A core premise of the Open Government Initiative is citizen engagement. But what does this really mean and why is this so important?
A great definition of citizen engagement is simply allowing all individuals to contribute and participatein our mission. At NASA, we have a term for this – “Participatory Exploration.” It is fundamentally about making the whole enterprise of space exploration - research and development, science, discovery, and human exploration - participatory and unleashing the human spirit of innovation. Importantly, participatory exploration does not just commit us to connect with the public, but also charges us to engage our workforce — people who work for NASA are citizens too, and have a vital role to play.
As Charlie Bolden recently stated: “The President is asking us to harness that American spirit of innovation, the drive to solve problems and create capabilities that is so embedded in our story and has led us to the moon, to great observatories, and to humans living and working in space, possibly indefinitely. That American ingenuity is alive and well, and it will fire up our economy and help us create and win the future now.”
This all starts with a conversation. Let me explain:
When NASA opens its doors and encourages its own scientists and engineers to engage in a two-way conversation with citizens, NASA’s exploration mission is shared on a very personal level. This is effective communication.
When NASA’s message is effectively shared with citizens, they are more inclined to share the message with others. This is building relevancy.
When NASA becomes more relevant to citizens, we build trust and gain advocates who are personally invested in space exploration and desire to contribute to the space program. This is inspiration.
When NASA creates opportunities for inspired citizens to participate by contributing their time, talents and resources in meaningful ways, we improve the flow of ideas and solutions into and out of the space program. This is innovation.
When NASA acts on these innovations, and collaborates with citizens to solve our toughest challenges, new strategic partnerships are formed, which accelerates innovation, preserves resources and saves money. This exponentially multiplies NASA’s impact on the world.
Finally, as NASA intentionally communicates, inspires, and innovates in a relevant way, students notice and strive to participate so that they can join in the exploration of new and unexplored frontiers. Their spirit of innovation is ignited and results in a renewed drive to pursue STEM education – which is vital for our country’s future success.
Participatory Exploration is vital to building a community of connected, educated citizens ready to invest in and advocate for exploration. It is a strategic investment our nation must make if we truly desire to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our competitors and create new capabilities that will take us farther into the solar system and teach us more about our place in it. Through the Open Government Initiative, NASA is committed to engaging citizens in our space exploration mission.
Are you ready to join in the grand challenge?