Tag Archives: gov20

Social Media isn’t a Prerequisite for Open Government

Open Government/Government 2.0 is about more than wikis, open data, Twitter, Web 2.0, or social media—it is about the strategic use of technology to transform our government into a platform that is participatory, collaborative, and transparent. Sure, social media can help facilitate this transformation, but starting a blog or Twitter account is by no means a prerequisite. You don’t have to wait until you hammer out a Twitter policy or get legal approval for your blogging guidelines to start this transformation.You don’t need to create all kinds of widgets and mashups with your data. The barrier of entry isn’t that high. Open government doesn’t start or end with social media – it starts with a mindset that you want to become more participatory, collaborative, and transparent.

While government use of social media is often highlighted as best practice examples of open government, they’re by no means the only examples. The first steps toward creating a more open government can be as simple as updating your public website more often or committing to actually implementing changes suggested by employees via your Intranet.

So, for those who maybe might not be ready for social media, here are eight things you can do now that can help your organization become more open, and none involve social media:

  • Update the content on your website a few times a week – And not just with more PDF downloads. Highlight an interesting article or link. Create an “Employee Highlight” section and showcase the work that they do. Link to job vacancy announcement. Generate a greater variety of content on your site and update it regularly.
  • Upgrade your “Contact Us” form with a name and contact information – I don’t know about you, but when I see a generic “contact us” form, I usually don’t take the time to provide any feedback because I assume it’s going to go off into the ether and I may or may not get a response sometime in the next seven days. A real name and contact information not only adds transparency and accountability, it also adds a sense of commitment that you value my feedback.
  • Replace your PDF files with XML or HTML files – Many government websites do a good job of connecting the public to TONS of information via individual PDF files. However, uploading dozens of PDF files hundreds of pages thick doesn’t equal openness and transparency. It usually just means you’ve totally overwhelmed the public with information and hidden your data in plain sight. Consider parsing these PDF files and uploading them in an accessible, searchable format.
  • Add external links to your site – Some agencies still have policies that say that they cannot link to non .gov sites. If this is still a policy at your agency, show them this and get the policy changed. You can and should link to non .gov sites.
  • Update the default browser on your employees’ computers – You might be surprised at how much of a difference a modern browser can make in an employee’s day-to-day work. A modern up-to-date browser is more than just a luxury – it can make collaboration easier and more efficient by providing easier access to applications and sites.
  • Ask for employee/public input on policy/regulations changes – Instead of firing off that next all-hands memo with the new policy for X, consider posting it in draft form to your site and giving your stakeholders an opportunity to have some input to it before it goes final.
  • Allow the public to subscribe to your site via RSS and email – One of the easiest and most valuable ways to increase awareness of your content is to make it easy for people to access and share it. All you need is Notepad, a server, and a beer.
  • Make collaboration part of the assessment process. Does your performance review process include anything about collaboration or sharing intellectual capital? Are employees recognized with awards or commendations for collaborating?

I could go on and on, but I don’t want this post to become a novel 🙂  What other recommendations do you have for creating open government WITHOUT using social media?

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Try Looking Outside to Solve the Problems Inside

Quick – who recently said this in reference to his organization’s social media efforts?

“…if our consumers are younger, and they love video games, and they have shorter attention spans, and they love interactivity, and they love social media, and everyone blogs, and everyone’s on Facebook, why wouldn’t we put ourselves right in the middle of that?”

What social media or Government 2.0 champion could have said this? Could it have been Federal CIO Vivek Kundra? Maybe Director, New Media and Citizen Engagement at GSA, Bev Godwin? Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Price Floyd?

Nope. Try Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals. In this week’s Washington Post, Leonsis discusses why the team is aggressively using social media to engage with their fans and the potential impact that social media can have on his team and on the sport. Sound familiar? Sound anything like what us in the Gov 2.0 and social media communities have been telling our bosses and clients for years now?

Leonsis goes on to say that, “what’s unique and different about us is that most organizations are managed [with the thinking], ‘We’re bricks and mortar, we’re buildings, and we have this Web operation beside us,'” Leonsis said. “We’re kind of different. We look at the Web as being our basic power plant, kind of like electricity, so the Web and communicating in this fashion is second nature to us now. It’s not like we go brochure, television, mail. It’s Web, and then everything else. It’s social media first, and everything else.”

Hmmmm…sounds like his perspective, experience, and business acumen would be a valuable addition to the Gov 2.0 conversation, don’t you think?

I recently read a fascinating article in the latest edition of Fast Company – “A Problem Solver’s Guide to Copycatting.” This article argues that instead of solving our toughest problems through brainstorming or consulting with experts, we should start looking for analogues outside our industry because someone (or some thing) has probably already solved our problem. For example (from the Fast Company article),

“In 1989, the pilots of the Exxon Valdez ran it into Bligh Reef, spilling enough oil to cover 11,000 square miles of ocean. To finish this cleanup job, you’d have to clear an area the size of Walt Disney World Resort every week for about five years. One major obstacle was that the oil and water tended to freeze together, making the oil harder to skim off. This problem defied engineers for years until a man named John Davis, who had no experience in the oil industry, solved it. In 2007, he proposed using a construction tool that vibrates cement to keep it in liquid form as it pours. Presto!”

This methodology, this thinking, that someone who has absolutely no experience with or knowledge of your organization might be able to solve a problem that your top domain experts haven’t been able to crack is a totally foreign concept to most organizations, especially those within the government. What if instead of talking with the Gov 2.0 “experts,” we started getting more people from outside of Government involved in Gov 2.0? Think about the value that Craig Newmark has brought to the Gov 2.0 discussion. Or Tim O’Reilly.

The social media community seems to have realized the value these outsider perspectives can bring – just last year I attended conferences featuring Jermaine Dupri, Brooke Burke, and Jalen Rose. This year, Gov 2.0 events like Gov 2.0 LA reached out to Hollywood to get that perspective and author/entrepreneur/professional keynoter Gary Vaynerchuk will be speaking at this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo. Getting these influencers involved as speakers is a great start, but we need to achieve more consistent engagement beyond just singular events.

What if the next Director of New Media and Web Communications for DHS was someone like Mike DiLorenzo, Director of Corporate Communications for the NHL? What if we talked with some behavior modification psychologists about the best way to change people’s behavior from one of “need to know” to “need to share?” What if we studied Native American tribes to learn more about how they build and maintain a unique culture even in the face of extreme changes?

While government may be unique, the problems we’re facing aren’t. The challenge shouldn’t be in solving them, but rather, in finding out who or what has solved them already.

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Gov 2.0 Jobs, Moves, and Opportunities

 

Image Courtesy of Flickr User Ben Zvan

Inspired by Jeremiah Owyang’s excellent “On the Move” series of blog postings meant to track and congratulate folks who get promoted, move, or accept new exciting positions in the social media community, I wanted to to start this semi-regular (maybe once every other month?) post series focused on the jobs and people within our Government. One of the things that always annoyed me about federal job postings is that they’re not promoted all that well outside of the federal government. Due to the rules and restrictions the government faces regarding recruiting, they essentially have to make the posting available to everyone and hope the right people find it, and then apply.  The newly redesigned USAJobs.gov site is a move in the right direction, but there’s still a lot more that can be done. I’m hoping to use this series to help publicize some of the openings specifically of interest to the Gov 2.0 community, congratulate those of us on new career moves, and help connect potential candidates to new positions too.

Gov 2.0 Job Opportunity Spotlight

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Director, New Media and Web Communications: Be responsible for the overall direction and management of Department new media communications, products and strategy.  The Director, New Media and Web Communications has specific responsibility for training and guiding Department Web Managers and for overseeing implementation of web policies and procedures. Open until Feb. 3.
  • National Academy of Public Administration, Analyst: The Analyst position is mid-level role, requiring an advanced degree and 3-5 years experience. Analysts are part of an integrated project team and engage in every aspect of our work, including project planning, primary and secondary research and analysis, and preparation and delivery of final recommendations. Analysts assist in coordinating, planning and facilitating joint meetings of Academy staff, our Panel members and client organizations. Strong organizational, analytical and communication skills are key to successful performance in this position. Open until filled
  • U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center, Public Communications Specialist: Based in Warren, Michigan, the candidate will provide communications support to include media coordination and public relations to anticipate and resolve inquiries from defense, national, congressional and local media. Will assess potential controversial issues having national and/or international impact and develop communication strategies to maintain program messaging, to include authoring speeches/press releases, organizing press conferences and media site visits, organizing press interviews with senior Army and PEO leadership, coordinate release of news releases and answering multiple media inquires on wide range of organizational subjects. Maintains and executes organization’s social media strategy. Manage organization’s website content. Coordinate with Army social media office to include updating and organizing content on popular web-based Social Media and networking sites. Open until Jan. 29

Gov 2.0 Moves and Promotions

Congratulations also go out to the following #gov20 champions and I wish them the best of luck in their new positions:

How to connect with others (or get a job):
I hope that this list of resources grows from its meager beginnings and evolves into a comprehensive resource for Government 2.0 jobs across the country so if you know of any other resources I don’t have listed here, please add them in the comments and I’ll make sure they get added to future posts in the series.

Submit an announcement
If you know folks that are moving up in the #gov20 industry, fill out this form.

U.S. Government Job Resources

If you have any other suggestions on how to make these posts more valuable, drop a comment below!

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Keeping Gov 2.0 Fresh

Have you heard of GovFresh? It, along with Federal Computer Week, GovLoop, Fedscoop, and the many Gov 2.0 leaders on Twitter, are my primary sources of all things Gov 2.0. GovFresh was created last year by Luke Fretwell with the goal of inspiring government-citizen collaboration and build a more engaged democracy and is a great source for all things Gov 2.0. One of the things that I really like about GovFresh is the diversity of features – from highlighting Gov 2.0 at the local level to your Gov 2.0 Heroes series to videos, books, and a whole host of RSS feeds, Luke has created a platform that offers value to anyone involved in Gov 2.0, whether you’re working with Vivek Kundra on data.gov, or trying to get the mayor of a tiny town in Kansas to blog, GovFresh will probably have something that’s highly relevant to what you’re doing.

I wanted to sit down with Luke and get his take on what GovFresh means to him and where we’re likely to see it going in the future.

Like Steve Ressler, founder of GovLoop, you’re based outside of the DC metro area as well. How’d you get involved in the Government 2.0 community from 3,000 miles away? Was there a specific moment that you can point to where GovFresh got started?

I grew up, lived and worked in the Washington, DC, area, so I’m familiar with the culture and mechanics of the Beltway and government. I studied political science and international relations at George Mason University and was editor-in-chief of Broadside, the student newspaper. I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area right right before the dot-com bust to pursue start-up opportunities. Web design, development, strategy and social media are as much in my blood as C-SPAN, NewsHour and WAMU. When the idea for GovFresh came to me, it was a DC-meets-SF perfect storm.
The first iteration of GovFresh transpired over 3 days. After seeing how government was beginning to use social media, it dawned on me that I could create my own set of aggregated feeds and effectively build my own news site. I thought about how best to execute it quickly. The next day I picked the name and designed a simple interface, most of it while riding BART home from an event. I met with a friend that Friday who helped me set up the site and it launched that afternoon.

What are you trying to accomplish with GovFresh?
I want GovFresh to inspire new ideas and encourage public servants to be more innovative and embrace a sense of openness. I want developers to see the opportunities for them to be part of a new way of governing. I want citizens to see that their government can be more collaborative and forthcoming, especially if they’re willing to let it make mistakes from time to time. The concept of government is faceless, distant and tedious to most people. I hope we can help change that.

From an entrepreneurial perspective, I’d like to see GovFresh evolve into a sustainable business, through sponsorships, partnerships, advertising, consulting, events or all of the above. Building a thriving business that matters and adds honest social value is the real American Dream.

What are the biggest challenges to running GovFresh?  You have a day job too, right?  How do you fit it all in?

The biggest challenge of any privately-funded start-up venture is finding the right balance. I do Web, marketing and social media consulting (http://lukefretwell.com), but put a lot of effort into GovFresh. I’m very family with the start-up environment. There are moments where you think you’re working on something great and, 5 minutes later, you’re ready to give it all up. It takes a great deal of energy. Also, I can appreciate the financial challenges of original content media. I don’t think people realize the effort it takes or the support it needs.

From a content perspective, the biggest challenge is living so far from Washington, DC, where much of the open gov & Gov 2.0 chatter is centralized. The challenge isn’t in finding content, but more in connecting with people you’ve never met face-to-face, which is still integral in getting the word out about what you’re doing. Even with the Web 2.0 crowd, there’s still very much a 1.0 mindset when it comes to letting outsiders in. The latter is changing. More people are learning about GovFresh and get behind what we’re doing. When I get a random email that says “I’m GovFresh, too!” or “I’m a big fan of GovFresh” and want to help, it re-enforces you’re doing something right.

What do you see as the primary value that GovFresh delivers?
I ask everyone this, because it’s important for me to understand the value to better build on its success. Most people will say, “I know this is cliche, but you bring a fresh perspective to government.” Even though we’re not a social network, I get lot of feedback on the sense of community it brings to the open gov, Gov 2.0 world and the way government is covered. GovFresh also offers public servants and citizens a place to share their ideas in an open way. One great example is what Gov 2.0 prodigy Dustin Haisler is doing at Manor.Govfresh.com, where he’s sharing the City of Manor’s innovation processes. Idealistically speaking, I hope the value is that it inspires public servants to push for a fresh approach to doing their jobs. For citizens, I hope it makes them want to engage in a more creative, collaborative way with their government.

You just launched MilFresh – where do you see that site going, and why launch it as a separate site rather than just as a part of GovFresh?
MilFresh is ‘GovFresh for the military’ and focuses on Gov 2.0 in the military, or ‘Military 2.0.’ I think the dynamics and culture of social media and the military are different than government. They’re different communities. It just felt appropriate to separate the brands and content. There’s still a lot to learn around what’s happening with Mil 2.0, but MilFresh has forced me to be more disciplined in the way I follow it.

It’s January 1, 2011 – in an ideal world, where is GovFresh?  Where do you see it going over the next year?
We’re working with more people on guest-blogging and creating serial content, whether it’s from in-the-trenches public servants to government solution providers to citizens with great ideas. I enjoy the GovFreshTV interviews and we’ll expand on that. We’re in the process of creating an event series focused on local open government/Gov 2.0 initiatives too. Frankly, though, much of the direction has been inspired by others. If you asked me six months ago to outline where GovFresh would be today and how it would transpire, I would have been completely off the mark. By January 2011, I hope government and citizens realize there’s a place for them to engage on a new way of working together, and I hope GovFresh plays a big role in that.

What’s the one thing that you’d like the people of the Gov 2.0 community to know about GovFresh?
You can get involved. Whether you guest-blog, send an idea, connect us with someone doing great work or become a business partner, GovFresh is just as much yours as it is mine.  Just send me an email at luke (at) govfresh (dot) com.

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