Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Why I want to work for Pete Buttigieg's Presidential Campaign - Pete for America 2020

I applied for a job with Pete for America as the Director of Data Strategy and Analytics. Here is some of what I said.

Why do I want to join Pete for America?

The future is now - it’s Pete Buttigieg and the campaign he’s building.

Pete is inspiring me to live my values, more clearly, more boldly, more publicly, to bring all of me to the table, the data geek, the policy wonk, the Buddhist, the married gay man, the son, the brother, the uncle, the friend, the citizen.

Pete first hit my news feeds when he came out during his reelection for mayor, again when he ran for DNC Chair, and again when he launched his 2020 Presidential Exploratory Committee. I missed the NYTimes piece on his wedding, which makes clear, in retrospect, how Pete has been working toward a presidential run for a long time. [The wedding article notes that Pete's book publisher is there... a year before the book, Shortest Way Home, was released.]

Pete is both bold and nuanced, understands the importance of starting with principles first and then getting the details right. Those are attributes I value and I want to help promote.

Pete  knows he is standing on the shoulders of giants. Each of us can name the traumas and opportunities that define our generation. In calling for generational justice, there is a recognition that we all have a stake in this.

Pete appears both open and unshakable, that he knows some things are urgent and important. They need clear actions: the environment, the economy, fairness, equity. We are part of a global community. The problems and the solutions are interdependent and must be addressed. There is no going back.

Pete is a leader for our times, is prepared and is ready to act. He is changing the conversation. I am on-board.

Please explain how your past experience will make you successful in this role

I bring a depth and breadth of experience, a mix of human and technical skills. Let me tell you some of how I see the world.

Life is personal and political. We each bring a combination of competencies and commitments. We have our own journeys that temper us. I am about to be sixty eight. I am a married gay man in a 20-year love affair. I am a white cisgender male. I graduated from high school the year that Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Senator Robert Kennedy were assassinated. The year that students shut down Columbia University in protest of the Vietnam War and of the riots at the Democratic presidential convention in Chicago. I came out during the enthusiasm of Gay Liberation in the early 70’s. I survived the AIDS crisis of the 80’s and 90’s. I sat in a Buddhist meditation hall forty years ago and felt an immediate, strong resonance with this ancient human tradition.

I am a health information technology professional who helped build an electronic health record system in the 1970’s, rolled out it, and other clinical technology, in the 80’s and 90’s.  (yes, EHRs are that old, and no, it is not the system you’re thinking of).
Larry Wolf,
IEEE Computer 1979

I was an active member of the HITECH FACAs, and co-chaired several workgroups. I often find myself on a soapbox about some insight coming from data analysis. I also get on soapboxes about cutting to the heart of the matter.

I have a personal passion for aligning individual fulfillment with organizational goals. I’ve learned that in every organization, each person is there to contribute to the mission in there own way.  It is vital that all organizational leaders, whether with volunteer or paid staff, recognize the brilliance of each person and tap into that for the common good.

This is a time of transformational change. When we’re aligned with change, it is energizing. The challenges may not always be pleasant, but they can bond a team, be insightful for the individual, and can result in contentment and joy. When the change is seen as  threatening, it becomes an enemy to be confronted and life becomes a battle.

Transformational change begins with knowing where we are. It is grounded in the present moment.  Data can be miraculous in helping understand the present, the specifics of where we are, and what is emerging. So can deep listening. In the words of William Gibson: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” Let’s find it.

I help organizations embrace that present future, building on the resources and knowledge they
already have. As an executive for the software vendor MatrixCare, I helped customers move from fee-for-service to value-based-payment. As a long-term leader at Kindred Healthcare, I helped
shift the organization to data-driven performance improvement, building on its culture of hands-on quality care. As co-chair of Out in the Mountains, an all volunteer monthly news magazine, I helped move from a tiny burned out staff to a broad nurturing community doing rewarding work. I am currently an independent consultant, helping organizations adapt to major changes in healthcare delivery and payment.

None of these things were done in isolation. They were the result of working collaboratively with others, building on our strengths, developing the bonds of friendship, and  celebrating our differences.

Joining the campaign will be a pivot, the specific goals and data are different from what I have worked with in the past. I have a lifetime of bridging the big picture with the technical capabilities to run organizations, developing critical insights and delivering on the mission. The need to put actionable information in the hands of the people doing the work is as important in campaigns and government as it is in healthcare and corporations. Using insights, supported with and derived from data, is critical for making good use of resources,  learning from experience, addressing day-to-day operations and clarifying the broader vision.

I am energized by Pete’s vision, his campaign, and the opportunity to work toward our shared future. The promise of the future won’t happen unless we come together to address the challenges with all of our being - heart, mind and soul.  The insights provided through data can help light that future.

Anything else you want to share?

What is radical transparency and fairness?

It is a profound challenge. It is the challenge of our time.
Larry Wolf,
Layered Self-Portrait

Our future depends on transparency and enabling that with technology. It becomes the means for addressing the other pressing issues, from economic equity to climate change. If the solutions are delivered top-down, they will lack the resilience and flexibility we need. If the feedback loops are slow and obscure, we are trapped in the power politics of the moment. 

It is not enough to have understandable data use agreements and privacy statements. We must share the value generated from the data with the people it is about. The actions enabled by the data, put in the hands of those who have contributed it, is every bit as important as monetary value. Information is often treated as an asset to be hoarded or a limited resource to be mined. The insights that come from scale, from big data, are all the more important to put in the hands of the individuals, for us to enrich our own lives. This is not a zero-sum game. There can be many winners.

The tech giants, however, have demonstrated that they do not have answers to these large questions. They are creating serious challenges to our democracy and to our core values, as we discover the new ways our privacy is invaded and our communities are attacked.

The cyber genie cannot be put back into the bottle. We must address this through the culture we nurture, through the social structures we build, and through the technology we implement. Humans are tool makers and tool users. We co-evolve with our technology. It’s not new, but it is changing at an unprecedented rate. What is truth? Who can be trusted? Where is the boundary between mine and ours? How is my information used? How does it improve my life? How does its use undermine my life? How is it a new kind of resource? Where must we incorporate the millennia of human social wisdom?

There are implications for how Pete runs the campaign and will run the country. What examples are being set for fair and transparent use of data? For open government? For full engagement with the citizens of this country? With citizens of the world? How do we create digital freedom, democracy and protection? 

Our words and actions must align. There’s an opportunity to build on the best of what technology can offer, for privacy and for insights. For creating a broadly inclusive community. For creating a campaign and a presidency that sets the direction for the future.

Data strategy and analytics are not only a behind the scenes secret weapon. They are the leading edge of positive change.

Let’s get this right. Let’s do it with broad inclusion. Let’s do it as a team. Let’s do it as an example that can be replicated. Our nation, our future, our lives, depend on it. 

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