Henry Farrell in Foreign Affairs: Brexit and the Northern Irish Border

In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Henry Farrell examines the implications of Ireland's northern border acting as the boundary between the United Kingdom and Europe in the wake of Brexit. The piece, "Brexit and the Norther Irish Border," asks, "will the U.K. remain in the EU customs union to preserve peace?"

Farrell dives into the complexity of the situation surrounding the EU, England, Ireland and Northern Ireland: 

"The EU, too, wants to avoid a hard Irish border. It believes, however, that this can only be accomplished if London makes the necessary concessions to stay within the European Union’s customs union, or as close as makes no substantive difference. The United Kingdom’s vision of border controls, based not on customs posts and inspections but on technologies and procedures that can track the movement and quality of goods, appears hopelessly utopian and unfeasible. The EU has long and sometimes bitter experience with the ways in which administrative controls can be suborned by criminals and smugglers. Its value added tax system—which relies on a complex system of payments among firms—is notoriously vulnerable to manipulation through so-called carousel fraud, in which importers and exporters play complex games across member state borders to rip off tax authorities. Although Europe wants to support the peace process in Northern Ireland, it is not prepared to sacrifice what it sees as its core interests regarding regulation on trade to keep the United Kingdom happy."

Read more here



Lee Rainie Appears on CNBC's "On the Money" to Discuss the Future of Work

On Sunday, Lee Rainie appeared on CNBC's "On the Money" to discuss automation, robots and the future of work. Pew Research Center's Internet Project, which Rainie directs, recently released a study on the subject called, "The Future of Jobs and Jobs Training."

During the CNBC segment, Rainie noted that so-called "high-touch" jobs are likely to withstand the "rise of machines" for at least some time: 

"'Anything that involves dealing directly with the public and taking care of them, either their needs in health or other places' are likely to survive the robot onslaught, Rainie said. According to him, analysts also see a trend in in so-called S.T.E.M jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math. In particular, Lee pointed out algorithm writers and assessors in demand."

He also reflected on the impact of automation and the rise of robotics in the workplace on training programs:

"'Many colleges feel they are under pressure to produce graduates that are attuned to the new workplace,' he said. 'And they are inventing all sorts of new programs starting with online learning or hybrid courses that involve some level of classroom work as well as online work together.' Rainie added that more colleges are promising alumni they will be there to help them as their work life evolves."

Read more and watch the segment here



Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young Share Two-Part Series on Open Data for Inter-American Development Bank's Abierto al Público Blog

To mark this year's Con Datos conference in Costa Rica, Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young shared findings from the Open Data in Developing Economies initiative at the Inter-American Development Bank's Abierto al Público blog. The two-part series introduces the Periodic Table of Open Data analytical tool and provides a deep dive on case studies from the region. 

The Periodic Table of Open Data is "a new methodology and factors for determining the success (or failure) of using open data."


Among other case studies from Latin America and the Caribbean, Verhulst and Young describe an agriculture project from Columbia and analyze it according to the Periodic Table of Open Data:

"The Aclímate Colombia project is a cross-sector partnership led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Its platform leverages a diversity of data sources, including many open government datasets, to help farmers understand how to better navigate shifting weather patterns. It has already had a tangible impact on the community, and received widespread recognition about how cross-sector data-sharing can translate data science insights into concrete, actionable information.

Particularly in developing economies where resources can be in short supply, a clear, detailed understanding of the problem to be addressed can help ensure targeted efforts. Aclímate Colombia’s user research (U) was laser-focused on the needs of smallholder rice farmers, ensuring that open data used in the platform was optimized for their needs. Through the use of data audits and inventory (Da), practitioners were able to explore the availability of datasets – both in the form of open government data and from other potentially useful and relevant data sources like NGOs and the private sector. For Aclímate Colombia, researchers identified the types of data needed for agriculture algorithms, and then engaged with the semi-public industry groups to make the data available.

Although open data is meant to provide value to data users without direct data-holder engagement, partnering with entities on the supply side (including government partnerships) can help fill data gaps and enable higher-impact data use. Aclímate Colombia is a strong example of the potential impacts that such partnerships can bring. The effort to provide farmers with climate-resilient crop-planting methods, would not be possible without the collaboration of a civil society organization (the driver of the initiative), government data holders (Dh), and semi-private agriculture industry domain experts (De) that served as intermediaries (I). These collaborators worked in partnership to get Aclímate Colombia’s tools into the hands of the smallholder farmers who needed access to the data."

Read Part 1 Here.

Read Part 2 Here.



Karim Lakhani in Harvard Business Review: Managing Our Hub Economy

In a piece for the September-October issue of Harvard Business Review, Karim Lakhani and Marco Iansiti explore the "competition in the age of online giants." These representatives of the "hub economy" – like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Alibaba and others – often take a network-driven rather than product-driven approach to competition and expansion, resulting in growing challenges. Lakhani and Iansiti argue:  

"If current trends continue, the hub economy will spread across more industries, further concentrating data, value, and power in the hands of a small number of firms employing a tiny fraction of the workforce. Disparity in firm valuation and individual wealth already causes widespread resentment. Over time, we can expect consumers, regulators, and even social movements to take an increasingly hostile stand against this concentration of value and economic connectivity. In a painfully ironic turn, after creating unprecedented opportunity across the global economy, digitization—and the trends it has given rise to—could exacerbate already dangerous levels of income inequality, undermine the economy, and even lead to social instability."

Fostering complementary communities, they argue, is one path to avoid the worst economic impacts of the hub economy: 

"Building and maintaining a healthy ecosystem is in the best interests of hub companies. Amazon and Alibaba claim millions of marketplace sellers, and they profit from every transaction those merchants make. Similarly, Google and Apple earn billions in revenue from the third-party apps that run on their platforms. Both companies already invest heavily in the developer community, providing programming frameworks, software tools, and opportunities and business models that enable developers to grow their businesses. But such efforts will need to be scaled up and refined as hub firms find themselves at the center of—and relying on—much larger and more complex ecosystems. Preserving the strength and productivity of complementary communities should be a fundamental part of any hub firm’s strategy."

Read more here



Geoff Mulgan on open data and artificial intelligence to innovate philanthropy

This week, Geoff Mulgan shared a new post on the Nesta blog reflecting on ways to improve the effectiveness of philanthropic funding through new technologies. The piece, "Philanthropy and Innovation," focuses in particular on open data and artificial intelligence as tools for the field. The post explores "how funders could use data; better sift and assess applications; reduce bureaucracy for applicants; strategically scan different fields; and tap into crowd knowledge."

One of the approaches Mulgan discusses involves the use of AI to create smarter processes for funding applications:

"AI could also help to overhaul the application process itself. Instead of written forms which tend to favour highly educated applicants, or a small industry of consultants, an alternative would be to use technology to increase accessibility by avoiding the usual written formats, for example through a structured interview process using speech to text, asking applicants to describe key aspects of their work.

Chatbots can be programmed to ask structured interview questions about proposed projects, for example covering team structure, budget management, marketing and impact. Chatbots could also improve the applicant experience by providing immediate feedback, and orchestrate communication during the application process - including the post-submission period - without running the risk of applicants and foundation staff communicating directly and tilting outcomes.

This would be worth doing as an experiment anyway, building on past experiments that used video rather than text for applications. These proved useful at overcoming the bias to those most fluent in prose and also gave a flavour of passion, enthusiasm and authenticity (though, of course, it would be vital to retain the human element of videos alongside machine learning)."

Read more here.



Hollie Russon-Gilman for New America: The Time for Engaging Citizens in Democracy Is Now

In a new piece for the New America blog, associate Network member Hollie Russon-Gilman and the World Bank's Tiago Peixoto make the case for expanding the use of participatory budgeting (PB) across the U.S. Russon-Gilman and Peixoto focus in particular on the increasing evidence showing that PB initiatives lead to more representative spending decisions and increased levels of positive citizen perceptions and interactions with government:

"Available evidence suggests that PB leads to significant shifts in government spending toward priorities that directly benefit the poor. A World Bank report, for instance, illuminated that participatory budgeting has a statistically significant impact on a number of social indicators, with PB positively and strongly associated with improvements in poverty rates and water services. More recently, studies examining the effect of participatory budgeting in Brazil found that the improved alignment between government spending and popular preferences led to increased investments in sanitation and health services, ultimately leading to a significant reduction in infant mortality rates. Put another way, research has shown that participatory budgeting tends to lead to policies that voters—especially poorer voters—prefer.

And it seems that, when governments listen, citizens reward them both politically and financially. In other words, the existing evidence suggests that, when PB is in place, incumbents become more likely to be re-elected, and government revenues increase as citizens become less likely to engage in tax delinquency. Tapping into the wisdom of the crowd, in short, pays off for both citizens and governments. But participatory budgeting isn’t merely a technocratic, good-government innovation. By including ordinary people in the core function of government—deciding how to spend money—it represents one of the most authentic ways of making a government literally of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Read more here.



Karim Lakhani Launches New Business Analytics Program at Harvard Business School

In collaboration with the Schools of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Department of Statistics in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Professor Karim Lakhani is launching a new, largely online, business analytics certificate program as part of the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative. The three-semester program that requires just eight to ten hours per week is designed to teach students how to leverage data and analytics to drive business growth. The team also partnered with 2U, Inc. to cater to the self-paced learning online curriculum.

Lakhani, who specializes in technology management and innovation at Harvard, says that “what used to be at the periphery of organizations is now moving to the center… there’s a broader recognition both in the faculty and our interactions with business leaders that analytics, data and algorithms are becoming increasingly important.”

HBS and partners are working to develop seven new courses as part of the curriculum: four on business analytics and three on analytical foundations. The program is designed for post-MBA or technical managers who currently have analytical roles in their organizations. As Lakhani mentioned in an interview with Poets and Quants, “managers need to understand regression models and how to think about causation but [the curriculum] is going to be within the framework of business concerns.”

The program is meant to blend technology and science with business to produce managers, executives and entrepreneurs that have a working knowledge of all sides. The initial program is expected to have 60 participants, and will commence in March of 2018.

To learn more about the program and Lakhani’s work, click here.



Stefaan Verhulst on Bad Data and Data Responsibility

In two recent presentations, Network chief of research Stefaan Verhulst discusses issues related to solving problems with data. In the talks, Verhulst explores how bad data can create stumbling blocks for evidence-based policymaking, and how a new concept of data responsibility can help us more effectively unlock the value of data held by diverse actors while avoiding risks and potential harms.

First, in his presentation Bad Data: The Hobgoblin of Effective Government, hosted by the American Society for Public Administration, Verhulst delves into the following:

  • Ways bad data impacts the smooth functioning of states and localities

  • Information being out of date, inaccurate, incompatible, siloed, confusing, or difficult to use

  • Reasons data can be problematic, and the ramifications of its paramount importance

Verhulst also recently gave a TEDx talk focused on the importance of data responsibility, and how leveraging corporate data through data collaboratives can improve public life. The talk also also centered around the creation of effective and collaborative forms of governance, and the use of collaborative technologies to harness unprecedented volumes of information so as to advance the public good.

Read more about Bad Data here.
Watch the TEDx talk here.



Henry Farrell Interviews Steve Ballmer for the Monkey Cage

In two-part series for The Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, Henry Farrell interviews Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft and creator of USAFacts. The interview touches on issues surrounding making public data more accessible and useful, and the challenge of mobilizing facts to inform public debate.

From the discussion:

"HF – You talked in a previous interview about how numbers can end arguments. Yet here, we’re talking about how numbers can start them. How do you strike that balance?

SB – There is a road that numbers finish and a road that numbers start. If you want to know how many people receive their health care through employer-sponsored plans, numbers finish the discussion. If you want to have a discussion about deductibility of employee health insurance, etc., then I would say that numbers start the policy discussion. Hopefully, people grounded in the same numbers and same facts start the policy discussion, and if someone wants to say what the number is, then there is an answer to that question. So numbers answer some questions and help people support an informed debate about what to do next."


"HF — You’ve said in the past that while you have pretty open views on politics, you do think that government budgets ought to balance like a business. Will better data and a more balance-sheet-focused approach help push toward this?

SB — Let me separate the chicken from the egg. The number one thing I advocate for is the data. I am a pro-facts partisan. I will push for more accurate, better reconciled, more timely and consistently kept data. That agenda supersedes all others, because there is no integrity if that’s not there. Below that, I have many opinions as most people do on many things. But there are two things I am explicitly partisan on. Number one, I think that every kid born in America ought to have a shot at the American Dream. Many kids don’t, and my wife, Connie, and I will advocate for those things. We’ll use the same data, and be very careful about keeping the data accurate and not in any way influencing it from our perspective."

Read part 1 here

Read part 2 here



Geoff Mulgan Looks Back at His 1997 Book Connexity on RSA Radio Podcast

In a recent episode of the RSA Radio podcast, Network member Geoff Mulgan looks back on his 1997 book Connexity: How to Live in a Connected World. The podcast features Mulgan in conversation with Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

Episode Description: 

"Matthew Taylor of the RSA asks if ideas really have the power to change the world by revisiting influential books on public policy with their authors. This week: 'We're Still Learning How to Live in a Connected World'. Matthew talks to Geoff Mulgan about his book ‘Connexity’ (1997). Shortly after its publication Mulgan became an advisor to Tony Blair’s newly formed New Labour government. The book described the growth in global connectedness ushering in a new age of interdependence and demanding an evolution in government and institutions. Does the failure to meet these challenges identified two decades ago help to explain our troubled times?"

Listen here



Stefaan Verhulst for The Conversation: How open data can help the Global South, from disaster relief to voter turnout

In a new piece for The Conversation, Network chief of research Stefaan Verhulst shares findings from a new GovLab research project examining Open Data in Developing Economies. Informed by 12 in-depth case studies, GovLab sought to assess the current (largely lacking) evidence on the impact of open data across developing countries, develop a framework of analysis to inform future research and evaluation, identify the key enabling conditions and disabling factors related to the use of open data for development, and provide recommendations for practitioners and donors to amplify open data's impacts. 

Verhulst describes some of the key findings surfaced on the unique features and benefits of open data for developing economies: 

"[W]e believe that open data can have a particularly powerful role in developing economies.

Where data is scarce, as it often is in poorer countries, open data can lead to an inherently more equitable and democratic distribution of information and knowledge. This, in turn, may activate a wider range of expertise to address complex problems; it’s what we in the field call 'open innovation'.

This quality can allow resource-starved developing economies to access and leverage the best minds around.

And because trust in government is quite low in many developing economies, the transparency bred of releasing data can have after-effects that go well beyond the immediate impact of the data itself."

Read more here



Hollie Russon-Gilman for the Monkey Cage: Women Create Fewer Online Petitions Than Men - But They’re More Successful

In a recent post for The Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, associate Network member Hollie Russon-Gilman, together with Tiago Peixoto, Jonathan Mellon and Fredrik M. Sjoberg, highlights research published by the Harvard Kennedy School comparing political participation, both online and offline, among men and women. The research shows that, in terms of offline policy, women are more likely to engage in “thin” forms of participation like voting, but are less likely to engage in “thick” participatory forms like monetary donations or running for elected offices. Still, the Internet has offered new potential for online political participation. The post provides a deeper analysis of this phenomenon, and analyzes the following points specifically:

  • “Women do not participate as much as men in many forms of offline politics.

  • New online resources might be changing the balance.

  • Men and women seem to have different priorities for online politics.

  • Women are less likely to organize new petitions online. However, they are better at it.”

The post concludes by drawing a correlation between the petitions women choose to engage with and their successful implementations on resulting government agendas. These results support for the concept of “viral engagement” and its effect on democracy and politics. The authors seek to “shine a light on the possibility of harnessing civic tech platforms’ ‘big data’” with the hopes of having a deeper impact on progressive governance.

Read more here.



Lee Rainie in Trend: The Internet of Things Is the Next Digital Evolution – What Will It Mean?

In a recent Trend article, Pew Research Center’s Director of Internet and Technology Lee Rainie analyzes the infusion of digital technology into everyday life, and raises questions about quality and fairness that accompany behavioral alterations. Tomorrow’s disruptions - caused by the rise of the Internet of Things - will spark the next digital evolution. The Internet is already becoming more invisible and intangible, while also becoming more deeply embedded in people’s everyday lives. For example, nearly all adult Americans use the internet; 81% have smartphones and two-thirds of adults are on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms. With this exponential growth of Internet usage and accessibility, Rainie lists four major developments to anticipate:

  • “The Emergence of the ‘Datacosm’ - Data and connectivity will be ubiquitous in an environment called the datacosm: a term used to describe the importance of data, analytics, and algorithms in technology’s evolution.

  • Growing Reliance on Algorithms - The explosion of data has been given prominence to algorithms as tools for finding meaning in data and using it to shape decisions, predict humans’ behavior, and anticipate their needs.

  • A New Relationship with Machines and Complementary Intelligence - a new equilibrium is emerging as people take advantage of AI that can be consulted in instant, context-aware gadgets; these “smart assistants” will help people navigate the world, help represent them to others, and add enhancements to their bodies and brains.

  • Greater Innovation in Social Norms, Collective Action, Credentials, and Laws - at the level of social norms, there are constant negotiations about what information can be shared what kinds of interruptions are tolerable, and what balance of fact-checking and gossip is acceptable; at a more formal level, collective action and power are already altered as social networks become a societal force.”

Considering the increase in digital technology - and the fact that a majority of the American population has access to the Internet in some form - this information revolution has become an indicator of modernization. However, technological innovation is exceeding social innovation and can lead to dangerous expansion gaps if left unchecked. Rainie ends his report with a Thomas Jefferson quote for readers to ponder: “Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind; as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.”

Read more here.



The GovLab Releases Report Detailing Why and How Open Data Matters for Developing Economies

New Report Provides Framework to Understand Evidence and Improve Future Open Data Initiatives;

Expands Insights and Practices Gathered from 12 Case Studies of Developing Economies;

Identifies 27 Success Factors in a Unique Periodic Table of Open Data; and Offers Recommendations

BROOKLYN, New York –Today, The Governance Lab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering has launched a first-of-its-kind report that assesses and explores ways open data can be used in developing economies. The GovLab’s new report, “Open Data in Developing Economies: Toward Building an Evidence Base on What Works and How,” (1) provides an evidence-based tool governments, NGOs, donors, and others can use to assess the impacts resulting from the use of open data in developing economies; (2) outlines four key impact areas gleaned from 12 case studies that feature real-world examples from 12 countries, ranging from Colombia to Nepal; and (3) identifies 27 critical factors that help to determine the success (or failure) of open data uses in developing economies, organized into a newly-created Periodic Table of Open Data, along with recommendations for both practitioners and decision-makers, including donor agencies.

The new report and case studies complement existing findings The GovLab has published on its open data website,, a multi-faceted platform of information about how open data can improve peoples’ lives.

The “Open Data in Developing Economies” report is also the result of a months-long collaboration between The GovLab and several partners, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, FHI 360, and the World Wide Web Foundation.

“We’re very excited to share key lessons and takeaways from this project,” said Stefaan G. Verhulst, co-founder and chief research and development officer at The GovLab. “Together with our partners, we set out to learn if and how a broader use of open data could improve lives and spur opportunity in developing economies. Our findings show that open data provides unique opportunities for developing economies to become more data-driven; and the framework and insights provided in the report allow the development community to become more evidence-based in how to leverage open data for good.”

How to Capture Evidence?

While the use of open data is on the rise in developing economies, a common (and comprehensive) framework for evaluating what works and how was missing. The “Open Data in Developing Economies” report sought to fill this gap and provide a way to analyze and assess existing open data initiatives. In developing this part of the framework, The GovLab focused on all the elements that comprise the open data value chain: supply, demand, action, output, use, indicators, impact, and stakeholder feedback.

What Can We Learn from the Field?

Capturing the stories behind the data is another critical factor in leveraging open data in developing economies. The repository of case studies that was launched simultaneously with the report features 12 case studies from 12 countries: Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Nepal, Paraguay, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. From its analysis of these case studies — which represented a variety of sectors such as health, poverty alleviation, and energy — The GovLab identified four ways people’s lives can be improved in developing countries:

  • Improving Government (e.g., through increased transparency and accountability);
  • Empowering Citizens (e.g., by enabling more informed decision-making);
  • Creating Opportunity (e.g., through economic growth and innovation); and
  • Solving Public Problems (e.g., by informing crisis response efforts).

For example, in Colombia, The GovLab case study showed how the Colombian government is using open data to better understand and address the way climate is affecting the country’s potential to grow its own food — a particularly serious challenge for small farmers, who represent the majority of crop growers in the country. 

What Makes a Difference?

The GovLab subsequently organized the variables that determine impact into a new Periodic Table of Open Data, containing 27 elements that can play an important role in determining whether an open data project succeeds or fails, within five overarching categories: (1) Problem and Demand Definition, (2) Capacity and Culture, (3) Governance, (4) Partnerships, and (5) Risks. The Periodic Table of Open Data also provides a unique checklist for open data providers and users.

Providing a set of actionable recommendations for practitioners as well as decision-makers was another important element of the report. Recommendations for practitioners included articulating the issue to be addressed with as much granularity as possible, and clearly defining why the use of data for addressing a given problem matters. For decision-makers, recommendations included developing and integrating regular exercises that identify how open data can help to address problems.

“Our work at The GovLab is ultimately meant to help us get smarter about what works in practice,” said Andrew Young, knowledge director at The GovLab. “We believe ‘Open Data in Developing Economies’ provides tools that practitioners, governments, donors, and several others in the development community can use to unlock the power of open data to benefit people in developing economies around the world.”

The full report, “Open Data in Developing Economies: Toward Building an Evidence Base on What Works and How,” along with the 12 new case studies, is available at, and

About The Governance Lab

The Governance Lab’s mission is to improve people’s lives by changing the way we govern. Our goal at The GovLab is to strengthen the ability of institutions — including but not limited to governments — and people to work more openly, collaboratively, effectively, and legitimately to make better decisions and solve public problems. We believe that increased availability and use of data, new ways to leverage the capacity, intelligence, and expertise of people in the problem-solving process, combined with new advances in technology and science, can transform governance. We approach each challenge and opportunity in an interdisciplinary, collaborative way, irrespective of the problem, sector, geography, and level of government. For more information, visit

About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly). A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, the country’s largest private research university, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates Future Labs focused on start-up businesses in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program. For more information, visit



Hollie Russon-Gilman in PS: Political Science & Politics – Civic Tech for Urban Collaborative Governance

In a new piece or the PS: Political Science & Politics, Hollie Russon-Gilman provides insight on "Civic Tech for Urban Collaborative Governance." With the piece, Russon-Gilman seeks to "initiate a research agenda to understand how policy makers can leverage civic tech to enable new channels for citizens to participate in the decision making process."

From the abstract: 

"This article aims to contribute to a burgeoning field of 'civic technology' to identify precise pathways through which multi-stakeholder partnerships can foster, embed, and encourage more collaborative governance, outlining a research agenda to guide next steps. Instead of looking at technology as a civic panacea or, at the other extreme, as an irrelevant force, this article takes seriously both the democratic potential and the political constraints of the use of technology for more collaborative governance. The article begins by delineating contours of a civic definition of technology focused on generating public good, provides case study examples of civic tech deployed in America’s cities, raises research questions to inform future multi-stakeholder partnerships, and concludes with implications for the public sector workforce and ecosystem."

Read more here



Karim Lakhani on HBR Ideacast: Blockchain — What You Need to Know

In a recent edition of Harvard Business Review's Ideacast podcast, Karim Lakhani discusses how blockchain works and its likely impact on industry and other sectors. The 20-minute podcast features Lakhani in conversation with HBR editor Sarah Green Carcmichael, and is available on Soundcloud, iTunes, among other outlets. 

In response to a question on blockchain currently being in its "dial-up modem" days, Lakhani predicts a rapid uptake of blockchain-enabled activities, and calls for greater experimentation to see what blockchain can achieve across a variety of use cases: 

"...[T]he uptake I predict will be faster than will be had in the last world wide web revolution, or even the mobile phone revolution.

What that means for managers then is that the time to experiment is now. What you want to do is make a bunch of bets, make some small investments so that you can learn. I bet you for senior executives that are listening, there’s a bubbling up of energy within their organizations amongst their IT groups, amongst their innovation groups, amongst the marketing groups.

Let’s do something with Blockchain. Let’s do something with Blockchain. You should help finance that. You should help fund that. Give them the space and the room to experiment and learn from that. So I think that’s the first thing you should do. And then as the prototypes get built, you might see, oh, this is promising. Let’s actually go after that.

As much as there is going to be a technological burden, there will also be an organizational burden. You’ll have to change your processes. You have to change your organizations to best adapt to what the technology offers you. There’s a lot of worry and anxiety about Blockchain. It’s viewed as this scary “woowoo” esoteric technology.

I’d encourage you to not be scared, to embrace it, to learn it. Start experimentation, encourage your staff to go after this and figure things out. Build up prototypes that will be applicable to the organization. I think that’s the key lesson for all of us around these kinds of technologies."

Listen and view the transcript here



Lee Rainie at the Aspen Ideas Festival: The Genetic Revolution, Unintended Consequences, and the Public Trust

This week, Lee Rainie, director of internet, science and technology at the Pew Research Center, presented findings about Americans’ trust in scientists at the Aspen Ideas Festival. In a session called, “The Genetic Revolution, Unintended Consequences, and the Public Trust,” he lead a discussion about public institutional trust in scientific work. Some of the key points Rainie presented include: 

  • 67% of Americans say science has an a mostly positive effect on society

  • Nearly half or more expect the following changes to be implemented within 50 years:

    • Routinely transplant artificially-made organs for humans

    • Cures for most forms of cancer

    • Computer chips routinely embedded into our bodies

    • Lab-grown custom organs

    • Computers that create art as well as humans do

  • A wide mix of factors influence public views on science-related issues:

    • Party affiliation and ideology

    • Education and/ or science knowledge

    • Age

    • Gender

    • Race/ ethnicity

    • Religion

  • Trust in climate scientists is low among conservative Republicans; considerably higher among liberal Democrats

The presentation also focused on American public opinion on potential human enhancements and briefly delved into the wide controversy of gene editing.

Read more here.



Henry Farrell on Economic Crisis and the Rise and Fall of Keynesianism in International Studies Quarterly

In a recent article for Oxford Academic’s International Studies Quarterly, Henry Farrell - together with John Quiggin – discusses the current economic crisis, and the rise and fall of Keynesianism in the modern political arena. In the piece, "Consensus, Dissensus, and Economic Ideas: Economic Crisis and the Rise and Fall of Keynesianism," Farrell and Quiggin debate whether or not sociological arguments about professions, in conjunction with those about spaces of political contention as ecologies, provide a better understanding of the puzzle of Keynesianism’s rise and decline by analyzing the different phases of the crisis, and the varying economists and political actors involved in each.

The authors identify macroeconomic policy as a “hinge” issue, and make several arguments about the influence of Keynesianism in the recent economic crisis:

  • “The rise and partial fall of a new Keynesian consensus is best explained through building on the work of sociologists of the profession

  • Social structures - specifically the community structures of the academic and policymaking worlds, and how they intersect – can have crucial consequences for the role of ideas

  • Relative plausibility of similar relationships exist in other areas where the ecologies of expertise and political decision-making intersect, such as human rights, economic development, military contracting/ military intervention, and financial regulation”

The paper also focuses on how to deal with demand shocks - whether that be through fiscal stimulus, conventional existing theories of the role of ideas in policy outcomes, or alternative methods - and makes the proposition that internal dynamics of prestige and status within the profession of economics intersects with policy arguments between states to contribute to a continuing economic dissensus.

Read more here.



Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young for the Inter-American Development Bank: Exchanging Data to Create Public Value Across Latin America and the Caribbean

In a new article for the Inter-American Development Bank’s Abierto al público blog, Network chief of research Stefaan Verhulst, Network coordinator Andrew Young, and Prianka Srinivasan discuss data collaboratives, a potential solution to leverage private data for public good. They argue that the cross-sector exchange of data can be particularly beneficial to “humanitarian and anti-poverty efforts, urban planning, natural resource stewardship, health, and disaster management.” 

The author start by outlining the types of societal benefits created by data collaboratives in Latin America and the Caribbean, along with examples examples of each:

  • "Situational Awareness and Response: For example, BBVA collaborated with UN Global Pulse to produce the Hurricane Odile research project which analyzes the anonymized financial data of BBVA’s clients to measure the resilience of communities following a natural disaster. This research can be used not only to support recovery services after a disaster strikes, but also for researching the adaptability of communities following a natural disaster.

  • Public Service Design and Delivery: For example, Waze’s Connected Citizen’s program uses crowdsourced traffic information to help governments design transportation based on an improved understanding of citizen behavior. During the presidential election, the City of Rio de Janeiro accessed Waze’s traffic reports to better allocate transit management personnel to areas with the most congestion.

  • Knowledge Creation and Transfer: For example, in a cross-sector partnership of public, non-profit and private organizations led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture, the web-platform “Clima y Sector Agropecuario Colombiano (CSAC)” provides valuable meteorological data to farmers, along with data on the economics and agronomy of rice cultivation.

  • Prediction and Forecasting: For example, researchers from academic and public organizations in the UK and Brazil use crowdsourced geographic information from social media, combined with real-time environmental data and models, to monitor and create early flood and landslide warnings with a view to improve urban resilience.

  • Impact Assessment and Evaluation: For example, through a data sharing agreement with Facebook, UNICEF analyzes Facebook trends and status updates to track and monitor the impact of their public health campaigns like those launched to combat Zika in Brazilian cities."

They follow with a few words of caution regarding risks, saying:

“To be sure, data collaboratives do introduce some level of risk across the data lifecycle: gathering dirty data at the collection stage, failures to adequately secure data at the processing or sharing stage, the use of biased algorithms at the analyzing stage, and cumulative impacts at the using stage.  The responsible use of private-sector data requires targeted risk mitigation strategies. 

Our research suggests that such risks can be overcome through the development and implementation of a coherent data responsibility framework and the empowerment of data stewards in institutions tasked with ensuring responsible decision are made about data usages.

To learn more about how to create impactful cross-sector data sharing arrangements to create new public value, the GovLab developed the Designing a Data Collaborative Guide based on what is known in the practitioner and research community. The guide offers a step-by-step approach for unlocking the value of private-sector data, and is currently being tested with institutional partners like UNICEF.” 

Read more here



Anita McGahan in Harvard Business Review: Expanding the Reach of Primary Care in Developing Countries

In a new piece for Harvard Business Review, Network member Anita McGahan, Kathryn Mossman, Onil Bhattacharyya, MD, and Will Mitchell explore new mechanisms for "Expanding the Reach of Primary Care in Developing Countries." The piece reports findings from a research project undertaken by the authors in partnership with the Rapid Routes to Scale group aimed at identifying "key drivers of scaling private sector primary care services" in developing countries. 

Through "site visits, interviews, document review, and statistical analysis," the authors identified four categories of business skills that tend to play a role in successful efforts to scale primary care:

1. Market Focus: "Programs need to create strong relationships with patients who typically do not value primary care and either go to specialists directly or do not seek care at all, as well as those who simply lack access to care. To successfully scale, programs are focusing on the patient experience, investing in effective branding and marketing, and engaging in health education campaigns to promote services."

2. Financial Tools: "Programs need effective financial strategies to help patients access services and to generate income where resources are limited. This can involve providing alternative payment mechanisms such as micro-insurance, health plans, and membership fees, as well as generating complementary revenue to support the main offerings."

3. Partnership Skills: "Partnering with public and private sector organizations helps obtain financial support, medical supplies, and health care staff. Successfully scaled programs often pursue creative partnerships through social franchising, which involves contracting a network of private providers to deliver services under the same brand, while forging partnerships with organizations that provide access to a customer base."

4. Management and Leadership Skills: "Efficient, high-quality, scalable primary care operations require strong management and leadership skills. A key leadership task is to standardize both clinical and non-clinical operations, including care delivery, IT, clinic design, marketing, and human resources." 

Read more here.