What Broke the Government?

TL;DR: The most pressing societal need is the acceleration of public innovation to better match the private sector’s pace.

A report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction showed that the Federal agency OPIC loaned $85 million to a contractor for construction of a hotel and apartment complex in Kabul, Afghanistan. The project was never completed. The U.S. Government Accountability Office later found that OPIC inspects fewer than 10% of the projects it funds.

In late 2016, the DOT gave San Diego a $1.04 billion grant to expand the city’s trolley service by 10.9 miles to serve an estimated 24,600 people, or $42,000 per commuter.

The federal government spends $80 billion on technology-related expenses every year, $55 billion of which is spent on preserving existing outdated technology, rather than using newer and more efficient forms of computing and storage.

No matter your political leanings, you know that the government wastes money. You probably feel like there’s nothing you can do about it. You’d be better off staying focused on what you can control — your salary, your community and your family.

Meanwhile, news headlines says we’re living in the most tumultuous time in American history. Sides have been chosen, data is manipulated, news is faked, and emotions run high as technology marches forward, creating new business models and societal shifts (social media, AI, drones, alternative energy) that governments can’t keep up with. Never before has the speed of change so radically outpaced the public sector’s ability to manage it, and that was before a global pandemic.

There is plenty of work to be done, but we lack the culture and training to cope with the evolution of work. Money is abundant, but we lack the systems and laws to fairly distribute it in a post-labor world fueled by scalable technology. Information is abundant, but we lack the resources and regulations to protect our mental health from it.

This problem won’t get better on its own. The pace of change will never again be as slow as it is today.

What can we do about it?

Our hypothesis is that the most pressing societal need is the acceleration of public innovation to better match the private sector’s pace.

We do not mean to speed up governments’ purposely slow decision-making mechanisms. Instead, we’re focusing on the antiquated technologies, operational models, and cultures that are deeply rooted in public entities, and are a primary cause of their inefficiencies.

To accomplish this, we must bring together public entities, private organizations, and individuals in new ways to create solutions that allow our society to be strengthened by technological change, rather than crumble beneath it.

While there are thousands of challenges worth tackling in the public sector, we’ve identified one of the largest and, in our opinion, most readily solvable ones: public funding.

Taking on the public funding challenge

The public funding ecosystem lacks transparency and is plagued by inefficient practices, which wastes billions of dollars annually.

It also has an equity problem. Government agencies struggle to deliver on basic commitments to address issues of inclusion and equity in their funding processes. Meanwhile, underrepresented groups struggle to find and win public funding opportunities, while many aren’t even aware of their existence.

Our vision is to facilitate the efficient and equitable deployment of public funds by reducing barriers to access, increasing transparency, and empowering accountability.

Our entry point solution is a search engine and marketplace, where deep tech startups can find non-dilutive funding in the form of innovation grants and be matched with grant writers to help them win. Grants are collated from across the ecosystem and presented on one simple platform, available to the public, for free.

This is not revolutionary. In Silicon Valley this business model would be old news, but in the public sector, it isn’t. We’re simply closing this gap. We must leverage private innovation to empower a better public system.

Learn more at https://opengrants.io.