Living Labs

  • Big Data and Open Governance in Healthcare

  • Collective Intelligence and Patients' Participation

  • Digitally Enabled Distributed Ethnography

  • Distributed Internet Governance

  • Fostering Collaboration Between Fire Departments

  • Harvard/NASA Tournament Lab

  • Improved Crowdsourcing – U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Crowdlaw

  • Quantified Communities – Distributed Heat Solutions and Reinvent Phoenix

  • See Something, Tweet Something

  • Small Data Derived Behavioral Insights to Mold and Sustain Healthy Household Choices


  • Crosscloud

  • Research Infrastructure


  • The GovLab Digest

  • Open Governance Knowledge Base

  • Open Governance Surveys

Convenings and Collaborations

  • Academy of Management Takes on "Opening Governance" as the Theme of Its 2015 Meeting

  • Collaboration with Social Lab Community

  • Political Science and Computer Science Convenings


Living Labs

Action-oriented research projects that model new ways of governing and tests their efficacy in real-world settings.


Big Data and Open Governance in Healthcare

Lead: Anita McGahan, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Anita McGahan, in the context of the Network, is advancing two projects related to leveraging big data to improve health outcomes. First, she is undertaking a research project in India focused on determining what types of marginal investments – e.g., increased access to doctors, pharmacies, specialists – can help improve health outcomes, especially for the least fortunate. With a particular focus on the impact of pharmacies, Anita is experimenting with and studying Indian health data to determine the best pathways toward better health.

Relatedly, Anita is exploring the opportunity of drawing on open governance principles as a means to improve global health in response to the proliferation of constraining intellectual property rights resulting from the TRIPS requirement – which requires developing nations to adopt the U.S. patent system for drugs in order to join the World Trade Organization. The requirement is set for review this year, and Anita is seeking to develop data- and participation-based means for developing new and better solutions to the challenge of increasing access to lifesaving drugs around the world.


collective Intelligence and patients' participation

Lead: Geoff Mulgan, Nesta

Nesta is carrying out a research project on the construction and circulation of knowledge in Patients’ Organisations in the UK. Patient groups offer the possibility of analysing a range of emerging network practices that are common to many areas of citizen online engagement: the circulation of information and the assessment of trustworthiness, the use of discussion groups, advocacy and pressure, the collection and aggregation of data, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, leadership and governance. Many of the issues that are emerging in other areas of network publics’ involvement in the political sphere, have already been encountered in this area. What is specific to patients’ organisations and make this terrain even more engaging is the tense relation they entertain with a range of institutions and with scientific knowledge. As objects of study and participants in the definition of research programmes, patient groups are in the forefront of the debate around the role of experiential knowledge, citizen science and open data.


Digitally Enabled Distributed Ethnography

Lead: Jesper Christiansen, MindLab

Drawing on small data and the concept of social visibility, Jesper Christiansen and MindLab, in the context of the Network, are beginning work on creating capabilities for digitally enabled distributed ethnography. The project is focused on driving human-centred public innovation through a greater understanding of both citizens and people working in the public sector, helping to align goals and expectations related to governance innovation projects.


Distributed Internet Governance

Lead: Stefaan Verhulst, The Governance Lab @ NYU

In partnership with Harvard’s Berkman Center, Stefaan Verhulst at the GovLab is developing a new framework for distributed Internet Governance within the context of the Network. Through conceptual development, case studies and mapping of the Internet governance space, the GovLab is exploring tools and techniques that can not only be leveraged to improve Internet governance, but also provide a roadmap for 21st-Century distributed global governance more generally.


Fostering Collaboration Between Fire Departments

Lead: Anita McGahan, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Anita McGahan, in the context of the Network, is building out a research design around management literature focusing on fostering collaboration and information sharing between municipal fire departments. In addition to insights from the management literature, big and open data interventions could provide useful pathways to better collaboration between departments and accordant improvements in emergency response.  


Harvard/NASA Tournament Lab

Lead: Karim Lakhani, Harvard Business School

In partnership with the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and its Healthcare Transformation Lab, Karim Lakhani, in the context of the Network, is conducting a study to assess the extent to which healthcare organizations perform as learning organizations and foster an environment conducive to innovation and change. The study is built around an ideation challenge that asks employees to submit ideas for improving their workplace and comprises both an online survey of employees and two games. The study’s central experimental intervention is related to the framing of requests for participation, the study of which will provide insights into the strategic design of citizen engagement projects more generally.  


Improved Crowdsourcing

Lead: Beth Simone Noveck, The Governance Lab @ NYU

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The GovLab and the Network are working with the United States FDA to accelerate and improve the regulatory review of medical devices by opening the process of staffing regulatory review panels through “graph-based searching.” Using Harvard’s Profiles software, the FDA project will seek to target and match expertise of broader networks within the agency, and eventually across industry and academia to identify new and more diverse participants to the end of ensuring that medical devices are safe and available to the public as quickly as possible.


This summer, the Network and the GovLab Academy hosted two online unconferences bringing together leaders and practitioners of crowdlaw (i.e., crowdsourced development and drafting of legislation and/or constitutions). The goal of the sessions was to begin a dialogue between practitioners around establishing best practices for crowdlaw and to share what’s worked across the globe in an effort to assess impact and inspire innovation. The GovLab is now actively pursuing both crowdlaw project opportunities with institutional partners and the development of a crowdlaw expert network through which practitioners can share learnings and best practices.


Quantified Communities – Distributed Heat Solutions and Reinvent Phoenix

Lead: Erik Johnston, Arizona State University, Center for Policy Informatics

In Arizona, the Erik Johnston and the Center for Policy Informatics, in the context of the Network, is advancing dual projects focused on using data and citizen capacity to improve health and urban design. First, in response to the persistent danger of extreme heat in Arizona, the Network is working to better coordinate the many non-governmental cooling centers in the state to better serve the needs of the community, particularly the most vulnerable. Data analysis, including analysis performed on data collected from wearable heat-tracking technology, will allow the Network to help inform the efforts of cooling centers as they seek to improve public health and safety in Arizona during its hottest months.

Second, the Reinvent Phoenix project is building on the concept of civic hacking to give citizens the opportunity to play an active role building walkable, opportunity-rich communities connected to high-capacity public transit. With the goal of alleviating government budgets, enhancing social connectivity, improving community health and fostering a successful community business environment, Reinvent Phoenix will draw on citizen input and data to guide and prioritize strategic investments in infrastructure, housing and business development in keeping with the community’s vision for the future.


See Something, Tweet Something

Lead: Deb Roy, MIT Media Lab, Twitter

Deb Roy and his team at MIT, in the context of the Network, are developing a project aimed at improving the safety of women in India. Drawing on the concept of mutual visibility – a symmetric relationship of communication – enabled by social media, the team will seek to create a “social thermostat” that gives citizens the opportunity to report and authorities the opportunity to respond to social media safety information. The analysis of social media data and citizen reporting will provide a unique opportunity for authorities to quickly and strategically react to threats to women’s safety.


Small Data Derived Behavioral Insights to Mold and Sustain Healthy Household Choices

Leads: Deborah Estrin, Cornell Tech and Sheena Iyengar, Columbia Business School, Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business

In the interest of developing more personalized health assistance for citizens, several members of the Network are moving forward with a project leveraging small data traces – personal data produced through all manner of individual activity – and behavioral science insights to give citizens the ability to make healthier decisions. Initially, the project will focus on using personalized data analysis and behavioral nudges to help citizens make healthier selections at the grocery store. The Network is pursuing partnerships with healthcare providers, technologists and grocery stores to create a scalable infrastructure for data collection, analysis and personalized recommendations to foster healthy nutrition decisions.



Developing flexible, scalable pathways for others to enact change in how we govern. 



Lead: Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, W3C

Sir Tim Berners-Lee and a team from MIT, in the context of the Network, are developing Crosscloud, a set of protocols and tools that gives individuals better control of their own data. Building on standard Semantic Web and Linked Data Technologies, Crosscloud will allow individuals to choose whom can access their personal data and move their data to other systems as needed. Crosscloud promises to enable a new class of lightweight social app, created by a few motivated individuals in a weekend, but then running independent of them, with thousands or even millions of users. For governance applications, decentralized open systems are vital, because they allow for the kinds of autonomy, transparency and trust which are necessary to build legitimacy and consensus. In contrast, with existing (centralized) social software, the users have no choice but to blindly trust the system's maintainers. Those maintainers might intentionally or unintentionally introduce biases or outright deception, invade privacy, or otherwise take advantage of their role at the heart of the system.


Research Infrastructure

Lead: Beth Simone Noveck, The Governance Lab @ NYU

The Network is working to develop a broadly implementable plan for a flexible research infrastructure focused on parallel, exploratory “experimentation” that provides the open governance research community with the knowledge and tools necessary to undertake meaningful experiments with governance partners to the end of learning what works, where and why. The research infrastructure is built around undertaking projects with multiple partner institutions simultaneously to allow for comparative analysis and the development of an evolving blueprint for open governance built around evidence.



Tracking the constantly changing world of technology and emerging novel forms of governance. 

The GovLab Digest

Lead: Stefaan Verhulst, The Governance Lab @ NYU

Curated by Stefaan Verhulst, the GovLab Digest is a curated selection of major developments, findings, and views related to how we improve people's lives by changing how we govern, delivered weekly.

Open Governance Knowledge Base

Lead: Stefaan Verhulst, The Governance Lab @ NYU

The Open Governance Knowledge Base is a collaborative, wiki-style repository of information and research at the nexus of technology, governance and citizenship. The platform seeks to provide a single source of research and insights related to the broad, interdiscplinary field of open governance.

Open Governance Surveys

Lead: Lee Rainie, Pew Research Center

To help gain a better grasp on the understanding of, needs for and challenges related to opening governance, Lee Rainie and the Pew Research Center, supporting the objectives of the Network, is undertaking four separate but related surveys. The first will poll the general population on issues related to opening governance, to measure both interest in and understanding of the field. The other surveys will be targeted to government officials at the federal, state and local levels, respectively, and be more focused on questions related to, for instance, institutional decisionmaking, new governance structures and interactions between government officials and the public. The surveys will provide valuable insight into the current state of open governance inside and outside government and help the Network to target its efforts based on identified gaps and interest areas.


Convenings and Collaborations

Bringing together diverse experts under the banner of opening governance to share best practices from different fields and amplify impact. 


Academy of Management Takes on “Opening Governance” as the Theme of its 2015 Meeting

Lead: Anita McGahan, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

The Academy of Management’s 2015 annual meeting – which brings together “more than 10,000 students, academics, scholars and professionals in the scholarly management and organization space” – is being organized around the Opening Governance theme. The agenda for the meeting is currently being developed, and other Network members will play a role in helping to frame the meeting.


Collaboration with Social Lab Community

Leads: Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and Jesper Christiansen, MindLab

Several members of the network are currently moving forward to create The Lab Circle (TLC) which will bring together the Network, the GovLab, MindLab, MaRS, Nesta and others with the goal of advancing the field of social innovation labs without creating a new formal legal entity. TLC will help to ensure that work across the field is not duplicative, share curated content, commission regular overviews of the work of labs and more. Additionally, Geoff Mulgan, working in the context of the Network, is pursuing the development of a stack of tech tools for social labs to coordinate and amplify the rate of innovation in the community.  


Political Science and Computer Science Convenings

Lead: Henry Farrell, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University and Cosma Shalizi, Department of Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University

In the spirit of interdisciplinarity that defines the work of the Network, Henry Farrell and Cosma Shalizi are organizing regular convenings featuring experts working in the fields of political science and computer science. These convenings will seek to create new dialogues and projects between the two groups focused on opening governance with an eye toward creating impacts in ways that would not be possible working in disciplinary silos.