New social networking tech can be used to solve down-to-earth human needs, by enlisting millions of Americans in service to the country. This involves a new kind of person-to-person public/private partnership which need not be very formal, but might involve challenges to the existing legal and regulatory environment.
The largest challenge would be that people in power would need to visibly listen to network-amplified voice of the American people, and then to visibly act on that. That's required for large-scale buy-in and emotional investment.
There's risk in that, but people accept a good-faith attempt to involve them. People know that even good results has some downside, particularly if expectations are set appropriately. Media strategy planning is required.
Successful public participation would reinforce the perception that government can work, particularly as inspired by the new Administration.
What I'm suggestion, regarding general public involvement, is that for solutions in a specific area, the Administration needs to deputize a "posse." (That term has mixed appeal, needs review by legal and media advisors.)
(Tangent: cross posting as a comment at Enhancing Online Citizen Participation Through Policy
Suggestions for public/private partnerships for real results in the near future:
1. The Federal Web Managers Council (and related CIO and CTO Councils) should work directly with the public, the Administration, and Congress to improve the regulatory environment and to enable the use of conventional consumer Internet technology for improved public service. That is, they should be able to use the same tools consumers/civilians use every day.
In practice, use Ideascale or similar for conversation btween the FWMC etc, people from the IT community, Congressional staffers, and the general public.This could result in general support and buy-in from the broad public, and could prevent misperceptions when problems emerge.
2. The CPSC should work with consumer groups, including Consumer Reports/Consumers Union, to enlist millions of Americans to provide feedback on product safety.
Some combination of Ideascale or similar and user review technology would be required.
3. The Veterans Administration should work with the Open Source community and the DOD to revise and rebuild the health care records system, health claims processing, and the GI Bill check-writing system.
The use of Open Source technology and methods might dramatically expedite software development, but there are also interagency issues which might require intervention from high office.
Hey, along these lines, check out the White House blog Prizes as Incentives for Public-Private Partnerships