within the constraints, there is room for flexibility—approaches that deviate from the norm but hold potential to achieve better quality and innovative outcomes while preserving competition, transparency and accountability.

Following a path toward innovation requires overcoming the fear of failure and the willingness to take risks within reasonable bounds.

For example, improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have been a major cause of injury and death in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq since the United States put its personnel on the ground. Enemy combatants can remotely detonate IEDs using cell phones or other electronic devices.

In the early 2000s, Defense Department officials knew existing technologies could block the detonating signals, but they didn’t have signal jamming tools nimble...