Here are links to some recent reports of mine. Lower down are some older blogs (many of my other blogs pre-2020 can be found here on Nesta's website - on dozens of topics ranging from technology to knowledge, politics and social change).
EXPLORATORY SOCIAL SCIENCE
I wrote a report for the New Institute in Hamburg on exploratory social science, making the case for it and suggesting the methods it could use. The report can be downloaded here. This was also the theme of my annual lecture for the Academy of Social Sciences in June 2022 which can be seen here.
ANTICIPATORY PUBLIC BUDGETING
A report (commissioned by the UAE) on how to reform public finance to better cope with the challenges of the 2020s. It argues that finance has fallen behind, with many methods ill-suited to long-term goals and failing to link spending to impact, or to make use of data. It proposes various remedies. To read the report click here.
I wrote this piece about synthesis - in response to conversations with many governments which were struggling to synthesise inputs around infections, hospitals, with economic issues, mental health and much more. Few could articulate how they did this and the science advice literature - and practice - wasn't much help either. So here I offer both diagnosis and prescription. The full piece can be found here. Nature also ran a shorter piece on the topic.
A report (prepard for Finland) on how governments can best steer their societies, for example to achieve net zero goals. To read the report click here.
A report for UCL/STEaPP on how systems can think and act more intelligently. To read the report click here.
WISDOM AS A LOOP
A report on wisdom - how to understand it, how to promote and how to build it into institutions and technologies. To read the report click here.
COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE AND THE SDGS
A co-authored report for the UNDP on use of collective intelligence methods in development and in particular looking at combinations of artificial and collective intelligence. To read the report click here.
Global digital governance - what needs to be done
February 13, 2020
This report sets out options for global digital governance - from cybersecurity to AI and infrastructures. My report was prepared for Cambridge University China Dialogue Centre, to frame a discussion involving many governments, corporates and civil society. Its proposals look out to what the world will need over the nex 10-20 years. My section is pages 5-18 of the report which is followed by a detailed account of the seminar held late in 2019.
Jobs and collective intelligence in Bangladesh
February 12, 2020
This blog describes work I am involved in - with UNDP and the government's A2i - to help Bangladesh create an adaptive labour market - mobilising collective intelligence to support the country navigating the many threats and opportunities that the next few years could bring. My co-author is Anir Chowdury.
Social innovation and the case for DIY societies
December 23, 2019
Social innovation is the deliberate invention of new solutions to meet social needs. In his new book, Social Innovation: How Societies Find the Power to Change, Geoff Mulgan, a pioneer in the field, argues for matching research and development in technology and science with socially focussed research and development.
This extract from the book shows how we only see a fraction of the potential social imagination around us.
Collective intelligence as humanity's biggest challenge
December 05, 2017
In the last few months the world’s media have noticed artificial intelligence programmes that can surpass humans at the most complex games like Go, joined in the excitement around driverless cars and helped to fuel fears that robots are set to take millions more jobs.
We now live surrounded by new ways of thinking, understanding, and measuring. Some involve data— mapping, matching, and searching for patterns far beyond the capacity of the human eye or ear. Some involve analysis— supercomputers able to model the weather, play chess, or diagnose diseases (for example, using the technologies of firms like Google’s DeepMind or IBM’s Watson). Some pull us ever further into what the novelist William Gibson described as the “consensual hallucination” of cyberspace.
These all show promise. But there is a striking imbalance between the smartness of the tools we have around us and the more limited smartness of the results.
Social Innovation in Europe – big challenges, bigger opportunities
November 23, 2017
10 years ago the main European institutions, like national governments, were sceptical of social innovation. It was seen as something marginal about NGOs, and small community projects. Innovation was good and vast amounts of money were being channelled into more traditional innovation, science and technology. But the big lobbies – big business, big science and universities– dominated debate in Brussels, and social projects and enterprises struggled to be heard.
Since then, a few individuals both inside and outside the system have helped to change that, opening up a new debate and space (this piece summarises some of the changes). A crucial role was played in the late 2000s by BEPA, under the authority of the President of the Commission. The result is that 10 years on, the seeds they sowed are beginning to bear fruit. There are now dozens of social innovation centres and labs, incubators and accelerators across Europe. There’s been a big expansion of social investment funds, and although only a small minority focus on innovation, these provide a new route to help innovations grow to scale. Governments are backing more systematic social experimentation – with Finland in the lead. Several countries have developed serious social innovation strategies – with Slovenia the latest. Universities have built up research centres, from Dortmund to Glasgow and Barcelona. The EU’s Social Innovation Prize has attracted thousands of imaginative projects in successive rounds. Digital social innovation has taken off, and around 2000 organisations are now linked by DSI Europe, tapping into the energies of maker movements, open data and others. The Commission has added social innovation into its big funding programmes like Horizon 2020, in tandem with some national agencies, like SITRA and Vinnova.
Teach a society to fish: The twin revolutions that could transform social science
September 24, 2017
Over the last few years, much has been done to make social science more engaged and impactful. There’s the Alliance for Useful Evidence and ‘what works centres’ – now up to a dozen, with the next one set to be on children’s social care - all moving beyond creating repositories of evidence to ensuring that they are actually used.
There’s the REF and the various attempts – some better, some worse - to embed impact into assessment. There are new labs, like Nesta's Y Lab, linking universities to innovators in the public sector and civil society, and again, like here, the beginnings of social science parks that aim to make social science more engaged with the society around it.
Anticipatory Regulation: 10 ways governments can better keep up with fast-changing industries
September 10, 2017
How should law and regulation cope with fast changing technologies and industries? How should they balance the risks that come with new ideas and the risks of crushing them? And how should they help to ensure that the benefits of new technologies are widely spread?
In this blog (which follows on from one on the Fourth Industrial Revolution) I suggest that we are beginning to see a radical change in both the theory and practice of regulation with the emergence of a new field of ‘anticipatory regulation’.
The field of anticipatory regulation is beginning to take shape. There are few professionals in anticipatory regulation or handbooks; and not much theory. There are some promising studies, such as this recent one from Deloitte, and growing interest in regulatory innovation. And there are some very interesting publications emerging on the boundaries of economics and law, such as Ariel Ezrachi and Maurice Stucke’s recent book on virtual competition.
But this is a field waiting to be shaped, which makes it all the more interesting and exciting.
The grammar of good government - or why prepositions matter
August 28, 2017
I did a talk at the Blavatnik School’s annual conference on government, recently. The subject I was asked to talk about was how to bridge the expectations gap in public services and restore public trust.
I chose to address the question by talking about the importance of prepositions, which sounds odd, but bear with me.
The point I was trying to make is that there cannot be a single answer to the question of how to improve citizens' relationships with governments, any more than there can be a single answer to the question of how you can improve your relationship with your parents, children or partner.
Philanthropy and innovation - how could open data and artificial intelligence help funders do better?
August 13, 2017
Philanthropic foundations are not always the best places for innovation. They can be risk averse, bureaucratic, hierarchical, and cliquey.
Some of the biggest ones are the most secretive. Searching for precise facts about what many famous foundations support and why is difficult and, paradoxically, some of the foundations created by the new digital business tycoons are the most traditional, and opaque, in their methods of work.
But a significant minority of funders are working to open things up, to adopt new methods and act in the more accountable ways they would want their grant recipients to. As a result it’s now possible to see how philanthropy could become a lot more data-driven and better at learning.
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