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SAVE Award 2010: Optimizing Government from the Inside Out

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, July 8 2010

Last year, the Obama White House launched its first-ever SAVE Award to solicit idea from government employees for making government work better, which was innovative in several ways, but in part because it was an exhibition of how "crowdsourcing" can work in the government context by usefully extracting knowledge and expertise from a certain subset of individuals, in this case the scores of women and men who hold federal government jobs and have come to know a thing or to about the smart administration of public services and projects. Social problem-solving doesn't always have to mean throwing the doors open to all comers, especially not if the openness benefits of doing so threatens the outcome of the process. For Obama, the added benefit is that this sort of project looks a lot like a fulfillment of some of the promise implicit in his tech-savvy campaign, one appealing to many: that what we know about modern technologies can be harnessed to produce a more efficient, effective, connected government, the way it has in so many consumer spaces. Government no bigger than it needs to be, but government that meets people's needs.

In this 2010 version of the SAVE Award, there's been a tweak. Last time around, federal officials (the Office of Management and Budget, to be specific) took on the role of gatekeeper, selected which ides for running government more efficiently would be passed onto agency administrators. A "final four" ideas then went up for public vote. (The winner, ultimately, was to allow patients in VA hospitals to hang on to their medicines upon release, rather than the meds being thrown away upon patient release, an idea submitted by a Department of Veterans Affairs clerk.) What's changed is that in this go-round federal employees will not only submit ideas, but vote on each others using IdeaScale, in what the White House is calling "a collaborative process."

The deadline for submissions is July 22nd. Here, President Obama talks about the SAVEies:

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