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Beth Simone Noveck

Beth Simone Noveck

Professor, Author, Government Adviser On Institutional Innovation


As many political discussions swirl into focus, and we look back on how government has functioned in recent years, urgent questions arise surrounding what it takes to innovate and do better in our corridors of power — and how everyday people can play a role in this. With trust in institutions at an all-time low, and converse leaps in scientific and technological advance that are rapidly changing the face of life, we find ourselves at a crossroads in which radical transformations in government and leadership are critical to the future of our democracy. Read More >

Author, professor and White House advisor Beth Simone Noveck is the go-to expert on fusing innovation with leadership at the highest level. A pioneer in helping institutions evolve into more productive forms, she specializes in employing digital technology to make government more effective at solving problems, delivering services and forging policies. But she is also a champion of the people, offering a vision of participatory democracy that goes beyond voting on a ballot, infusing innovations like social media and crowdsourcing to harness the energy and know-how of an entire nation — so we can function as a whole, in contrast to the stagnant "by the few, of the many" government model that has left us yearning for bold new pathways.

A graduate of Harvard Law School and Yale Law School, Noveck in her current incarnation directs The Governance Lab — a.k.a. GovLab, a policy think tank funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Google.org, — whose mission is to improve people's lives by changing how we govern. In this role, she designs and tests technology, policy and strategies for fostering more open and collaborative approaches for people and institutions and the way they solve problems, make decisions, resolve conflicts and govern more effectively and legitimately. She is also the Jerry Hultin Global Network Professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering as well as a Professor of Law at NYU Law School. She served in the White House as the first US Deputy Chief Technology Officer under the Obama Administration as well as the Director of the White House Open Government Initiative from 2009-2011. She was also the Senior Adviser for Open Government under UK Prime Minister David Cameron. 

In 2007, she launched Peer-to-Patent, the federal government's first social networking initiative, demonstrating how technology can connect the expertise of the many to the power of the few. Through this initiative, she connected patent examiners to volunteer scientists and technologists via the Web, helping to determine which future startups could potentially change the way we live, work and function. The project broke open the mold of how patent examiners operated, creating online networks of citizen experts that greatly improved policymakers' decision-making by harnessing networks to public institutions.

She is the author of four books at the intersection of technology, law and policy, including the recently released Smarter Cities, Smarter State: The Technologies of Expertise and the Future of Governing (Harvard University Press) — her groundbreaking program for transforming governance in the digital age — and 2009' Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better (Brookings Publications), an examination of Open Government and collaborative democracy that re-envisions democratic ideals for the 21st Century.

In speaking engagements targeted to general audiences, business and technology leaders, and colleges and universities, Noveck offers a picture of the revolution in governance unfolding around us right now, providing sharp insight and illustrated examples drawn from her experience working with governments, innovators, and everyday people. She examines current events and happenings — like the Arab Spring, for example, or the forthcoming election — opting to scrutinize not how they unfolded, but what happens in their wake, in the process showing how the world will take shape in years to come. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

TEDTalk: Demand a More Open-Source Government

Open Data with Government and Businesses

Open Government

Big Data, Small Data, Open Data

Speech Topics

The Future of Work

With the introduction of more intelligent machines into the workplace, economic output could double every three months, say some economists: we will all come to do more meaningful work and Alexa, Siri and Watson will do the rest! Yet by other accounts, technology will render almost half of all jobs in the U.S. obsolete by 2030: we will lose our jobs to robots and get paid less as automation depresses wages. No one really knows the future but Beth Noveck’s talk will help you get smarter about how technologies such as AI, automation, and collective intelligence will change occupations, prices, productivity levels, and participation in the new economy. She explores who will move forward thanks to technological progress and who will be left behind and the broader political and social trends compounding the dangers of inequality. Noveck will offer answers to how we can prepare for the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Drawing on developments from around the world, she will lay out creative approaches to using data and technology to deepen our understanding, develop effective new strategies for learning and training by individuals, companies and universities. She will illuminate the best of cutting-edge AI and automation policies and government responses designed to spur innovation while protecting workers. In addition to recommendations around the need for reforming universities, investing in training programs, and safeguarding informational transparency, she will, above all, argue that we need to reinvent how we regulate new technologies creating new forms of optimal decision-making that are agile, data-driven and participatory. She will inspire you to start making changes for yourselves and your companies in the present to prepare yourself for the future of work.

Crowdsourcing Smartly: Is Democracy Prepared To Flip the Big Data Switch?

No previous generation has had the tackle the complex challenges society will confront in the coming decades, from combatting terrorism to safeguarding the future of the planet. To succeed, we have to run our institutions differently. Getting ideas from the outside — often called open innovation or crowdsourcing — should be as vital to the performance of public institutions as it has been to commerce and science. In this presentation, Beth Simone Noveck explores how new data tools hold the potential to transform how we govern, making it possible to pinpoint more diverse expertise in solving hard problems. Through "technologies of expertise" — and crowd-sourcing widely — we can create innovative institutions, active citizenship and innovative politicians.

Building Stronger Public Entrepreneurship

A common term in the startup world indicating the difficulty of covering negative cash flow in the early stages of a venture is the "valley of death." But there are more common deathtraps than cash flow. In this presentation, Beth Simone Noveck draws from her years of experience as the founder of GovLab and coach and mentor to thousands of professionals to show how we can foster more impactful entrepreneurs, change-makers and startups — by tackling the hard problems up front and leading responsibly and effectively in order to change the world for the better. She offers tips on navigating bureaucracies, legal regimes and institutions, developing compelling materials, and identifying what works and what doesn't in building stronger public entrepreneurship.

The Transformation of Governing

Survey data reveals that the public has become increasingly dissatisfied with government. According to recent Gallup Poll data, only 54% of people worldwide report having confidence in their national governments. In the U.S., only 20% of citizens say they trust the federal government to do what is right and "[n]o more than about 30% have expressed trust in the government in Washington to do the right thing at any point over the last decade." Clearly, we need something better and more legitimate than going to the polls once a year to elect politicians few people trust and who accomplish less and less because of bitter partisan wrangling. Noveck will talk about how technology is already transforming how governing happens and what we can do to accelerate the change.