Advanced Research in Government Operations

[A]dvanced [R]esearch in [G]overnment [O]perations (“ARGO”) is a startup nonprofit that builds, operates and maintains pioneering data infrastructure to transform how water reliability, street quality or other basic public services are delivered.

Public administration hasn't kept up with the digital revolution. We aim to change that.

The Delivery Imperative

Governments globally struggle to adapt to a rapidly changing world.  Huge waves reverberating from the Great Recession challenge governments to do more with less while the ongoing digital revolution presents a new frontier for municipal operations.

This landscape demands effective government; yet NYU’s GovLab estimates that less than $1 out of every $100 spent by governments in the US is backed by evidence.  Many cities want to replicate NYC's Mayor's Office of Data and Analytics (MODA) success in optimizing resource allocation but lack easy access to the necessary data science talent.

So why not create a marketplace that connects city managers with data science talent? Legacy RFP processes take too much from both sides, and web native talent exchanges like Odesk (designers on demand) or Top Coder (programmers on tap) demonstrate the impact of bringing the world's best to bear on pressing challenges.

By providing flexibility and financial incentives that such talent demands, [A]dvanced [R]esearch [G]overnment [O]perations’ (ARGO) civic data science marketplace will make a big dent in the city government evidence gap.  Please see below for a preliminary diagram describing how ARGO will work with municipalities and civic data scientists.

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The Initial Experiment

A focused conjecture

A web native talent exchange can enable a "MODA in the cloud" with the world's best data scientists working on specific city challenges.

What conditions need to be created to facilitate productive engagements between public managers and data scientists?  What mechanisms will allow both ease of connection and ensure a high quality data analysis?  

What’s the model for applying data science to city challenges that scales to meet GovLab’s evidence gap?  How can public managers sustainable contract high quality data talent to maximize the impact of scarce resources and improve delivery?

Over the next several months we will test, refine and iterate on a focused set of hypotheses supporting that broader conjecture about the potential of a civic data science marketplace.

We have several ARGO marketplace worthy projects that we will work on ourselves to intimately understand the role of civic data scientists.  We will be working to optimize water utility responses to the California drought and mapping US state / city collaborations among other projects.

While these projects will only give us a small sample of potential marketplace interactions, city challenges are highly unique and we want to dig deep into the civic data science frontier by working through the full project lifecycle ourselves.

In addition, we will be surveying and testing support mechanisms for a larger sample of ARGO marketplace type projects occurring at the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), where we currently study and conduct research.

Finally, we will engage municipal managers, social scientists, data scientists and other interested citizens in dialogue around the potential of digital tools to transform municipal delivery and sharing the skills required to make that happen.

 Throughout this process we will share cool results, lessons learned and new questions through our blog.  So stay tuned.

Achieving Scale

This initial experiment will inform the design of appropriate marketplace mechanisms to ensure quality control with an increased number of data science engagements.  Armed with those insights, we will expand the ARGO marketplace into more cities and developing a bigger pool of data science talent.  

In addition, we will expand the marketplace service offerings to include other analyses such as impact evaluations to improve program implementation and econometric studies to improve economic development.  Further we will develop a database of ARGO marketplace results to conduct meta-evaluations and compare results across cities.

Lastly, we will remember that there are necessarily unknown unknowns when venturing into a big frontier.  We will constantly strive to stay focused on the delivery imperative and our goal of an order of magnitude improvement in municipal operations.  Please read our manifesto for a deeper exploration of the history and trends defining the future of data's role in public administration.  

Interested in funding or otherwise supporting this effort?  Please do get in touch

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