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Putting the "Public" Back in the Public Sector

Putting the "Public" Back in the Public Sector

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Jun 04, 2011
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Putting the "Public" Back in the Public Sector
by Changemakers Blogger | Jun 03, 2011
[Editor's note: This post was written by Alison Craiglow Hockenberry,contributing editor at Ashoka's Changemakers®, and originally featured on the Huffington Post .]
 If the global financial crisis taught us anything, it's that leaving the fate of ourcollective economic health in the hands of a select few members of an exclusiveclub with their own narrow agenda is no longer a credible way of doing business.That's true for almost every institution involved, from the banks that craftedimpenetrable mortgage bundles for gambling purposes to the decision-makingbodies that oversee international economic stability.While reforming the private institutions that made a casino out of the U.S. housingmarket may be proceeding at a tepid pace, change at big public sector institutionssuch as the International Monetary Fund is gaining speed.It won't be much longer that the IMF, created after World War II, can select itsleadership like it's still the 1940s -- in back room conversations between theAmericans and Europeans, who pool their majority of weighted votes behind aEuropean and leave no real room for other qualified candidates from around theworld. There is a "stench of colonialism wafting around the IMF," as NancyBirdsall, president of the Center for Global Development puts it bluntly. 
This arcane old selection process is confronting new realities of the 21st century:emerging economies that deserve a bigger say because their significantcontribution to the global economy is undeniable and unstoppable, and a world thathas come to expect much more openness and fairness from its public sectorinstitutions.So who, in fairness and based on merit, should be the next leader of the IMF?Birdsall and the CDG have opened the floor to everyone with an opinion. They arecrowdsourcing input through asurvey about candidates and what the process and qualifications for selection should be. And the crowd, it turns out, has good judgment."We have good reason to believe the results represent the collective interest of theinternational community. Certainly it reflects opinion more than the current IMFleadership, who have incentives beyond just what they think would make theseinstitutions run well," explains Lawrence MacDonald, the CGD's vice president forcommunications and policy outreach.Crowdsourcing is on a powerful roll. One need look no further than the Egyptianrevolution, of course, a movement formed out of a variety of demands andsolutions that originated from far-flung and demographically diverse groups. Butit's also being used to aggregate data on radiation levels in Japan from sourcesother than government officials. It is helping track the effectiveness of publicservices such as health care and schools in Kenya. And it's publicizing instances of election fraud in Latin America. Ordinary, informed citizens everywhere areforcing the public sector to get with it."There's going to be increasing pressure to say 'couldn't we, please, have a moresensible system for choosing the leadership of major international institutions?'"says MacDonald.The CGD ran its first crowdsourcing survey when a new leader for the World Bank was being chosen back in 2007, through a similarly opaque process and undersimilarly unexpected circumstances. World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz hadbeen forced to resign following revelations that he had helped secure monetarygain for his girlfriend, a former World Bank employee. A more transparent review,posits Lawrence, might have averted the leadership crises at both the World Bank and the IMF."Any kind of vetting for a CEO usually eliminates people with potentiallydestructive personality flaws. Not only is the current system not giving legitimacyto the institution, but it's also got a pretty crummy record of selecting leadershipwith their personal lives in disarray. As a result, we've had two emergencytransitions in a row," Lawrence says.The CGD World Bank crowdsourcing project was a shot across the bow in aquietly festering conflict. Back then, no emerging economies dared say publiclywhat they did in private. This time around, though, those outside the United States-

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