Renewed Principles of Delivery-Driven Government

Evolving and expanding our vision for how government should serve the public

Two years ago, we introduced the concept of Delivery-Driven Government at Code for America’s 2018 Summit. This was a first attempt at a framework of our aspirational vision for government—essentially, principles and practices that embody “the Code for America way.”

In our ten years of working with governments across the country at all levels, we’ve seen public servants and their organizations deliver critical services that not only meet people’s direct needs, but also treat them with respect and dignity. The principles and practices of Delivery-Driven Government are the distillation of what we’ve seen these governments embody, and our vision for how all governments can and should serve the public.

Over the past year we’ve worked on refreshing the original principles, and are excited to release our renewed principles of Delivery-Driven Government. Our intention is to make these concepts clearer, and to expand them to reflect what we’ve learned.

Build equitable systems

Government services should be simple, accessible, and easy to use, with outcomes that are just and equitable for all Americans. These outcomes can and should be measurably better for everyone, though this is not currently the case—with significant disparate outcomes determined by factors like race, sexual orientation, gender, and socioeconomic status. Governments should design, build, and operate systems with the full intention of significantly and equitably improving these outcomes.

Put people first

Government must be responsive to the people it serves. This means it has to be accessible, available, simple, interactive, and human. Government decision-makers must develop a deep understanding of the needs of the people they serve, and prioritize these needs over all else. Government services should solve people’s actual problems, meeting them where they are in real life.

Empower for action

A government focused on delivery is a government that empowers public servants to deliver. Empowerment comes in many forms, such as providing modern tools, enabling decision-making by individuals and teams, trusting employees over creating layers of validation, and staffing teams with policy and implementation at the same table. Governments that empower their public servants build the belief that better is possible, instill and enable a mindset of curiosity, and put in place the support structures that lead to equitable, people-first service delivery.

Inform with evidence

Decisions made in government have serious effects. It’s important that those decisions are informed by data and evidence that reflect both short-term and long-term impact. Having timely, actionable information is important for every public servant, and building in measurement and instrumentation to inform adjustments should be as prioritized as the delivery of the service itself.

Improve continuously

Products and services are never “finished,” only improved—the same can be said about policy and processes. Government services should start small, learn quickly and iteratively from deliberate incremental experimentation, and build up to significant changes, rather than releasing monolithic changes every few years. This allows governments to improve services on an ongoing basis, and iterate on the end-to-end cycle from policy to implementation right from the start, favor progress and working services over perfect or fully-complete projects.

Starting soon, we’ll be going into more about each of these five principles, with resources, success stories, and in-depth case studies from both Code for America’s work and the broader ecosystem. We will also be re-releasing a set of detailed practices that fit within each principle in order to to give public servants the tools and support that they need to improve the lives of the people they serve. We’ll also share the methodology behind the evolution from the original principles to the renewed ones.

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We are indebted to many other organizations and individuals for their guidance, examples, insights, and contributions: Code for Australia, for their Digital Maturity Indicator; the Harvard Kennedy School, for their Maturity Model for Digital Services; 18F, for publishing many best practices and guides; USDS, for the Digital Services Playbook; the Partnership for Public Service, for their work on tech talent; New America, for Getting the Work Done; the UK’s Government Digital Service for countless resources; Tim O’Reilly, for Government as a Platform; Richard Pope, for A working definition of Government as a Platform; the Government of South Australia’s Digital Transformation Strategy; Stacey Phillips, James Stewart, and Angie Kenny at Public Digital, Josh Ruihley at the Canadian Digital Service, Nick Sinai, and Kat Jurick for providing thoughtful review; Georgetown’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation and the Defense Innovation Board for convening practitioners and amplifying success stories; and many others in the government and civic technology ecosystem who have embodied these principles over the past decade. Finally, Mark Lerner was a significant contributor in the research, development, and production of this important work. Thank you all for your shared commitment to our vision of government that works for the people, by the people, in the digital age.

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