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Collaboration -- Achieving Better Results by Working Together

The 21st Century poses challenges of unprecedented complexity. No single person, department, agency, or government can single-handedly end climate change or revive the global economy. We must work together to effectively and efficiently solve the toughest problems.
Take just one example – green jobs. Green jobs promise to strengthen the middle class, decrease energy costs, and preserve the environment for future generations. But, driving a smart green jobs agenda demands the expertise of a broad range of federal agencies, including the Department of Energy (future of energy technologies), Department of Labor (training a green workforce), Department of Education (preparing today’s students to grow a green economy), and many more. Moreover, delivering those opportunities to Americans in towns and cities across the country requires intense coordination with state and local governments. Recognizing the critical importance of collaboration on this issue, the Vice President has convened top-level administration policy makers from across government in the Middle Class Task Force. As a result of this collaboration, Energy, Labor and Education worked to reconfigure workforce development using tools to connect skilled workers to jobs created. Housing and Urban Development and Labor established pathways to jobs for public housing residents, and Housing and Urban Development and Energy signed an MOU designed to cut through red tape and make weatherization assistance programs readily accessible, saving energy and creating jobs. The Vice President’s work demonstrates the power and potential of breaking down the walls that separate agencies and the silos that limit effectiveness.
On this front – and many others – the success of our policy will turn on effective collaboration and coordination. We know that many of you face a similar challenge – fast-growing companies, not-for-profit communities, and state and local governments. We want to hear from you about your experiences that might inform the processes, policies and tools government needs to reap the benefits of greater collaboration.
What We Learned in Phase I
Many of you shared initial ideas with us during the Phase I Open Government Brainstorm. Some suggested creating a government-wide intranet and social networking tool to share contact information, resources, and otherwise facilitate collaboration. Others looked to flexible, third-party Web 2.0 tools, such as Wordpress, Wikimedia, Ning, and Drupal to strengthen collaboration. Still others recommended the use of Strategy Markup Language (StratML) to enable potential partners to more easily discover each other based upon common missions, visions, values, goals, objectives, and stakeholders. You can find a more complete summary in the Collaboration Wrap-up. You can also see examples of Collaboration in the Open Government Innovation Gallery.
How You Can Help
As we seek to identify immediate actions that will strengthen collaboration within and across government, we need to know from you:
  1. What are examples of successful collaboration in government and the private sector? What was the key to their success? For example, what tools and practices do the most successful companies use to collaborate across departments?
  2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of various technology platforms recommended to strengthen collaboration efforts? Are there other approaches or tools that should be considered?
  3. What governance structures and/or processes might be needed to ensure consistent collaboration and communication across related projects and programs? What functions could be centralized or standardized to facilitate collaboration?
  4. How do we build and sustain a culture of collaboration?
  5. How can we measure success?
Thank you for your thoughts and ideas. As always, you can share them on the OSTP blog.
Michele Heffner is Director of the Interagency Policy and Management Division in the Office of Governmentwide Policy of the General Services Administration. Ms. Heffner joined the Open Government Initiative in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in February-May 2009.