Just as President Obama is using web-based “crowdsourcing” (a cornerstone of Web 2.0) to get ideas for his Government Reform for Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative, Federal offices could use web-based crowdsourcing to share their temporary excess workload with other Federal offices that have temporary excess human capital. For example, an authorized employee with a backlog of audio files that need to be transcribed could post a request for assistance on a secure government-wide or agency-wide website. Another authorized employee, from a different office, with some spare time, could find the request on the website and offer to transcribe the files. Once both parties agree to the match, they would be provided with a secure, web-based virtual workspace, where they could share the files necessary to complete the collaboration. The result is that the audio files could be transcribed for free, instead of having to pay for additional, temporary staff. Individual offices could save tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a year, and entire agencies could save millions.
Requests could be posted that are visible government-wide, or that are visible only within a specified level of the requestor’s organization, depending on security and other sensitivity considerations. Requests could be classified by the skills or clearance necessary for their completion, so employees with excess time can search for and filter requests based on their own skill set and clearance level. Such an arrangement would not work for certain employees or for certain types of employees, and so no employees would be allowed to participate without the approval of their supervisor and could be restricted by their supervisor in the number of hours per pay period during which they could participate.
This proposal is based on the premise that most Federal employees genuinely wish to serve the public to the greatest extent possible, to further the mission of their area, and to go home at the end of each day believing that they made a difference. For that reason, among others (such as the need to avoid incentivizing neglect of one’s primary duties), there would be no financial incentives for employees who contribute their excess time; however, by participating, they will be able to expand the breadth of their knowledge and experience, to take advantage of the latest web-based technologies, to network with other government professionals, and to have a more interesting and fulfilling experience as a Federal employee.