Government vendor as an ‘open organization’

Earlier, I wrote about the book “Open Organization” and, via a post originally published on ProudCity, wanted to share my extended thoughts on how this applies to government vendors in the context of the work I’m doing there.

Open is at the core of ProudCity.

As government service providers, it is our duty to ensure cities get the most sustainable, flexible technology available, so that they can best serve their residents, businesses and visitors.

We will do this by following the ethos of what Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst calls the “open organization.”

In his book, “The Open Organization,” Whitehurst outlines a framework for the open organization, one that applies to both government and companies, likeProudCity, that solely serve the public sector:

An “open organization” — which I define as an organization that engages participative communities both inside and out — responds to opportunities more quickly, has access to resources and talent outside the organization, and inspires, motivates, and empowers people at all levels to act with accountability. The beauty of an open organization is that it’s not about pedaling harder, but about tapping into new sources of power both inside and outside to keep pace with all the fast-moving changes in your environment.

As an open organization with a strong purpose and sense of openness (through collaboration, open source and open data), ProudCity is able to give cities ultimate freedom when it comes to digital services.

By doing this, we’re able to move beyond the traditional — often unpleasant — relationship between government and the private sector and truly empower public sector leaders to respond proactively and keep pace with the fast-moving world of technology.

Purpose

The only way the cities we serve will be different tomorrow is if our purpose is open.

Whitehurst emphasizes the importance of purpose and passion in an open organization, citing “Conscious Capitalism” by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and Babson College professor Raj Sisodia:

Business has a much broader positive impact on the world when it is based on a higher purpose that goes beyond only generating profits and creating shareholder value. Purpose is the reason a company exists. A compelling sense of higher purpose creates an extraordinary degree of engagement among all stakeholders and catalyzes creativity, innovation, and organization commitment … Higher purpose and shared core values unify the enterprise and elevate it to higher degrees of motivation, performance, and ethical commitment at the same time.

And from “Collective Genius”:

Purpose is often misunderstood. It’s not what a group does, but why it does what it does. It’s not a goal but a reason — the reason it exists, the need it fulfills, and the assistance it bestows. It is the answer to the question every group should ask itself: if we disappeared today, how would the world be different tomorrow?

At ProudCity, our purpose is to enable cities to stand up and scale digital services quickly and cost-effectively. We never want to see a city locked into a proprietary or monolithic platform that quickly becomes stagnant or that they’re stuck with for years because there’s no easy way out.

Collaboration

Collaboration is fundamental to our technology and how we operate internally and externally.

At our GitHub organization, all of our repositories are public and freely available for download and re-use. Anyone who would like to collaborate with us, whether you’re a developer contributing code or a customer with a feature idea or bug to report, can do so via the respective repo issues feature.

Soon, we will make our product roadmap public, where others will have full visibility into upcoming features and can give feedback to help us better prioritize.

We will also do this for the resources we provide, allowing others to contribute and collaborate, helping us build on these and make them better for everyone.

Open source

The ProudCity platform is based on open source technologies, from WordPress andCalypso for the platform and content management systems, to Bootstrap, Node.jsand Font Awesome for the front-end design.

We fully support Automattic’s philosophy as outlined in its Bill of Rights:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
  • The freedom to redistribute.
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.

Leveraging a fully open source stack allows us to scale our development and build features faster and more frequently (we release new updates every two weeks) and make them immediately available to every city on the ProudCity platform.

It also gives every city we work with ultimate freedom to contribute code and, if they are not satisfied with our service (which is a strong motivation for us to provide excellent customer service/experience), they can easily migrate to another host and service provider. Because these frameworks are supported by thousands of developers around the world, there is a strong support community for all aspects of our platform.

Open data

A critical component of government’s long-term success is leveraging the power of open data and application programming interfaces that pull from internal platforms as well as third-party service providers.

By leveraging the power of open data technology built into the ProudCity platform, cites have ultimate flexibility to easily integrate any service provider (with a well-built API) and exponentially increase their effectiveness. Because the ProudCity platform is based on a REST API, cities are data-driven out the gate.

Open cities

ProudCity and the cities we serve will succeed by living up to open principles like those espoused by Red Hat in “The Open Organization”:

  • People join us because they want to.
  • Contribution is critical, but it’s not a quid pro quo.
  • The best ideas win regardless of who they come from.
  • We encourage and expect open, frank, and passionate debate.
  • We welcome feedback and make changes in the spirit of “release early — release often.”

The only way ProudCity will scale digital innovation for cities around the world is to hold true to principles centered on purpose and openness.

We’re proud to be an open organization.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh. He is also co-founder and CEO of ProudCity. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

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