GovLab Blog

"Learning Public Innovation" Conferences: Measurement and Evaluation

This blog post originally appeared on Politics for Tomorrow.

On October 17th 2018, the GovLab and Politics for Tomorrow convened a global expert exchange focussing on measurement and evaluation. The discussion was led with an input by Lene Krogh Jeppesen from the Danish Center of Public Innovation.
The main takeaway from the online conference on measurement and evaluation was to differentiate “numbers“ and “judgement“ more clearly. Many participants were interested in how to combine innovation processes with an adequate evaluation practice as soon as starting an innovation project. Furthermore it became obvious that developing evaluation skills should be part of innovation training to better understand and show the impact of our work.
A summary of the conversation and the slide presentation of Lene Krogh Jeppesen can be downloaded below.
The next online conference is scheduled for January 16th, 2019 and will focus on incentives for public innovation learning.
If you are engaged in public innovation learning or public entrepreneurship training in and with governments and would like to participate, please email: or
Hosted by Professor Beth Noveck, Director of the GovLab in the U.S, and Caroline Paulick-Thiel, Director of Politics for Tomorrow in Germany, the online conferences bring together experienced experts who are all currently working on facilitating or teaching innovation processes in the public sector, either on a city-level, national, or global scale. The purpose of these meetings to spark mutual inspiration and learning by convening a quarterly expert exchange, operating under the Chatham House Rule.
GovLab Blog

GovLab Senior Fellow Announced as Secretary of Innovation and Participation for Municipality of San Pedro Garza García, Mexico

Cantú-Pedraza (second row, far right) poses with her fellow Cabinet members and Mayor-elect Hon. Miguel B. Treviño.


Hon. Miguel B. Treviño, Mayor-elect of San Pedro Garza García, Mexico, announced on October 16th the appointment of GovLab Senior Fellow Dinorah Cantú-Pedraza as the municipality’s new Secretary of Innovation and Participation.
Cantú-Pedraza previously led the GovLab’s City Challenges initiative. City Challenges – which combines coaching and citizen engagement to help cities co-create solutions to urban challenges with their citizens – was pioneered in San Pedro. The San Pedro City Challenges, also known as the DesafíoSP project, yielded important outcomes, including the digitization of eight new government services, an online voting space for participatory budgeting, and the launch of the pilot of the mobility program. San Pedro has legislated the City Challenges method into law as part of a new Citizen Participation bill, making this model a new paradigm for solving problems in the municipality.
“I am fully convinced that people are government’s biggest asset – if only we knew how to unlock all of their potential,” Cantú-Pedraza remarked. “I also believe democracy is in crisis, and we need to seriously experiment with new models that allow us to come together, and work together, to solve the problems we are facing and improve everyone’s quality of life.”
In her new role, Cantú-Pedraza will supervise the Citizen Engagement and Citizen Services division as well as the Innovation Department. Her appointment officially begins on October 31, 2018 per the City Council’s approval. She continues as a non-resident Fellow at the GovLab.

GovLab Blog

Making the Case for NYC to be the Next CrowdLaw Hub

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On Thursday, September 27, 2018, the New York City Charter 2019 NYC Revision Commission held a public hearing in the Council Chambers at City Hall to gather testimony, from New York City residents, institutions and stakeholders regarding the potential amendments to the City Charter. Among the attendees were NYC Council member Ben Kallos and Anirudh Dinesh, a Research/Tech Associate Fellow representing The GovLab, who both took time to advocate for the incorporation of CrowdLaw–technology-enabled public participation in law and policymaking–practices within the New York City Council.
CrowdLaw is the simple but powerful idea that parliaments, governments and public institutions work better when they boost citizen engagement, leveraging new technologies to tap into diverse sources of information, judgments and expertise at each stage of the law and policymaking cycle,” explained Dinesh. “Doing so improves the quality – as well as the legitimacy – of the resulting laws and policies.”
The idea of incorporating more citizen engagement into law and policymaking processes is showing signs of forward momentum. In addition to Anirudh’s testimony, New York City Council Member Ben Kallos also proposed integrating CrowdLaw in the New York City Charter in his recent written testimony submitted to the commission.
“The City’s Charter is in desperate need of an upgrade for the next generation,” Council Member Kallos stated in his written testimony. He then went on to highlight several key ways that the City could modernize the Charter, including an examination of who is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the 8.7 million NYC residents.
One of his solutions: “Empower Residents to Propose Legislation to Council: CrowdLaw.”
“This Commission must provide an additional method for resident initiated proposals, including a pathway toward a hearing and vote. The Commission should require the Council to accept ideas for legislation in paper or online,” Kallos requested in his recent testimony. “It would truly empower residents in the legislative process.”
In the same testimony, Kallos explained how he has engaged citizens who have ideas for legislation – from adults to kindergarten students –  to work in partnership with his office to advance legislative proposals. Those efforts have yielded tangible results, and in several instances, resulted in the introduction and hearing of bills, and even the passage of citizen-led legislation.
“CrowdLaw” – a term coined by GovLab – describes the institutionalization of participatory practices by parliaments, legislatures and city councils. The GovLab’s CrowdLaw Catalog, for example, showcases over 100 examples from 39 countries and 6 continents that demonstrate how legislatures, parliaments, city councils, and public bodies around the world are leveraging technology to involve more people in the process of creating policy and law.
As governments around the world face increasing pressure, compounded by a loss of confidence from their citizens, CrowdLaw offers a way to harness the capacity of collective intelligence and technology, enabling citizens to work collaboratively with their respective governing institutions to improve how laws and policies are made.
Kallos acknowledges that, while NYC involves citizens in determining the allocation of discretionary funds through participatory budgeting, and some officials like himself do engage citizens in the legislative process, there is still a need for an institutional method for residents to submit legislative proposals, and also to engage in the actual drafting of legislation put forth by the Council and/or the Mayor.
While involving citizens in the legislative process can pose several challenges – a fact Council Member Kallos acknowledged in his testimony – reluctance to change and the fear of potential hurdles should not be reason to let the legislative process remain obscure.
Council Member Kallos’ written testimony can he found here.
Video of Dinesh’s in-person testimony can be found here.
For more information on CrowdLaw, and to sign the CrowdLaw manifesto, click here.

GovLab Blog GovLab Digest

Beyond demographics: How search engine data can enhance the understanding of determinants of suicide in India and inform prevention

Paper by Daniela Paolotti;  Elad Yom-Tov; Natalia Adler; Ciro Cattuto; Kyriaki Kalimeri; Michele Tizzoni; Stefaan Verhulst;  and Andrew Young in the Journal of Medical Internet Research: “India is home to 20% of the world’s suicide deaths. In India, and around the world, young people are especially at risk of suicide. While statistics regarding suicide in India are distressingly high, data and cultural issues likely contribute to a widespread underreporting of the problem. Social stigma and only recent de-criminalization of suicide are but two factors hampering official agencies’ collection and reporting of suicide rates.

As the product of a data collaborative – the cross-sector exchange of data to create new public value – this paper leverages private-sector search engine data toward gaining a fuller, more accurate picture of the suicide issue among young people in India. By combining official statistics on suicide with data generated through search queries, this paper seeks to: 1) add an additional layer of information to more accurately represent the magnitude of the problem; 2) determine whether search query data can serve as an effective proxy for factors contributing to suicide that are not represented in traditional datasets; and 3) consider how data collaboratives built on search query data could inform future suicide prevention efforts in India and beyond.We combined official statistics on demographic information with data generated through search queries from Bing to predict suicide rates per state in India as reported by the National Crimes Record Bureau of India. We have extracted English language queries on five topics (“suicide”, “depression”, “hanging”, “pesticide”, “poison”). For each query, we recorded the time and date of the query, the state in India from which the user made the query, and the text of the query. We have then collected data on demographic information at state level in India, including: Urbanization, Growth Rate, Sex Ratio, Internet Penetration, Population. We have modeled the suicide rate per state as a function of the queries on each of the 5 topics considered as linear independent variables. We also built a second model by integrating the demographic information on Urbanization, Growth Rate, Sex Ratio, Internet Penetration and Population, all considered as additional linear independent variables in the model.
Results of the first model fit (R2) when predicting the suicide rates from the fraction of queries in each of the 5 topics, as well as the fraction of all suicide methods, show a correlation of about 0.5. The correlation increases significantly with the removal of even 3 outliers, and improves slightly when 5 outliers are removed. In all cases, statistically significant correlation is reached, but the best correlation is obtained for suicide methods (hanging, pesticide, and poison), and only to a lesser extent for depression. Results for the second model fit using both query data and demographic data show that for all categories, if no outliers are removed, demographic data predict suicide rates better than query data. However, when 3 outliers are removed, query data about pesticides or poisons improves the model over using demographic data.

Conclusions: Internet search data has been shown in previous work to serve as a proxy for many health-related behaviors, enabling the measurement of rates of different conditions ranging from influenza to suicide. In this work, we used both search data and demographics to predict suicide rates. In this way, search data serves as a proxy for unmeasured (hidden) factors corresponding to suicide rates. Moreover, our procedure for outlier rejection serves to single out states where the suicide rates have substantially different correlations with both demographic factors and query rates….(More)”.

GovLab Blog

Smarter Crowdsourcing: A Global Online Conference on Learning and Teaching Public Innovation and Entrepreneurship

By Vishala Pariag and Kajol Char. This article originally appeared on Politics for Tomorrow.
On July 12th 2018, the GovLab and Politics for Tomorrow convened a global online conference, which marked the first in a series of now-quarterly online meetings. The purpose of these conferences is to examine the current state of public innovation training.
Hosted by Professor Beth Noveck, Director of the GovLab in the U.S, and Caroline Paulick-Thiel, Director of Politics for Tomorrow in Germany, the online conference brought together the following participants:

  1. Antonio Claret, ENAP, BR
  2. Beth Simone Noveck, The Govlab, US
  3. Caroline Paulick-Thiel, Politics for Tomorrow, DE
  4. Cat Drew, USCreates, UK
  5. Eckhard Stoermer, EU Policy Lab, JRC, BE
  6. Eran Raviv, Ministry of Social Equality, IL
  7. Inbar Almagor, The Institute for Leadership and Governance, IL
  8. Jackie Stenson, Unleash, DK
  9. Jonatan Beun, Coordinator of the National Direction of Public Innovation at the Ministry of Modernization of Argentina, AR
  10. Julie Munk, Social Innovation Exchange, UK
  11. Mark Hallerberg, Hertie School of Governance, DE
  12. Nicolás Rebolledo, Royal College of Art, UK
  13. Oliver Rack, OGN Germany, City of Heidelberg, Metropolregion Rhine-Neckar, DE
  14. Roland Persaud, Government Innovation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, US
  15. Sabine Junginger, Competence Centre for Design and Management, CH
  16. Verena Kontschieder, World Economic Forum, CH

The participants comprised leaders and innovators who are all currently working on teaching those in the public sector to innovate on a city-level, national, or global scale. They all employ a range of methods including, but not limited to: human-centered design, predictive analytics, ethnographic research, experimentation, foresight, agile technology or behavioral economics. As part of their approach, these experts are also involved in researching methodologies on innovation, identifying transformation competencies and promoting related skills.
Participants agreed that it is crucial to improve the content and quality of programs that teach public servants to be innovators, especially such skills as human-centered design, as innovation spreads to all working levels within political-administrative organizations. Furthermore, measuring the impact of training on the ability to solve problems more effectively is key. This is especially important in relatively new fields such as public service design, where the conditions for measuring impact differ from those in the private sector and little research capacity is designated to evaluating its mid- and long-term consequences.
Another key takeaway from the discussion was considering the need for co-creative strategies to be added to the pre-existing curriculum of design, public policy, political science or law courses. There was also the suggestion of building public interest design competencies in dedicated programs to encourage more young people and students to become involved. Besides those in secondary education, it is important to get ordinary citizens to participate in public problem solving. This would enable a range of contributions from people with diverse backgrounds in different disciplines and greatly add to the conversation.
Moving forward, the dialogue will continue with an eye toward bringing more and more diverse people using differing approaches into the discussion for peer to peer learning and support. The next topics to be considered are how to set milestones to measure  progress during public problem solving processes, as well as identifying the incentives needed in order to motivate more citizens, governments, and institutions to participate in impact-oriented public innovation and the design field in general.
If you are engaged in public innovation learning or public entrepreneurship training in and with governments and would like to participate, please email: or

GovLab Blog GovLab Digest

Elections won’t save our democracy. But ‘crowdlaw’ could.

RiskMap is a paradigmatic example of collective intelligence, which in this day and age means using the Internet to connect groups of people so they can share knowledge….

Yet despite the emergence of hundreds of collective intelligence platforms like RiskMap — including my new favorite, Penguin Watch, where people count the number of penguins in a picture to help scientists measure changes in their population — our political institutions seem to be getting stupider. That need not be. Collective intelligence isn’t just a tool for improving disaster response or enhancing scientific study. It can be used to improve governance too.

More than a hundred local city councils and parliaments at both the regional and national level, from Iceland to Ireland to India, are turning to “crowdlaw,” a form of crowdsourcing that uses novel collective intelligence platforms and processes to help governments engage with citizens. Crowdlaw is based on the simple but powerful idea that parliaments, governments and public institutions work better when they leverage new technologies to tap into diverse sources of information, judgments and expertise at each stage of the law and policymaking cycle. This helps improve the quality as well as the legitimacy of the resulting laws and policies….

Despite these proliferating examples, however, the success of collective intelligence platforms has been mixed. Many projects remain in the pilot phase, failing to expand. When Spain’s Podemos was still an upstart political party, for example, it successfully engaged its supporters in drafting an online party platform but saw less success embracing these crowdsourcing practices once in government. And the Decide Madrid platform, to which 400,000 people have signed up to propose policy to the city council, has resulted in only two new policies but not a single new law….(More)”.

GovLab Blog

The GovLab at NYU Tandon Announces Formation of Global Advisory Council

Organization Completes Fifth Year of Service and Looks to Expand Reach, Impact

This press release was originally posted by the NYU Tandon School of Engineering on September 26, 2018.
BROOKLYN, New York, September 26, 2018 – The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering announced the formation of a Global Advisory Council — comprised of a diverse array of academic, business, nonprofit, and public sector professionals — to drive the strategic evolution of The GovLab’s continued work in the areas of governance innovation, data, and civic engagement.
As democracies across the globe face growing pressure to become more effective and responsive, the demand for solutions and strategies to unlock and leverage the data generated across sectors and meaningfully engage the public has never been greater. The GovLab, one of the world’s leading institutions focusing on the intersections of technology and governance, aims to leverage its newly formed council to tap into the global wisdom of what is needed to govern more effectively and more legitimately.
“The world’s democracies are under incredible strain, and as The GovLab continues to mature, our work will be strengthened by leveraging the collective intelligence of our partners to formulate strategies for maximum impact and help us make strategic decisions about the future,” said Beth Simone Noveck, director of The GovLab and a professor in NYU Tandon’s Department of Technology, Culture and Society. “Each member of our advisory council has demonstrated a profound commitment to the values of good governance and strong democracy. We are encouraged and inspired by their willingness to volunteer their time and expertise to advance The GovLab’s mission.”
The Council’s formation comes as The GovLab, which has completed its fifth year of service, looks to expand the organization’s reach and impact.
“There has never been a more urgent need to usher governance into the 21st century to overcome the deficits of trust that are systemic across the world’s governing bodies,” said Stefaan Verhulst, co-founder and chief research officer. “We are deeply grateful to have this diverse group of leaders — all of whom are accomplished professionals who embody integrity — help us assess governance developments across the world, and assist us in prioritizing and focusing on impactful issues that may be ignored by others.”
The council will initially include nine professionals, each possessing deep experience and expertise in the systemic change of institutions across the globe. They include:

  • David Chai, strategic advisor
  • Pablo Collada, former executive director of Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente
  • Bo Cutter, senior fellow and director of the Next American Economy Project at the Roosevelt Institute
  • Rod Glover, professor of practice and head of enterprise at Monash Sustainable Development Institute in Melbourne, Australia
  • Claudia Juech, president of the Cloudera Foundation
  • Dr. Amen Ra Mashariki, head of urban analytics at Esri
  • Anita M. McGahan, professor and George E. Connell chair of organizations and society at the University of Toronto
  • Jonathan Soffer, Technology, Culture and Society Department chair, NYU Tandon and
    Audrey Tang, digital minister of Taiwan.

“The NYU Tandon School of Engineering takes great pride in the positive impact that we make on society by fostering innovation in an inclusive manner, and The GovLab’s work to advance open governance embodies our dedication to a more just and collaborative world,” said Dean Jelena Kovačević. “On behalf of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, I want to thank The GovLab’s newly formed Global Advisory Council for their service to this important cause.”

Council Members Comment

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to advise the GovLab on its highly nuanced and calculated operations,” said Chai, the strategic advisor. “As a communications professional serving in both political and academic roles for more than 15 years, I am excited to develop and support outreach strategies for an organization that seemingly transcends sectors.”
“Now more than ever, there is a need to open the institutions, methods, and tools by which we govern and make power accessible for the people who have been left out,” said Collada, the former executive director of Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente. “I have devoted a large portion of my career to working with organizations and governments towards many of the same goals The GovLab hopes to achieve. I am excited to continue in that respect from an advisory perspective.”
“I am very much looking forward to working with the dynamic and motivated individuals that make up my fellow council members and the GovLab team,” said Cutter of the Next American Economy Project. “As an economist and former policymaker, I am always pleased to see organizations devoting their time toward creating a better future, and I am content knowing that I will play a role in securing The GovLab’s vision for it.”
“As an ardent supporter of innovators who challenge the status quo and put forth new ways of thinking that prompt change in traditional and ineffective governance, I can say with confidence that my work aligns with The GovLab’s mission,” said Rod Glover of the Monash Sustainable Development. “Working with governments, businesses, and civil societies has strengthened my belief that there are opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship in every sector. I hope to help The GovLab continue to seize those opportunities in every way possible.”
“Our potential to realize impact relies more and more on our ability to partner across sectors. I have witnessed first-hand how The GovLab has inspired change across public, private and philanthropic actors,” said Claudia Juech of the Cloudera Foundation. “With some direction from the group of incisive experts they have assembled, they possess the capacity to truly make a difference.”
“As it continues to expand, data is constantly asserting itself as one of the most valuable resources at any problem-solver’s disposal. Individuals and organizations that recognize and leverage the power of data to advance the public good are becoming more and more essential as the world of data grows exponentially,” said Esri’s Mashariki. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to advise The GovLab on how they can continue harnessing data and technology for public good.”
“With technology expanding access to information more than ever before, actionable knowledge remains a vital resource that can now be distributed at incredible lengths,” said McGahan of the University of Toronto. “I have a deep respect for organizations that work to advance research and actionable knowledge at an international level, and I am thrilled that I will be able to assist The GovLab in doing so as a council member.”
“As chair of the Department of Technology Culture and Society at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, I have seen Beth Noveck thrive in her role as a professor as well as director of The GovLab, and have had the privilege of advising the GovLab on some of its projects in the past,” Soffer said. “I am very much looking forward to continuing in that capacity officially, and I am eager to see how far The GovLab can grow with Beth Noveck and Stefaan Verhulst leading it.”
“Organizations like The GovLab that strive to promote collective action and an open, collaborative, and holistic political and social environment are tackling some of the most daunting challenges posed by society today. That very same agenda is shared by Taiwan’s vibrant civic tech communities,” said Taiwan’s Tang. “In truth, there is no telling what the future of democracy holds, but I am pleased to be involved with like-minded people who endeavor to ensure this future is bright.”
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, one of the country’s foremost private research universities, 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