HHS Strategic Plan for Participation and Collaboration
In an effort to enhance the ability for HHS employees to identify opportunities to participate in the Open Government initiative, an initial action plan has been developed. With the advancement of Internet tools and the use of other communication technology, HHS is testing, developing, and deploying an array of media, tools, and approaches to communicate with the public. Across HHS, agencies are exploring new approaches to foster participation by the public and promote collaboration across government and with non-governmental organizations. Looking forward in 2010, HHS will deploy a Strategic Plan for Participation and Collaboration, based on four core elements:
1. Founding an HHS “Community of Practice” for Participation and Collaboration
The first step toward progress is enhancing awareness and experience across HHS regarding the use of new technologies and approaches to enhance Open Government. Another aspect of importance in this plan is to provide new venues and opportunities for HHS employees, its partners, and the public to obtain experience and learn from others. To accomplish this, HHS is establishing a “Community of Practice” for Participation and Collaboration. This community of practice will enable HHS Open Government innovators to share experiences, policies, and tools, and will increase dissemination of best practices and knowledge throughout the HHS workforce. The community of practice will focus on activities being developed in actual ‘laboratories’ or other facilities that allow testing in developmental Internet spaces and evaluation of results. The community of practice approach will enable many new concepts and applications of technology to flourish in helping “connect” HHS with the public and its partners. HHS leadership has been engaged in a growing number of community forums helping promote HHS Open Government activities to foster greater participatory interest among organizations, state and regional governments, and individuals. We will continue to use public gatherings and a broad array of media to enhance knowledge about ways to participate.
2. Development of an HHS Workplace Menu of Innovative Tools for Participation and Collaboration
One of the first orders of business for the new HHS “Community of Practice” on Participation and Collaboration is developing a “menu” of tools and techniques would encourage participation and collaboration within and outside the HHS community. Within the department, several Operating Divisions have expressed interest in deploying an ideation tool to enhance internal operations and boost employee morale. The menu will list common tools and information resources available that agencies may wish to use in participation and collaboration activities. HHS employees and other members of the community of practice will use this menu to share their experiences and lessons learned from using the tools in the menu. Such a feedback mechanism will ensure that the menu and its content remain dynamic and relevant over time.
As part of the Open Government Plan, since the debut of the initial Plan on April 7, we have started an HHS Community of Practice centered on participation and collaboration activities (CoP). This CoP has been engaged in several projects with operating divisions across HHS, promoting collaboration with outside entities and agencies, as well as participation activities to generate greater employee and public participation. In order to foster knowledge transfer across the HHS operating divisions and different program managers that might want to emulate these programs, an intranet site was developed to house collateral material and discussion. In addition to providing a collaborative platform for discussion, this intranet site also serves as a gallery of innovative practices that are occurring across the Department.
Figure 1: Community of Practice Site
The Community of Practice features a new internal innovation consulting team, launched after the debut of our Open Government Plan on April 7, that works with the members to actively seek out and take down barriers to participation and collaboration activities. Several of the team’s new projects are highlighted below.
National Institutes of Health, Office of Technology Transfer (NIH/OTT)
NIH/OTT is interested in utilizing social media tools to better market intramural inventions from NIH and FDA labs to external partners and organizations. The innovation consulting team is working with NIH/OTT to utilize Web 2.0 tools and develop partnerships with industry trade associations. Furthermore, collaborative opportunities between the NIH Library and NIH/OTT using semantic search capabilities have been established to better catalogue the licensing and partnership opportunities available to outside organizations.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
CMS is interested in utilizing an employee ideation tool to upgrade its suggestion box program and harness the knowledge of its employees to solve operational problems. The innovation consulting team is working with CMS to navigate issues associated with utilizing Web 2.0 tools and employee engagement. Currently the program is in the design phases while distilling the lessons from the Department of Veterans Affairs Innovation Program.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA is interested in utilizing an employee ideation tool. The innovation consulting team is working with SAMHSA to determine feasible technical solutions to embed an ideation tool within SAMHSA’s existing collaboration platform software. Currently SAMHSA is exploring free no-cost options that can be embedded into its collaborative platform.
Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products
The Center for Tobacco Products is interested in soliciting feedback from retailers on the best ways to engage the front-line workers in combating underage purchase of tobacco products. The innovation consulting team worked with the Center to establish an ideation site that reached out to retailers. This ideas submitted to the site are now under consideration as strategies to better fulfill the mission of the Center.
Prizes & Challenges
The Department is looking at methods to launch competitions/challenges across all of its operating divisions and staff divisions. The innovation consulting team is working with the new Prizes and Challenges subcommittee of the Innovation Council to gather best practices from other federal agencies that have run successful competitions and develop a framework by which all the entities within the Department of Health and Human Services can run competitions (see Section 3.0 below).
Menu of Tools
The HHS menu of tools will exist on a “platform” that Community of Practice (CoP) members use to collaborate with one another and discover best tools and practices that may inform and support their own participation and collaboration efforts. Unlike traditional top-down development, the development of the CoP platform will hinge on CoP member/user input that will drive the implementation and use of the HHS menu of tools. A pilot CoP platform will be launched, and pilot users are invited to contribute content to the platform and discuss ways to improve the functionality of the platform. The innovation consulting team is currently experimenting with two possible collaboration platforms (Platforms A and B), with a final platform to be selected in 4Q 2010:
Set up Platform A
April 7, 2010
Add preliminary content to Platform A
April 23, 2010 and ongoing
CoP users invited to contribute Platform A
Initial contributions - June 15, 2010
Set up Platform B
June 30, 2010
CoP users invited to contribute to Platform B
July 6, 2010
Final platform selected and formally launched across HHS
It is our goal to have at least 10 active participation and collaboration projects present and running on the Community of Practice collaboration platform by the end of 2010.
3. Prizes and Challenges to Enhance Open Government
The HHS Innovation Council has established a subcommittee in response to the Office of Management and Budget’s Guidance on the Use of Challenges and Prizes to Promote Open Government, issued on March 8, 2010.1 The subcommittee’s charge is as follows: recognizing that the uses of prizes and competitions serve to spur new ideas towards addressing agency missions, the subcommittee is tasked to identify opportunities for use of prizes and competitions across HHS; provide guidance to HHS agencies on their use; and provide recommendations to the Innovation Council on strategies to overcome barriers toward their use. The subcommittee began its work by conducting a review of agency authorities for conducting prizes and competitions with a particular focus on mechanisms for use of appropriated funding to support these activities. In addition, a limited survey was conducted for emerging prizes and competitions activities with an emphasis on community participation and collaboration with non-federal agencies. An initial effort of the subcommittee will emphasize identification of best practices from various agencies and non-governmental agencies, and development of a marketing and information sharing activities. Future directions may examine key HHS strategic initiatives that may host prizes and competitions, uses of Web 2.0 technologies for community engagement, and potentially address legislative needs to address authorizing language.
And as discussed previously, since the debut of our initial Open Government Plan, we have already executed two such challenges and launched a third:
- 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
- As part of our flagship Community Health Data Initiative, 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
- As another part of the 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
4. Evaluation of HHS Participation and Collaboration Efforts
Evaluation of the effectiveness of current and planned participation and collaboration efforts will serve as an important component of HHS’s Open Government Plan. Evaluation efforts will be expected to inform near-term activities such as community of practice discussions and the development of the participation and collaboration tools menu, as well as future strategic planning efforts regarding the use of participation/collaboration activities across HHS.
The evaluation activities will focus on three broad components: 1) evaluation of the effectiveness of the methods/techniques utilized in a sampling of featured HHS participation and collaboration activities (we will aim to select a diverse sample of initiatives so that we can evaluate not only the technical tools and management approaches applied to the use of these tools, but also the settings or issues for which participation and collaboration issues are best suited); 2) stakeholder evaluations of the effectiveness of engagement approaches; and 3) an assessment of the effectiveness of the participation and collaboration methods/techniques in supporting agency priorities. With regards to this third component, the evaluation will pay close attention to the extent to which public inputs garnered through participation efforts have contributed to the HHS priorities, as well as any best practices with regards to the handling of and responding to public comments.
5. Addressing Barriers to Participation and Collaboration at HHS
HHS leadership has designated the promotion of innovation across HHS as major priority. In our approach to implementing new ways to work together, HHS has identified barriers that impede new methods of participation and collaboration and is now working to overcome them.
One area that has represented a barrier to participation and collaboration has been the lack of knowledge about what technology platforms and services can be used in the workplace and what privacy and security concerns and protections are involved. HHS is working to inform workers on how to utilize Web 2.0 technologies responsibly and safely and promote their use to promote participation and collaboration activities.
Another source of difficulty impacting working with the public was identified as restrictive policies related to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1984. Currently, research activities to collect information from the public require many layers of project review to comply with management controls introduced as a consequence of the statute. Now, HHS is working with the Office of Management and Budget to eradicate unnecessary obstructive practices and bureaucracy that will enable more effective and efficient data collection.
An important consideration for the future of communication and deployment of advanced collaboration and participation tools is the informatics infrastructure and technical support in HHS. Being such a large organization, HHS has an array of decentralized information systems, and the interactions among users and movement of important data can be inhibited by lack of connectivity or technical support. HHS is studying options through the Chief Information Officer Council to optimize sharing of experiences and improving connections across information systems. New policies and technical infrastructure will be a target of HHS work in the future to ensure that technology can be used effectively in the workplace.
One of our key Open Government advances has been the development of a model approach for approaching participation and collaboration. The Community Health Data Initiative has pioneered methods which can be used in other areas across HHS and the government. These methods include new approaches with respect to sharing data and working with innovators outside the government. The development of a process to open up data sets within HHS, encouraging other organizations to make data available, encouraging tool development by private sector innovators, and fostering communications with new media are all methods of practice that can be used across HHS. To help promote the use of these methods, a “playbook” of policy actions and methods which are making CHDI successful will be developed and made widely available by October 2010.
2 Guidance on the Use of Challenges and Prizes to Promote Open Government. March 8, 2010. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/memoranda_2010/m10-11.pdf