Crowdsourcing in Government – Keynote speaker Ross Dawson

Ross Dawson is a highly acclaimed futurist and the author of a comprehensive guide to crowdsourcing, Getting Results From Crowds. He has spent over a decade researching, writing, and speaking about crowdsourcing, and has delivered a variety of keynote speeches on the subject.

Keynote speaker topic – A Future of Crowds: Implications for Government and Society


We do not yet have a foolproof handbook for how to implement crowdsourcing in government. That does not mean that we need to wait until it is written. In fact the solutions for one country, situation, or agency are highly unlikely to be the same for others. Cultural differences, among others, shape what will work and how across contexts. In this keynote, futurist Ross Dawson describes the underlying tenets of crowdsourcing and examines how they can be applied in government.


The keynote A Future of Crowds: Implications for Government and Society was given by Dawson at the annual conference of the Business Improvement and Innovation in Government (BIIG) network of the Queensland Government.

Dawson has been increasingly pulled towards the government sector in recent years. His keynote for BIIG covered the practical issues that drive success for crowdsourcing in government. After describing the major drivers of crowdsourcing around the world and the rise of crowdsourcing in government, Dawson gave practical advice about the many ways in which crowdsourcing can be applied.

In conclusion, Dawson offered four major principles for governments to consider when developing crowdsourcing models.

Here are the four principles in summary:

1. Open by default

Governments and most companies have until very recently been closed by default. Information has been considered to be protected unless a case is made and accepted for it to be made available externally.

This is the exact opposite of how it should be. Any government must start from the precept that all information they have and deal with is openly available, unless a solid case can be made why this should not be the case.

While the U.S. government has mandated that all government information should be open and machine readable, that doesn’t mean that it is easy. There are many practical as well as cultural challenges to openness. However, open information must be a founding principle, not least because it allows citizens to discover and invent ways to make that information valuable to all.

2. Framed around outcomes

Many government entities around the world are good at defining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and managing their performance against these. However, often the objectives are not appropriately defined, measuring activity rather than the creation of social value.

One of the biggest traps is the frame of “service delivery”. This presupposes the government as a distinct entity delivering services to citizens, leading to KPIs around effective services.

The primary frame in fact should be around social value, which could just as well be delivered by enabled citizens as by governments. Unless outcomes are framed at the level of social value, rather than the means by which it is created, organizations can easily become trapped in old frames without ever recognizing the limitations.

3. Governance for transformation

A dominant theme of Dawson’s work for some years has been the idea of governance for transformation, in which governance does not limit but supports transformational change. While he often applies this theme in corporate environments, it is equally or even more important in government.

In the case of crowdsourcing in government, there are absolutely many risks and concerns, including privacy, representativeness, equity, and bias. However, rather than viewing these as insuperable obstacles, it is possible to frame governance in a way that addresses these issues, yet supports and enables the enormous value possible through crowd participation in government.

4. Learn by doing

While drawing on experts and the experience of others, government agencies must learn by doing, by trying things and seeing what works and what doesn’t. This approach of active experimentation is made possible by effective governance for transformation.

Following the success of Dawson’s book Getting Results From Crowds, which outlined how to create value using crowdsourcing, the author and futurist is planning a series of smaller guides to applying crowdsourcing in specific contexts, including crowdsourcing in government. In the meantime, he will be delving more into how governments—among others—can create exceptional value with crowds.

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