NYU Tandon’s Governance Lab joins virtual discussion with congressional subcommittee on modernizing Congress

screenshot of congressional zoom meeting

Professor Beth Simone Noveck, director of The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, was back on Capitol Hill, virtually, as one of two guest speakers, for a discussion hosted by the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

The conference explored the importance of committee continuity and how to work effectively on behalf of the American people during the ongoing global pandemic. Participating with Noveck, who is also Chief Innovation Officer for the State of New Jersey, was Marci Harris, CEO of PopVox. The Members and guests discussed best practices for remote committee and Member operations, and ways other legislatures around the world are handling business.

Noveck highlighted a number of virtual platforms, like Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx, that have been used internationally in countries like Argentina, the United Kingdom, Ecuador, and Spain for legislative business.

“The ongoing need to prepare for social distancing underscores the importance of ensuring that our legislative institutions are prepared to continue functioning through both the current challenges and those that lie ahead,” she said.

On February 6, 2020, Noveck delivered testimony before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, during which she called upon Congress and federal agencies to adopt new technology to improve citizen engagement in lawmaking and rulemaking. She also announced the launch of “CrowdLaw for Congress,” a GovLab training initiative sponsored by the Democracy Fund; the initiative provides examples from legislatures and parliaments around the world for U.S. institutions to draw on as they seek to deepen the foundations of democracy in uncertain times. CrowdLaw, a term coined by The GovLab, describes the use of new technology to engage the public to improve the quality of the resulting rules, policies, and laws.

CrowdLaw for Congress: Strategies for 21st Century Lawmaking” is a how-to “playbook” with global case studies from such places as the United Kingdom, Mexico, Spain, Chile, India, Taiwan, Estonia, and Brazil. The case studies detail how those parliaments and legislatures are using new technology to engage with the public to improve the quality of lawmaking. In addition, the project website (congress.crowd.law) houses a series of brief videos explaining global CrowdLaw practices, accompanied by interviews with politicians and legislative staff who discuss how and why their organizations are turning to online engagement to improve lawmaking. CrowdLaw for Congress is tracking more than 100 examples of online engagement in lawmaking and is frequently updated with new cases.

“With legislation and regulation almost always developed by either party leaders or senior officials working behind closed doors, many observers are not surprised that rates of trust in America’s institutions are at historic lows,” Noveck says. “To help bridge the chronic disconnect between public officials and their constituents, CrowdLaw practices create innovative and efficient pathways that tap into the general public’s expertise and know-how. This knowledge and input are systematically channeled to policymakers before, after, and while they shape legislation and regulations in ways that are efficient and improve the outcomes.”