Public trust in the institutions that mediate civic life-from governing bodies to newsrooms-is low. In facing this challenge, many organizations assume that ensuring greater efficiency will build trust. As a result, these organizations are quick to adopt new technologies to enhance what they do, whether it's a new app or dashboard. However, efficiency, or charting a path to a goal with the least amount of friction, is not itself always built on a foundation of trust.
Meaningful Inefficiencies is about the practices undertaken by civic designers that challenge the normative applications of "smart technologies" in order to build or repair trust with publics. Based on over sixty interviews with change makers in public serving organizations throughout the United States, as well as detailed case studies, this book provides a practical and deeply philosophical picture of civic life in transition. The designers in this book are not professional designers,
but practitioners embedded within organizations who have adopted an approach to public engagement Eric Gordon and Gabriel Mugar call "meaningful inefficiencies," or the deliberate design of less efficient over more efficient means of achieving some ends. This book illustrates how civic designers are creating
meaningful inefficiencies within public serving organizations. It also encourages a rethinking of how innovation within these organizations is understood, applied, and sought after. Different than market innovation, civic innovation is not just about invention and novelty; it is concerned with building communities around novelty, and cultivating deep and persistent trust.
At its core, Meaningful Inefficiencies underlines that good civic innovation will never just involve one single public good, but must instead negotiate a plurality of publics. In doing so, it creates the conditions for those publics to play, resulting in people truly caring for the world. Meaningful Inefficiencies thus presents an emergent and vitally needed approach to creating civic life at a moment when smart and efficient are the dominant forces in social and