Dreamforce 2018 - Governor of Colorado gives rousing speech on using tech to build trust with citizens

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez September 27, 2018
John Hickenlooper explained how he has risen up through the political ranks in Colorado by adopting a collaborative approach that defies party politics. He believes tech can bring citizen and government closer together.

Governor Hickenlooper
Governor Hickenlooper at Dreamforce 2018

I don't allow people to use the words Donald Trump [in my office], because you can't limit yourself to one or two minutes, you will be speaking for 15 minutes, or half an hour a day.

And we don't have the time. There's too much stuff we need to be getting done.That doesn't make me Mr. Popular. But it has allowed us to move forward. And what you're doing with Salesforce is providing is the antidote to what we see in Washington.

That was about as partisan as John Hickenlooper, the Democrat Governor of Colorado, got during his talk this week at Dreamforce in San Francisco. Hickenlooper rather focused on the importance of collaboration in governing, the importance of bringing everyone to the table to find common solutions to difficult problems, and the importance of technology in building trust with citizens.

For me, this was the best session I’ve attended at Dreamforce this year. Which is interesting, given that so little of the session touched on technology. Instead, Hickenlooper spent his time talking about bringing people together to drive change. The Governor spoke about how he was elected Mayor of Denver in the early 2000s because he made a decision to stand on a policy around working more closely with suburban areas, and other mayors, on common interests - not something other candidates thought was important at the time.

He then was elected as Governor off the back of a grassroots campaign, which required talking to businesses, citizens and elected officials from across the state, asking them what they wanted. He said:

Almost everyone said the the same thing. They wanted the state to be more pro business. They want the state to cut red tape and bureaucracy - that's not Democrat or Republican. They wanted more efficiency. They asked can we get access to capital? Can we celebrate and champion innovation and technology? They wanted us to market the state not just as a destination for vacations, but for a place for young people to come and build a business and ultimately a life. And as we did that, and when I ran again, everyone said, there's no way you're gonna win.”

This collaborative thing isn't going to succeed to get elected governor, they said. And when I ran for governor, I won by, I think, 15 points.

Since being elected to Governor in 2011, Colorado, and Hickenploor’s collaborative approach to governing, has pushed the state up to the number one economy in the US. Why? Hickenlooper said:

We got everyone focused on. We said Colorado would be the most pro business state in America, with the highest environmental standards, the highest ethical standards. We said we would do everything we could to create jobs, but making sure that we were balanced, making sure we preserved equal opportunity for everybody.

Sound familiar? Not far off the Salesforce way of doing things…

The role of technology

The Governor gave numerous examples of how he has tackled State-wide problems through the process of stakeholder engagement and collaboration - one that was particularly impressive involved putting the oil and gas companies in the room with environmental activists to come up with a plan to reduce methane releases, to much success.

The Governor said:

In Colorado, as we call it, we collaborate at the speed of trust - because to really build these partnerships with the other mayors, with the rest of the state, it took the time to go there and build the relationships.

The reason that I ran was that people have to believe in government and be a part of that trust and what salesforce and other like minded technology companies do is they allow government to do more and they allow us to do that in a transparent way so that people can understand what government is doing for them and see it in real time.

That increase in efficiency and transparency becomes incredibly powerful.

Governor Hickenlooper said that when Colorado introduced Salesforce, it gave it the ability to respond to people in real-time and keep track of groups of people that had specific issues, that were perhaps being unheard previously. He said:

It was transformative. From 2015 to 2016 consumption of salesforce licenses in Colorado increased 50 percent. That is a rapid uptake. That was amazing. And I think the only way you can explain it was there was trust - we were seeing such an improvement, such a benefit from the trust that we were able to build. We were able to build relationships and build collaborations faster.

For example, Hickenlooper said that after the Affordable Care Act passed in the US, Colorado was able to expand Medicaid to a far wider group of people. It needed to expand that rapidly. And to do that, it needed new contact centers. He said:

And again, Salesforce allows us to do that in real time, effectively, right? Without long waits on phone lines, without red tape going through - a faster service to clients who might need medical assistance, a rolling out statewide medical programme.

Colorado, for example, was the first State to provide long-acting, reversible contraception to young women aged between 15 and 25, many of whom are from lower income families. The State has reduced pregnancy by 62 percent in seven years, and Governor Hickenlooper said that “we couldn’t have done that and rolled it out as fast as we did without that technology”.

He added that Salesforce is bringing people closer to their public institutions in Colorado. He said;

Salesforce allows us to not just more rapidly communicate with the public, but it allows us to group together - the complaints and the issues that people have - in a much more responsible, I would say sophisticated and nuanced way, and allows us to deliver what people really want. Often it’s not that government is evil, in many cases they don't have the tools to really understand why people are pissed off at them.

My take

There was too much in the Governor’s session for just one piece, but the reason that it was so effective, and got a standing ovation at the end, is that it wasn’t about technology, it was about people. Bringing people together from all sides of the political and economic spectrum, to agree on common outcomes, and then use tools to do that effectively. If only more politicians understood that listening and collaborating, even though it takes longer in the medium term, is way more effective in the long-run.