A New City O/S

The Power of Open, Collaborative, and Distributed Governance

Stephen Goldsmith, Neil Kleiman
Steve Case
Release Date: November 28, 2017
Inside Look:

Proposing an entirely new governance model to unleash innovation throughout local government

At a time when trust is dropping precipitously and American government at the national level has fallen into a state of long-term, partisan-based gridlock, local government can still be effective—indeed more effective and even more responsive to the needs of its citizens. Based on decades of direct experience and years studying successful models around the world, the authors of this intriguing book propose a new operating system (O/S) for cities. Former mayor and Harvard professor Stephen Goldsmith and New York University professor Neil Kleiman suggest building on the giant leaps that have been made in technology, social engagement, and big data.

Calling their approach “distributed governance,” Goldsmith and Kleiman offer a model that allows public officials to mobilize new resources, surface ideas from unconventional sources, and arm employees with the information they need to become pre-emptive problem solvers. This book highlights lessons from the many innovations taking place in today’s cities to show how a new O/S can create systemic transformation.

For students of government, A New City O/S: The Power of Distributed Governance presents a groundbreaking strategy for rethinking the governance of cities, marking an important evolution of the current bureaucratic authority-based model dating from the 1920s. More important, the book is designed for practitioners, starting with public-sector executives, managers, and frontline workers. By weaving real-life examples into a coherent model, the authors have created a step-by-step guide for all those who would put the needs of citizens front and center. Nothing will do more to restore trust in government than solutions that work. A New City O/S: The Power of Distributed Governance puts those solutions within reach of those public officials responsible for their delivery.

Praise for A New City O/S

“Few can make a better case for how data and transparency can make government work better for the people who need it most. The authors present a bold rethinking of how government should and can work in the digital era to promote more equitable, vibrant, and resilient communities. Drawing from lessons of America’s most innovative cities—including New Orleans—they offer invaluable advice and case studies for anyone interested in addressing our most vexing urban challenges.”—Mitch Landrieu, Mayor, New Orleans

“This great new book isn’t just a plan for a new nuts-and-bolts operating system for cities—it’s a genuinely fresh and innovative way of thinking about governance. Goldsmith and Kleiman develop a theory of “distributed governance” to map how power can be shared—and a strategy for making it work. Anyone interested in making cities work better—and that includes all of us—needs to wrestle with the meaty and lively story they tell.”—Donald F. Kettl, Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland

“Our democracy is only as strong as the trust we place in the institutions that work for us—and technology offers a digital path to new levels of transparency and accountability in government. A New City O/S is a blueprint for helping cities take advantage of innovative tools that can improve service delivery, bring new people into the conversation, and engage everyday residents in the work of building stronger and more inclusive communities.”—Eric Garcetti, Mayor, Los Angeles

“Goldsmith and Kleiman illuminate an effort critical to the future of our country: a major reframing of public sector operations to make them work for, and with, the American public. The case studies they chronicle here, the lessons they derive, and their guidance for the future will help any change agent get us to the new operating system our local governments so desperately need.”—Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director, Code for America


Stephen Goldsmith is the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and the Director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard Kennedy School. He previously served as deputy mayor of New York and mayor of Indianapolis, where he earned a reputation as one of the country's leaders in public-private partnerships, competition, and privatization. His most recent book is The Responsive City: Engaging Communities through Data-Smart Governance.

Neil Kleiman is a clinical professor at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service and the Center for Urban Science + Progress. His research focuses on urban innovation and uses of technology and big data. He is policy director of the National Resource Network, a public/private consortium supporting economically challenged cities, and was founding director of the New York City–based Center for an Urban Future.