Want government collaboration? Grab coffee, think deeply

Oakland, California’s digital engagement officer says resource-strapped local governments can improve interjurisdictional partnership through careful strategy.

How should officials in local governments work together with their counterparts in state and federal government? “Around coffee!” said Mai-Ling Garcia, the digital engagement officer for the City of Oakland, California.

Garcia was joking, but only partially. It is by building more intimate personal connections, she told StateScoop in a video interview, that local governments will be able to collaborate more effectively.

“I think the work of ‘innovation’ or ‘modernizing government’ or pushing that kind of change is really one of hearts and minds and it really requires an interpersonal understanding of the work that’s being performed,” Garcia said.

Local governments should be thinking about collaboration in a more sophisticated way, she said.

“I think there’s not a lot of dimension and communication about what those different roles and functions are, let alone how they might work together,” Garcia said. “So I think very simply, we need to meet and have some more of those conversations of how we can improve and work together and building more relationships.”

To reach this deeper understanding, time is needed to conduct the analysis and plan, a resource, she lamented, that is often in short supply in local government.

“I feel in city government we’re often strapped for time and trying to maximize limited resources and we don’t necessarily often the time or the structure or the opportunity to work with some of our federal or state colleagues to really build momentum around things. And I think there’s a lot of opportunity around that.”

Garcia on how she expects government to change:

“I see government becoming less siloed by virtue of a lot of the technology that’s available now and using that to really break down a lot of those silos that government is known for.”

Garcia on what’s unique about California and its approach to technology:

“I think California, we’re a melting pot of people and the thing that we as Californians need to be cognizant of is the fact that we have a broad constituency that we’re innovating for.”

Garcia on better providing services to citizens:

“It’s about incorporating and broadening and inviting what the sense of government is. I think the vision for a great vision for a future of what government could be is more reflective of community and I think that requires inviting community members to actually come and speak and teach us.”

This video was filmed at the California Innovation Summit on January 15, 2019, presented by VMware, Intel and Carahsoft and produced by StateScoop.

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California, California Innovation Summit, collaboration, Digital Services, Mai-Ling Garcia, Oakland
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