As the speed and complexity of the world increases, governments and nonprofit organizations need new ways to effectively tackle the critical challenges of our time—from pandemics and global warming to social media warfare. In Power to the Public, Tara Dawson McGuinness and Hana Schank describe a revolutionary new approach—public interest technology—that has the potential to transform the way governments and nonprofits around the world solve problems. Through inspiring stories about successful projects ranging from a texting service for teenagers in crisis to a streamlined foster care system, the authors show how public interest technology can make the delivery of services to the public more effective and efficient.
At its heart, public interest technology means putting users at the center of the policymaking process, using data and metrics in a smart way, and running small experiments and pilot programs before scaling up. And while this approach may well involve the innovative use of digital technology, technology alone is no panacea—and some of the best solutions may even be decidedly low-tech.
Clear-eyed yet profoundly optimistic, Power to the Public presents a powerful blueprint for how government and nonprofits can help solve society’s most serious problems.
Tara Dawson McGuinness is the founder of the New Practice Lab at New America and teaches public problem solving at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. Twitter @taradmcguinness Hana Schank is Senior Advisor for Public Interest Technology at New America and the coauthor of The Government Fix: How to Innovate in Government and The Ambition Decisions: What Women Know about Work, Family, and the Path to Building a Life. Twitter @hanaschank
"Should be on the summer reading list of people interested in the opportunities and challenges of technology for public stuff."—Mitchell Weiss, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge
"Power to the Public is an accessible and quick read aimed primarily at nontechnologists, with a clear-eyed take that technology is not a panacea. The book makes an important contribution to the literature on how government needs to reform its traditional approach to solving problems."—Jim Fruchterman, Stanford Social Innovation Review
“This wonderful book makes the best possible case for why and how we need to transform our understanding of what public problem-solving is about and how we need to reinvent government to build the capacity necessary to tackle problems at scale. . . . For all who seek to engage in this work, Power to the Public is both a manual and a manifesto.”—from the afterword by Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America, and Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation
“This is a compelling and timely call to action for reshaping how governments ought to provide services to their citizens. It is also a joy to read.”—Angela O’Mahony, Pardee RAND Graduate School
“Power to the Public is an exciting and compelling book that includes excellent first-hand accounts of successful uses of public interest technology.”—Dana Chisnell, Tech Executive Leadership Initiative