Towards an Amorphous Government

Though I did not make the top 5, I thought I’d share my entry for the 2040 IBM challenge grant aways

Towards an Amorphous Government.

By 2040 the traditional borders between governments, between government and nonprofit service providers, and between government and citizens will erode. In its place will be a chaotic network of organizations providing services under distinct funding, regulatory, and management models. The formal control mechanisms of bureaucracy, including public sector unions, step and lane pay schedules, civil service protections, rigid contracts, and clear if not always effective accountability methods, will no longer exist.

The birth of this amorphous government model is an outgrowth of the decreased fiscal position of local and state governments, the corresponding demands for creative solutions that enable governments to do more with less, and the personalization of government service created by the growth of both social media and the societal value of personal choice. The potential of an amorphous government is vast. Agencies can cooperate with one another to achieve economies of scale that enhance service delivery. Nonprofit organizations supported by public funds can bring expertise and flexibility to society’s most wicked problems. Citizens can access and pay for services in a manner consistent with their needs and values. Managers will be free to manage without the weight of bureaucracy.

The potential of amorphous government, however, comes with great risk. The very meaning of “public” will be challenged. Accountability will be dependent on the ability to create meta-governance structures capable of coordinating complex service efforts across fragmented organizations. Successful meta-governance structures will be populated by leaders that embrace ambiguity, reject traditional barriers between sectors, and are capable of translating citizen opinion at its most micro-level into tangible measurable performance results. Most will fail in creating effective governance structures, falling victim to an intolerance for the ambiguity and uncertainty in a government without clear borders, and a citizenry with hyper-personalized demands.

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