Power to the Public is a Fantastic Book

Clear examples of the public sector getting out of its own way.

The book Power to the Public by Tara Dawson McGuinness and Hana Schank is a fantasic overview of the Brownfield nature of the public sector. The book goes into a few fantastic examples of how things can be better.

Power to the Public

Power to the Public

My favorite part

The examples about USCIS and Healthcare.gov were events that I personally watched unfold, like that steam roller scene in Austin Powers. Things that you can just see are going to be terrible but everyone is locked in.

A close second is the author’s elevation of data as a required capability. The examples show that you don’t have to be Google to apply data skills to your problems to improve outcomes.

Honorable mentions

As in things mentioned in the text that I hope readers will dig into:

My least favorite part

Near the end they talk about misuse of public system data, or accelerating bad policies. These were just kinda blanket warnings but there are extremely important things to consider.

  1. A lot of unjust policies are only persisting because they’re subtle. If a terrible policy is accelerated, the repair work can begin sooner.
  2. Data can be incredibly toxic and avoiding collection or storage or relating certain data points to others is crucial.
  3. Light is the best cleanser, and since public works are paid with tax dollars, all inputs and outputs should be open for scrutiny.

If they talked about any of these three points at the caveat section, I’d have given this post an even more entusiastic title.

Buy it! Read it! So good!