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How Political Entrepreneurship and Exponential Innovation Could Transform Government — ICYMI

Futurist and author Michael Mascioni examines how political entrepreneurship has emerged as an important driver of political innovation and has the capability to accelerate government transformation.

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Michael Mascioni is a writer, futurist and conference producer focused on digital media, technology and innovation. He writes freelance for such publications as Innovation & Tech Today, InterPark and Hotelier Magazine. Mascioni is co-author of The Out-of-Home Immersive Entertainment Frontier and author of a chapter on the future of ambient interactivity in public places for FutureScapes: The Future of Business.

Dustin and Joe recently caught up with him to discuss his latest book, Reinventing Government Through Political Entrepreneurship and Exponential Innovation, which maintains that political entrepreneurship has emerged as an important driver of political innovation and has the capability to accelerate government transformation in new ways.

Q: Can you share the basic thesis of your book and your motivation for writing it?

A: The book’s central thesis is that government has become more fluid, “multiplatform” and liquid, especially in the digital age, and there’s a need for more responsive, collaborative and farsighted government to address the challenges we are facing — including resource constraints and more complex problems. My book highlights the growing trend toward more multifaceted, holistic experimental public policy projects that span technological innovation, social innovation, sustainability and wellness and involve greater collaboration.

I was particularly motivated to write the book to give people hope that there are viable alternatives to toxic partisan warfare and ossified government bureaucracies. In that regard, the book is designed to inform people about next-generation alternative parties, especially centrist parties, policy organizations and think tanks, political networking groups, and other platforms that are providing innovative, nonpartisan solutions to pressing problems. Many of these groups have largely flown under the radar.

Q: What is your definition of political entrepreneurship?

A: I would define political entrepreneurship as the practice of creating new platforms, parties, processes, programs and ecosystems to create political change and transform government and public policy in new ways; mobilizing resources in the public sector in new ways; experimenting with new programs on a more continuous and holistic basis; forging new kinds of partnerships; and taking significant risks. Political entrepreneurs are essentially opening up government to a wider range of actors and greater collaboration.

Some of the most farsighted political entrepreneurs have helped create their own parties, which I call “innovation parties,” and which have objectives transcending those of conventional parties. Such parties as The Alternative in Denmark and NEOS in Austria have used crowdfunding and crowdsourcing to open up the political process to a broader audience, create new political processes and forge policy innovations. NEOS, in fact, has had its own lab, which it describes as an “open laboratory for new politics.” The group addresses such issues as “sustainable welfare systems and democratic innovation.”

Q: What about your definition of exponential innovation?

A: I would define exponential innovation in government broadly.

On a basic level, exponential innovation in general involves extremely rapid innovation that has a particularly strong impact. In essence, it connotes quantum leaps in innovation. My book examines the strong impact such exponential technologies as AI, VR, robotics and printing will have on improving government operations and providing better government services.

On another level, I view exponential innovation in government also arising from more extensive use of crowdsourcing, civic hacking, rapid and expansive experimentation, and other techniques, tools and strategies in government. All of these create greater opportunities for broader “self-generating” innovation and collaborative innovation by harnessing the “networked effect.”

Q: When and how do the two — entrepreneurship and exponential innovation — intersect?

A: Sometimes these two concepts intersect, but they’re not necessarily linked. However, the very fact that political entrepreneurs embrace more risk and typically use new platforms, strategies and tools means that they are more predisposed to employing or considering employing exponential innovation techniques. Perhaps one of the best examples of a political entrepreneur helping seed exponential innovation in government was Arizona Gov. [Doug] Ducey’s role in creating the Institute of Automated Mobility in his state to open up major opportunities for testing of self-driving cars in Arizona through a partnership between state agencies, Arizona universities and corporations, including Intel.

Q: How are political entrepreneurs currently facilitating greater experimentation in government?

A: Political entrepreneurs help facilitate greater experimentation in government by creating new platforms, organizations and partnerships that enable that experimentation to flourish. They create a broader base for experimentation to thrive, and also help champion that experimentation from an advocacy and public relations perspective.

Q: You discuss several emerging technologies in your book — what are the top emerging technologies you think government leaders should be paying attention to?

A: AI is having and will continue to have the greatest impact on government in the near future of all the exponential technologies. AI clearly has widespread application in government and has demonstrated its capability to improve government operations and services considerably. Many governments have made significant investments in AI programs. Forms of “narrow AI” including chatbots and machine learning have been very effective for such purposes as responding to questions from citizens about COVID and responding to questions from both citizens and non-citizens about immigration issues, analyzing disability claims, and supporting maintenance efforts. Some government organizations have explored the use of deep learning AI as well.

I believe opportunities for greater use of 3D printing in government have been underestimated. Overall deployment of 3D structures, such as homes, has increased significantly in recent years. 3D printing has already successfully been used for the building of affordable homes under government programs and has also been effectively used in the military for building barracks and creating maintenance tools. It’s not hard to envision the potential use of 3D printing to build temporary shelter for citizens that have lost their homes due to natural disasters and to build shelter for the homeless.

Virtual reality has found greater use in government for such applications as military training and operations, medical treatment, emergency management training, food inspection training, law enforcement, recruiting and space exploration. VR’s use in government will also expand through the combination of its capabilities with those of other exponential technologies, such as robotics and drones. In fact, some efforts have been underway to combine VR or AR with drones for military operations, such as drone “swarms.”

VR has substantial long-term potential in the government for a wider range of other applications, including social services training and diplomacy training, but its current use is more circumscribed. At the same time, VR and metaverse-based public policy and government experiences could allow consumers an opportunity to explore certain government operations and services more deeply.

Q: You also present a few different models for emergent and futuristic government models — can you share more about your thinking in this area?

A: I discuss a number of those models to hopefully afford readers new perspectives on and different scenarios of possible future government schemes. Many of the models are highly speculative in nature and are presented to highlight some possible trends in certain aspects of the operation of future government entities. I discuss such emergent and futuristic government models as direct democracy, distributed government, delegative democracy, cyberocracies, virtual nations, space nations and “the network state.”

Realistically, I think the prospects for distributed government are brighter in the next five years due to the trend toward more decentralized workforces, which accelerated during the pandemic, and to the increased use of such platforms as Zoom. Its proponents believe that distributed government will likely be more responsive, cost-effective and sustainable.

I also feel that virtual nations will play a real role as incubators and testbeds of new public policy programs. In fact, it’s possible virtual nations may eventually become satellites of established nations, serving as a testbed for new programs and policies, or they may organize together in a collective of likeminded virtual nations.

The “network state,” a term coined by tech entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan, refers to the potential organic building of a hybrid virtual/physical state around a virtual social network leveraging crowdfunding and crowdsourcing from citizens in locations around the world. Although it may seem far-fetched, the concept posits the idea that building or “networking” a state through the cloud could ultimately lead to a new physical or hybrid city and state. This concept seems like an extension of some virtual world and political “meet-up” models, though obviously it’s far more ambitious.


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Dustin Haisler is the Chief Innovation Officer of Government Technology's parent company e.Republic. Previously the finance director and later CIO for Manor, Texas, a small city outside Austin, Haisler quickly built a track record and reputation as an early innovator in civic tech. As President, Haisler drives exponential growth, implements new ideas and promotes a corporate culture that rewards creativity. Read his full bio.
Joseph Morris is the Chief Innovation Officer of <i>Government Technology's</i> parent company e.Republic and a national keynote speaker on issues, trends and drivers impacting state and local government and education. He has authored publications and reports on funding streams, technology investment areas and public-sector priorities, and has led roundtables, projects and initiatives focused on issues within the public sector. Joe has conducted state and local government research with e.Republic since 2007 and knows the ins and outs of government on all levels. He received his Bachelor of Arts in government and international relations from the California State University, Sacramento.