Why We Started Civic Wisdom: Our Origin Story

Why We Started Civic Wisdom: Our Origin Story

As the founder of Civic Wisdom, I’d like to share our origin story and our vision for how this organization can play a key role in the evolution of our democratic institutions. 

By the end of this post, you’ll:

  • have a sense of what Civic Wisdom means as a concept 
  • learn why it’s crucial to govern with Civic Wisdom in today’s world  
  • be inspired to bring Civic Wisdom practices into your government

So, let’s get into it. 

Why did we start Civic Wisdom?

We started Civic Wisdom in response to what we see as an urgent need to govern wisely in today’s ever-changing world.  

At the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, we were stunned.

The sudden shutdown of society sent shivers down our spine. A deep fear permeated our living rooms.

We started watching data trends daily - tracking infection rates and hospital bed utilization rates. We were taken into emergency rooms across America as we watched our public health system crumble. 

And then we watched the subsequent impacts across all sectors of our society - education, economy, housing, and mental health, to mention a few.

It became acutely obvious how pre-existing economic disparities exacerbated inequitable outcomes across America. 

We watched our federal, state, and local governments respond as best as they could, given the complexity and politicization of the situation.

We also watched our governmental institutions fumble, as they struggled to coordinate their actions in a unified way.    

If ever there was a moment when it became abundantly clear that our governmental entities needed better management, it was then.

And it continues to be now.  

As an organizational performance expert, I’ve helped dozens of ambitious companies figure out how to deliver the right things, in the right way, and at the right speed for the people they serve. 

What would happen if governments could use a similar model for continuously improving how they serve their citizens? 

The idea of Civic Wisdom was born. 

What is Civic Wisdom as a concept? 

Civic Wisdom exists as a concept and as an organization.  

As a concept, we define civic wisdom as our collaborative abilities to deliver the right things, in the right way, and at the right speed for our communities.

Civic Wisdom emerges with agile governing practices.

For those of you who are familiar with my work at Epic Teams, you might say, “Hey, isn’t that similar to how you define agile organizations?” To which I would say, “You are right. It is.” 

Public sector organizations need agile practices today more than ever.

These practices are not just for businesses. They are tried and true methods that respect the customer, or in this case, the citizen. They are designed to help organizations continuously meet the needs of the people they serve.

And, to solve today’s challenges, it’s going to take more than just the public sector adopting agile practices to better meet the needs of our communities.

We need unified public-private alliances to create sector-wide improvements in the fields of education, health, public safety, housing, and employment, just to name a few.

We also need a way to know when those improvements are working and to share those improvements widely.

Lastly, we need to embody an ethos of continuous improvement so that our public and private institutions get better at providing for the common good over time. 

So how do organizations cultivate Civic Wisdom? We offer 5 principles below.

5 Principles for Governing with Civic Wisdom.

Principle #1: Involve the people that matter. Convene relevant public, private, and community stakeholders who are committed to solving the challenges at hand.

Principle #2: Prioritize community needs. Use meaningful data to identify the top priorities that matter most to your communities.

Principle #3: Design for the real world. Design practical policies, programs, and services based on a deep understanding of real-world needs and considerations.

Principle #4: Evaluate progress and adjust accordingly. Identify and track key indicators to know if you're trending in the right direction. Continuously improve your approach based on evidence.

Principle #5: Share and learn from each other. Accelerate and scale what works by learning from relevant organizations.

By adopting these five principles, our public institutions can create a solid foundation for thriving communities - now and in the future. 

Of course, it takes lots of practice with these principles to get good at them. To that end, we started Civic Wisdom as an organization.

What is Civic Wisdom as an organization? 

As an organization, our mission is to equip public institutions with agile capabilities to solve today’s toughest challenges for our communities. 

Thankfully, we are in a window of opportunity right now to make this mission a reality.

From the implementation of the Evidence Act with federal agencies to the innovation funding streams within the American Rescue Plan Act for states and cities, we see the emergence of a new wave of governing based on data and evidence. 

Our vision is to support the emerging evidence-based movement within national, state, and city governments with skills and tools to accelerate their efforts. 

We do this through: 

We also have a software tool in early stage development that will help public sector organizations improve policy outcomes over time. 

We’re humbled by those who have come before us who have created the momentum we see today, including Julia Lane (author of Democratizing Our Data), Ken Miller (author of Extreme Government Makeover), and Shalanda Young, the Acting Director for the Office of Management and Budget.

We’re excited to witness the next level of government evolution in our lifetime.

The challenges of today necessitate new ways of governing. Today, we join this movement - unified in the belief that we can create thriving communities for all when we govern with Civic Wisdom. 

We look forward to being of service to you. 

Reach out below to chat about how we can help you better deliver the right things, in the right way, and at the right speed for your communities.

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