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Beth Simone Noveck

Beth Simone Noveck

Professor, Author, Government Adviser On Institutional Innovation


As the 2016 Presidential election swirls 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

#BCTECHSummit - Beth Noveck, Founder and CEO, The Governance Lab

Beth Noveck at Gov. Maker Day

Big Data, Small Data, Open Data

Speech Topics

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.

We Don’t Need a Change of Policies, We Need to Change How We Make Policy: What Every Candidate Needs to Know to Govern Better

The idea of progress, prosperity and building a better world — the DNA that once defined the United States — no longer seems possible in a country where we are routinely told our government is "broken." The current election season promises more of the same. To change this, envisioning how technology can revolutionize the way we govern is crucial to our future. Government is broken because it has failed to keep up with innovation. By leveraging the wisdom and talents of a diverse and open society, and harnessing the expertise that comes from many different people and places, our government needs to be re-engineered. In this presentation, Beth Simone Noveck argues for a new conception of democratic participation suited to today's integrated, networked world. She proposes a model of participatory democracy rooted not simply in voting every four years but in citizens (and politicians) being actively engaged and ready to use their skills and knowledge for the good of society.

The Big-Data Revolution in Non-Profit Management

Tax returns and registration forms are our primary window into the workings of America's enormous and economically impactful nonprofit sector, which pays $670 billion annually in wages and benefits. Every year, approximately 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations file a version of the federal "Form 990" with IRS and state tax authorities, providing details on the financial, governance and organizational structure of America's universities, hospitals, foundations and charities, ensuring they are deserving of their tax-exempt status. Soon these forms will be released as downloadable open data by the IRS, providing instant transparency on the inside functioning of nonprofits, including charities. In this presentation about the impact of big data on the nonprofit sector, Beth Simone Noveck explores how nonprofits might be transformed by big data and the access to tax information that's right around the corner.

Smarter Workers, Smarter Jobs: Technologies of Expertise & the Future of the Labor Market

In this presentation Beth Simone Noveck draws from her recent book Smarter Citizens, Smarter State: The Technologies of Expertise and the Future of Governing to address how big data is transforming the hiring process. By avoiding the personal biases of human interviews, new tools help employers sift through mountains of applications to identify the ideal candidate. Although these technologies of expertise can help match people with opportunities they might not have had access to before, machine tools must be combined with human intelligence, empathy and sensibility in order to create fair and well-functioning workplaces. The key to success in using these tools in the labor market is to ensure that human and machine processes are transparent and evolving.

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.