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Town Hall Seattle: Civics Series

Town Hall’s Civics series highlights everything from local policies to world politics. These events offer perspectives on a range of topics as diverse as Seattle itself—a bustling forum for activism, discovery, and thought-provoking discussion.

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Dec 15, 2021

Many of our current public institutions are trying to solve today’s problems by using outdated, cumbersome tools of the past. It’s no wonder that many of our public institutions are failing; the tools needed to tackle the complex societal challenges of today, from climate change to systemic racism, require a long-overdue upgrade.

In Solving Public Problems, author Beth Simone Noveck offered a radical but practical rethinking of the tools that public servants, students, activists, and leaders need in a 21st-century world. By taking advantage of technology, data, and the collective wisdom of communities, Noveck showed us that there’s a better way forward to solve contemporary problems.

Noveck drew on lessons learned from decades of advising global leaders, along with original interviews and surveys of thousands of public problem solvers. The result is a useful framework for why and how we can use data and technology to improve the effectiveness of policies, laws, and public institutions working for the people.

Beth Simone Noveck is a professor at Northeastern University, where she directs the Burnes Family Center for Social Change and Impact and its partner project, The Governance Lab (The GovLab) and its MacArthur Research Network on Opening Governance. She is also Core Faculty at Institute for Experiential AI (IEAI) at Northeastern. New Jersey governor Phil Murphy appointed her as the state’s first Chief Innovation Officer and Chancellor Angela Merkel named her to her Digital Council in 2018. Previously, Beth served in the White House as the first United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and director of the White House Open Government Initiative under President Obama. UK Prime Minister David Cameron appointed her senior advisor for Open Government. In addition to Solving Public Problems, Beth is the author of Smart Citizens, Smarter State: The Technologies of Expertise and the Future of Governing (Harvard Univ Press 2015) and Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger and Citizens More Powerful and co-editor of The State of Play: Law, Games and Virtual Worlds. Her TED talk is here, and she tweets @bethnoveck.

Eric Klinenberg is Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. He is the author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic LifeGoing Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media, and Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, as well as the editor of Cultural Production in a Digital Age, co-editor of Antidemocracy in America, and co-author, with Aziz Ansari, of the New York Times #1 bestseller Modern Romance. His scholarly work has been published in journals including the American Sociological Review, Theory and Society, and Ethnography, and he has contributed to The New YorkerThe New York Times MagazineRolling Stone, and This American Life.

Buy the Book: Solving Public Problems: A Practical Guide to Fix Our Government and Change Our World (Hardcover) from Third Place Books

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