Al Gore Seeks Great Ideas From "the people"
In May 1993, colleague Hazel Henderson and I were invited by Pamela Johnson to present our ideas to the National Performance Review, a project set up by Vice President Gore to review agencies and departments of the government that deal directly with the people for ways to help them operate in a more cost-effective and user-friendly manner – to treat the "customers" right. Each agency and department had a representative assigned to the project to help reality test the hundreds of ideas they were reviewing.
Another way of putting it was this: Business had reorganized to make sure they knew what their customers wanted. Government had to do the same.
"The people" Oblige
Hazel and I presented some ideas that seemed to fit neatly into the NPR directive, including the voluntary questionnaire on the IRS tax form described in Example --The Economy virtually unknown to the leaders and the mainstream media. We were invited back three days later to give a presentation to about a dozen people working on all different phases of the NPR project, followed by a full and free exchange of ideas. Dennis Egan who led that discussion said that they would take at least one of our ideas, the IRS questionnaire, to the next phase.
The Internal Revenue Service Obliges
I worked with the IRS representative at NPR, Bob Wenzel, to write a proposal on how to test the viability and acceptance of the IRS questionnaire concept, by attaching a one-page questionnaire to ten small samples (of 1,000 each) of Form 1040s randomly selected from the 116 million the IRS would be mailing out for the 1994 tax year. The test would determine which form and format designs would be most successful in getting cooperation and most useful for interpreting findings with accuracy, reliability, and fairness. The cost of the test including analysis of the data and preparation of a report would be, relatively speaking, tiny, and ATI agreed to assume the direct costs, if NPR wished us to do that. From the test I expected that we would find the most user-friendly and understandable questionnaire for further testing or for full-scale implementation. We would be able to check the ATI result that some 70% of all taxpayers would voluntarily fill out such a questionnaire and send it in to the IRS with the completed forms and checks.
Gatekeepers balk, "We Might Have to Listen to "the
After further discussions, although much support for the proposal was expressed, it was suddenly dropped in a top-level meeting. I received a surprisingly frank explanation. It was political: concern that the President would "lose control," and the people might rule. There was an across the board disconnect. If the people want it, then they cannot have it. Is it fair to call that a total disconnect? You bet it is.
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