Leadership, Governance, and Culture Change
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the United States government's principal force for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. Comprising 27 agencies and offices, HHS administers over 330 programs with a total FY 2010 budget of $840 billion. (For a leadership and organization chart of HHS, see www.hhs.gov/open).
In other words, HHS is a highly diverse, complex place -- bound together by the noblest of missions, but decidedly not uniform in culture, work, or work approach.
The acceleration of Open Government in such a department is a non-trivial exercise. It has required us to spend a fair amount of time thinking about issues of leadership, governance, and culture change as we craft how openness can and should advance at HHS.
Active and increasing engagement with the public is at the heart of what this Open Government Plan is all about.
As described in the Transparency section following, HHS will be releasing large waves of new data. In our view, it is equally critical to help foster public use of this information. HHS will therefore be engaging in a proactive new program of monitoring, stimulating, and incorporating innovative and beneficial public uses of our data.
- Beginning 3Q 2010, on our Open Government website and through systematic dialogue with key stakeholder groups (overseen by our Data Council), we will solicit examples from the public of how our data has been used to generate benefit. We will seek to compile at least 30 such examples (insights, applications, visualizations, etc.) by the end of 2010 for publication on our Open Government website. This will help us shape our future data release strategy on an ongoing basis.
- We will establish an online forum in 3Q 2010 on our Open Government website that facilitates public discussion of barriers to innovation using our data (e.g., data format, lack of metadata, etc.). Through this forum and other channels, we will seek to gather a list of at least 10 such barriers for publication and discussion of next steps on our Open Government website by the end of 2010.
- We will initiate “HHS Apps Challenges” – a public competition for the most innovative and beneficial applications built utilizing our data. In the spirit of energetic execution of our Open Government Plan, we have already executed two such challenges and launched a third since the debut of our Plan on April 7:
- A competition for best visualization of community health data as part of the Sunlight Foundation’s Design for America competition -- see http://sunlightlabs.com/blog/2010/design-america-winners/ for results, announced at the end of May)
- A challenge to innovators to develop applications using HHS’s community health data for debut at a Community Health Data Forum jointly hosted by HHS and the Institute of Medicine on June 2 – see http://www.hhs.gov/open/datasets/initiative_launch.html to view a webcast of the amazing results, and read more about the Community Health Data Initiative below
- As part of this Community Health Data Initiative, HHS has collaborated with Health 2.0, Sunlight Foundation, and others to launch a third challenge, the Health 2.0 2010 Developer Challenge (www.health2challenge.org), with resulting applications to be showcased at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco in October
- Through the Community Health Data Initiative (a core “Open Government Flagship Initiative,” described in that section of our Open Government Plan), we are pioneering an approach that seeks both to (1) make key HHS data available and easy to access by the public and (2) proactively encourage a growing array of innovators from the worlds of technology, business, academia, public health, and health care to engage with the data and turn it into applications that create significant and growing public benefit
- The Initiative embodies the philosophy of “open data” and data sharing that is at the heart of our Open Government Plan. The core principle is that the government can help trigger enormous public good by implementing the idea of “government as platform,” supplying ever greater amounts of high quality, free government data to the public and marketing the availability of this data – which can then be turned into useful insights, applications, products, and services by private and public sector innovators from across the country, working with engaged consumers, providers, civic leaders, employers, researchers, and others
- The creation of a public-private “ecosystem” of data supply and use is the central objective of the initiative. We are proactively marketing HHS data on community health care, health, and health determinant indicators to innovators who can turn it into applications and programs that benefit the public. We are evangelizing energetically on behalf of the Initiative at conferences and other public forums and on the web, seeking to get many organizations and individuals outside HHS interested in participating in the Initiative’s ecosystem. We are working closely with organizations such as the Institute of Medicine and Health 2.0 to hammer out how we can all facilitate the ecosystem’s growth and development
- As showcased at the June 2 Community Health Data Forum, co-hosted by the Institute of Medicine and HHS, the Community Health Data Initiative is off to a very exciting start (see http://www.hhs.gov/open/datasets/initiative_launch.html). At this event, attended by 400 people in person and 300 people online, innovators demonstrated more than a dozen amazing applications that had been built or significantly improved using HHS data in less than 90 days, in response to an initial challenge issued by HHS in March
- We are setting the goal of at least 100 organizations meaningfully involved in the Community Health Data Initiative by June 2011 – defined as supplying data to the Initiative ecosystem or having built applications as part of the ecosystem
- We are also energetically exploring the potential of Semantic Web to enhance the value of our data and the ability of the public to engage with it. At its heart, the Semantic Web is an innovative extension of standard Web technologies to better deal with data on the Web, by providing a means to give Web addresses to data elements so they can be linked. As the Web of linked documents evolves to include the Web of linked data, we're working to maximize the potential of Semantic Web technologies and realize the promise of Linked Open Government Data at HHS. Since the one year anniversary of the launch of Data.gov this past May 2010, Data.gov is now one of the largest providers of semantic data. HHS is pleased to be leading this community of practice and their collaborative activities inside the Data.gov Program Management Office. In addition, we are working across HHS to best leverage the opportunities that this technology presents to linking HHS open government data across agencies, leveraging our federal government-wide Open Government for Health workgroup and Data Council to catalyze and coordinate these efforts. We believe that data quality and value will improve as more people engage with the data. In light of this, we'll begin to explore social media tools to facilitate the creation of metadata vocabularies and curation of their corresponding instance datasets, with both seen as objects of social collaboration. We think that the 'Social Data Web', where we combine the features and capabilities of the Social Web and the Web of Data, is a powerful idea that will lower our coordination costs and allow independent evolution and interlinking across government information domains while enhancing data quality. There are inspiring examples of socially managed data sites and many existing and emerging tools with strong Semantic Web support to leverage that we intend to explore in the future.
In addition, we will also foster public use of our data by publishing not just raw data, but also tools that help the public gain insight via the data. Exemplifying this approach are tools that have debuted with the launch of our Open Government Plan and that are described in more detail in the next section: the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Dashboard, which allows users to easily visualize and investigate Medicare spending on hospital services; FDA Track, which allows users to see FDA performance across more than 90 FDA centers and, when fully implemented, will track over 300 performance measures and 80 key projects; and data.medicare.gov, which allows users to explore and socialize CMS quality and patient satisfaction data on hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and other providers with unprecedented flexibility and ease. And as described in the Transparency section, more such tools are on the way, such as the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s Dashboard, coming in 4Q 2010.
As discussed further in the Participation and Collaboration section of the plan, the very essence of our Participation and Collaboration plan is to broaden and deepen engagement and collaboration with the public to advance the health and well-being of the country. To this end, we have compiled a database of participation opportunities across HHS and published it on our Open Government website http://www.hhs.gov/open/stayconnected/facdb/index.html and engaged in the creation of a Participation and Collaboration internal consulting operation (launched 2Q 2010) and Community of Practice that are working to identify best practices, develop a menu of tools that HHSers can use to execute Participation and Collaboration initiatives (formally debuting in 4Q 2010), help implement beta applications of practices and tools, and disseminate lessons learned across HHS. See the Participation and Collaboration section for more. And our Community Health Data Initiative, discussed earlier, is a critical flagship initiative for HHS from the standpoint of not only data transparency, but also participation and collaboration. One key policy deliverable from the Initiative (coming in 3Q) is documentation of the core transparency/participation/collaboration “play” embodied by the Initiative, for general policy approval and replication across other dimensions of HHS and other government work.
Finally, we plan to continue to engage the public energetically on the evolution of our plan itself, including the following activities:
- Continuous, ongoing solicitation of comments on our Open Government Plan, via our Open Government website (www.hhs.gov/open) (currently live)
- Quarterly Open Government status reports to the public, published on our Open Government website, and soliciting public feedback and comment. The first report will happen in 3Q 2010, reporting on progress in 2Q. We commit to posting feedback on user comments 45 days after each quarterly report is issued, which will cover both user feedback on our status report as well as general comments received on our Open Government Plan since the last quarterly report
- Periodic public webinars/conference calls introducing key Open Government ideas and initiatives, for solicitation of public comment
- Posting of our full 2010 HHS Strategic Plan, in which Open Government has been designated a key Secretarial priority, on our Open Government website in July 2010 for public comment
All of the above to be managed by the senior officials we have designated as accountable for Open Government strategy and implementation at HHS: the Chief Technology Officer and Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs
How does one develop a coherent Open Government Plan in a place this big and diverse?
First, we decided that our approach needed to be interdisciplinary. The advancement of transparency, participation, and collaboration requires policy, legal, technology, public affairs, financial, and operations leadership. We therefore created an HHS Open Government Steering Group comprised of all of these disciplines, co-chaired by HHS’s Chief Technology Officer and Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, to oversee the formulation of our Open Government Plan.
Second, it was obvious that our approach needed to coordinate thinking and action across all of the many agencies and offices of HHS. We chose to make this happen by using established cross-HHS councils, with representation from all of our offices and divisions, and which were perfectly positioned to help advance key aspects of Open Government:
- The HHS Data Council and Chief Information Officer (CIO) Council, which focused on the transparency section of our plan
- The recently formed HHS Innovation Council, which formulated the participation and collaboration section of the plan
With the help of these Councils and key leaders across HHS’s divisions, we identified an array of “open government innovators” across the department – who are truly the folks taking the lead on advancing transparency, participation, and collaboration at HHS. It is these innovators who represent the heart and soul of the Open Government movement at HHS and whose energy and ideas inform and drive this plan.
Third, we felt like there was much to be gained from collaboration with our fellow departments across the federal government. We benefited greatly from participation in a government-wide Open Government Steering Committee convened by the White House and from a volunteer workgroup of agencies including HHS, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Treasury, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Labor, the General Services Administration, the National Archives and Records Administration, and others, which hammered out a set of Open Government “leading practices” to help guide our thinking.
Finally, we felt that it was vital to gather public input regarding how we should shape our plan. On February 6, along with other federal departments, we debuted our HHS Open Government website – www.hhs.gov/open. Among other things, our website posted an outline of our plan and invited folks to share their ideas regarding how we could advance transparency, participation, and collaboration at HHS. We blogged about specific Open Government topics, posing questions to the public and responding to public input. And through our interagency volunteer workgroup focused on open government “leading practices,” we received significant input from Open Government advocates that did much to shape our plan.
The mechanisms we set up and utilized to develop our Open Government Plan are the same ones we will utilize going forward to oversee execution of the plan and to evolve it going forward:
HHS Open Government Steering Group, operating under the authority of the Secretary of HHS and which will oversee Open Government efforts at HHS overall – including oversight of our work to execute on our obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (more on this later in the plan)
Data Council and the Chief Information Officer Council – which will coordinate data transparency efforts at HHS
Innovation Council – which will coordinate participation and collaboration efforts at HHS
These Councils will not attempt to manage Open Government via a “top-down,” “command-and-control” style. Rather, they will seek to help catalyze, coordinate, and network Open Government action across HHS, incubating and supporting the work of the “open government innovators” at every level and across every HHS division who are the trailblazers helping to create a more open HHS.
HHS’s Chief Technology Officer and Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs will be the department’s senior officials accountable for Open Government strategy and execution. Our Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources has been named the senior official accountable for the quality of financial data supplied by HHS. They will update the leadership of HHS on the status of Open Government work on an ongoing basis, including quarterly briefings for the Deputy Secretary and Secretary.
HHS will also continue to involve the public in the formulation of our Open Government work. We will continue to solicit feedback on our evolving Open Government Plan and blog on Open Government questions at www.hhs.gov/open. We look forward to continued consultation with Open Government experts on multiple fronts. We hope to grow the dialogue regarding Open Government at HHS over time into an ever richer one. For more, see section 2.7 following, “How We Will Work with the Public and Other Stakeholders.”
HHS sees Open Government explicitly as a means by which HHS will become more successful in how well we deliver on our mission of improving the health and well-being of the United States.
The Open Government Plan directly supports the major work of the Department, including its highest priority activities and high priority performance goals. On May 6, 2010, Secretary Sebelius announced HHS’s key strategic initiatives and key inter-agency collaborations going forward (see http://www.hhs.gov/secretary/about/secretarialstrategicinitiatives2010.pdf):
- Transformation of health care
- Implementation of the Recovery Act
- Promotion of early childhood health and development
- Prevention and reduction of tobacco use
- Protection of the health and safety of Americans in public health emergencies
- Acceleration of the process of scientific discovery to improve patient care
- Implementation of a 21st century food safety system
- Ensuring program integrity and responsible stewardship
- Reduction of teen and unintended pregnancy
- Supporting the National HIV/AIDS strategy
- Improving global health
- Fostering open government
The inclusion of Open Government as a key Secretarial priority for HHS will accelerate implementation of the initiatives described in this plan and provide major visibility for Open Government across HHS and to its stakeholders. Subsequent achievements in the Open Government plan will be featured in measures and milestones described in performance reports on the strategic initiatives. One of our goals is to have more than 100 ideas and comments from the public in addressing Open Government activities.
In addition, the concept of Open Government is being incorporated into a draft HHS’s Strategic Plan 2010-2015 which will soon be published through our Open Government website at hhs.gov/open for public comment,. Once the new strategic plan’s goals and objectives have been identified, they will inform proposals for new transparency, participation, and collaboration initiatives.
The central objective of Open Government at HHS is to advance the ability of the department to deliver on its mission through the power of transparency, participation, and collaboration. Optimizing how well we disseminate vital government information to the public, foster the use of that information, and engage citizens, health care providers, human service providers, non-profit organizations, businesses, state, local, and tribal governments, researchers, the media, advocacy organizations, and others outside HHS in the work of advancing these goals will be vital to achieving them. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how we’ll achieve maximum success with respect to our goals without doing so.
Indeed, we believe that ramping up transparency, participation, and collaboration is so fundamental to our ability to execute on HHS’s mission that it is important to develop organizational capabilities which will stimulate and support employee execution of Open Government activities at all levels of the organization. We plan to execute the following actions in 2010 along these lines:
- Adapt our core strategic planning, IT planning, and budgeting processes to emphasize proactive data sharing. (For more details, see the Transparency section of the plan, following)
- Establish a central location on the HHS intranet (“Open Government at HHS”) in 3Q 2010 that enables employees to find relevant Open Government information (i.e., policies, standards, tools, training, etc.) easily. Publicize the availability of training and workshops provided by the department, the General Services Administration, and other organizations on Open Government topics
- Develop a “Participation and Collaboration Resource Menu” for HHS employees, formally launching in 4Q 2010, which will lay out methodologies, policies, tools, and best practices which can be used by employees seeking to engage the public and collaborate with others across and outside the government. (For more details, see the Participation and Collaboration section section of the plan, following)
- Launch a “Participation and Collaboration Community of Practice,” powered by an internal consulting outfit focused on Participation and Collaboration and launched in 2Q 2010 at HHS which will enable HHS innovators to network with each other, learn together, and share best practices on this key Open Government topic. (For more details, see the Participation and Collaboration section of the plan, following)
- Launch a new Secretary’s Innovation Awards program in 2Q 2010, now officially underway, which will recognize and reward extraordinary achievements by employees who innovate how HHS operates in ways that advance our mission. The program will recognize its first award recipients in July of this year, with two award cycles annually after that. Employees who demonstrate powerful ways to harness the power of transparency, participation, and collaboration to improve the results delivered by HHS will be leading candidates for Innovation Awards on an ongoing basis. The program itself is using innovative technology to implement the program. Nominations are submitted online across the department, displayed for online voting, and publicized as an ongoing “Innovation Gallery” across HHS. In our initial round, over 125 ideas were submitted by HHS employees, from which the Secretary will announce 3 awards and publicize the innovations. It is our belief that one of the most effective ways to evolve the culture of HHS toward more and more Open Government is to celebrate “Open Government entrepreneurs” and demonstrate that Open Government innovation is a way to advance one’s brand and career at HHS
- Engage in an HHS-wide Open Government communication plan – including Open Government “town hall” meetings across the department, webinars, and publication of best practices.
We anticipate a progression over time in how we measure the success of Open Government at HHS.
Initially, that measurement will be qualitative – i.e., how well we execute on this plan. We will report progress with respect to execution of the plan to the public on our Open Government website (www.hhs.gov/open) on a quarterly basis, in the “Evaluating Our Progress” area.
One of our key tasks is to develop the right quantitative metrics for the success of Open Government at HHS. Our current metrics are relatively basic:
- Number of high value data sets and tools published
- Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) backlog, time to respond, and total requests processed
Participation and Collaboration:
- Number of opportunities for the public to provide input into the work of the department
- Number of HHS public-private collaborations
These metrics will need to be refined and others added via a cross-HHS dialogue as our work progresses. We will also look to the public to help us define relevant measures. As described subsequently in the Participation and Collaboration section of the plan, we will be developing standard metrics for measuring the success of efforts to engage the public. These metrics will go beyond volume of participation (e.g., number of comments received) to the impact of participation (e.g., number of ideas from the public that are adopted and what impact they have on results delivered by the agency).
This points to the ultimate destination of our journey to measure the success of Open Government at HHS: its impact on the results produced by HHS. As we have said previously, the central objective of Open Government at HHS is to enable the department to deliver better on its mission of advancing the health and well-being of the nation. The ultimate measure of success of Open Government should be improvement in the fundamental efficiency and effectiveness of HHS. In our quarterly reports on our Open Government execution, we will describe the qualitative and quantitative impact that Open Government is having on HHS performance, as part of an ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of our Open Government programs and policies.
We believe that it will continue to be vital to collaborate with other agencies in the advancement of Open Government across the government. We plan to do so in several ways:
- Continued leadership of and participation in the volunteer interagency workgroup on Open Government “leading practices”
- Sharing of the “Participation and Collaboration Resource Menu” we will be developing with other agencies
- Continued leadership of and support for an intergovernmental community of practice on “ideation tools” – tools that can help agencies gather and process ideas from employees and the public. Currently, over 30 federal agencies participate in this forum, which meets monthly and also communicates via an intergovernmental portal
- Leadership of an “Open Government for Health” interagency group (launched on March 2) on how agencies can coordinate or integrate complementary data for public release
- Naming of an HHS advocate for Open Government who can get the word out about what HHS is doing on Open Government and is available to talk with other agencies about what HHS has learned. This advocate will initially be Todd Park, HHS Chief Technology Officer and one of the senior accountable officials for Open Government
Sharing of all materials, results, tools, and training that could be transferable to other agencies with the government-wide Open Government Steering Committee