Tag Archives: government

A Challenge to Government 2.0 Camp Attendees

April 7, 2009

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Last week’s post following the Government 2.0 Camp contained my thoughts about the event – what I loved and what I want to see next year. While that post was about looking back on the event, this post is about looking ahead and building on this year’s success. The success of next year’s event will depend primarily on what this year’s attendees do between now and then. If you attended this year’s Government 2.0 Camp, I challenge you to actually do something to realize the vision of Government 2.0 over the next year.

For those of you who attended Government 2.0 Camp, I want you to stop complaining about the policies or the skeptics or the lack of time that are stopping you from doing social media. Read the ClueTrain Manifesto, Wikinomics, Groundswell, and/or Now is Gone. Search Twitter for the tag #gov20 and start clicking through to people’s Twitter accounts and blog posts. Spend some time reading what people are saying about Government 2.0, and start participating in the conversations. Identify the biggest opponent to social media in your office and schedule regular meetings with them to discuss his/her rationale against social media. Become intimately familiar with your organization’s strategic plan and develop a briefing or write a white paper advocating why social media would help your organization.

Before next year’s Government 2.0 Camp, will you be able to say that you have:

  • Sought out social media skeptics and opponents in your organization and engaged them?
  • Increased your participation in Government 2.0-related online social networks, including GovLoop?
  • Attended more events sponsored by organizations like the Social Media Club DC, AFCEA and Government 2.0 Club to meet other like-minded individuals?
  • Developed a briefing, white paper, blog post, etc. that ties the need for social media to your organizational strategy?
  • Identified and met with someone from a another agency who has been successful using social media in their organization?

For next year’s Government 2.0 Camp to be successful, we have to commit to taking action NOW. One of the things that I’m actively focusing on right now is reaching out to the IT, security, and policy folks within my organization to open up the lines of communication. In the past, I had done everything I could to avoid these conversations, but now that social media has gained some momentum internally, I’ve found that I must address and include these stakeholders and their concerns if I want to take these initiatives to the next level.  A converted detractor often becomes your biggest champion.

Let’s continue the momentum that we gained and carry it with us throughout the year so that we can build on what we learned and accomplish even more next year.

Will you accept the challenge?

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Government 2.0 Camp – What I Loved and What I’d Like to See Next Year

April 1, 2009

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Inspirational. Fun. Chaotic. Stimulating. Profound. Surreal. Exhausted. Excited.

These are the words that I’ve used to describe the inaugural Government 2.0 Camp held this past weekend at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Georgetown. While an event of this magnitude and scope was sorely needed within the government, the planning of the event was decidedly anything but typical government.

If you were to tell your boss that you’d like to hold a two-day long meeting

Picture courtesy of Flickr User Vindictiveimmunity

Picture courtesy of Flickr User Vindictiveimmunity

for about 500 people (a mix of contractors and government employees) on a Friday AND a Saturday in downtown DC, in a school that does not have parking nor is metro-accessible, and oh, by the way, not craft any sort of agenda until the day of the meeting – what do you think his reaction would be?

That’s what I thought.

Yet that’s just what the members of the Government 2.0 Club did this past weekend in organizing the inaugural Government 2.0 Camp. I’m not going to recap the entire event – you can find that here.

But, what I am going to do is offer my take on the event – what I loved and what I’d like to see next year.

What I Loved

  • The Mindset of the attendees. Very few sales-y marketing types (that I came across). Most of the attendees were very much about cooperation, collaboration, and communication. I saw very senior government employees chatting it up with very junior consultants, employees from two different companies sharing time on a panel session, and groups of consultant/government folks hashing out a solution to a problem one of them was having. Best part of all was that it was being done without the typical political and cultural roadblocks of pay grades, political affiliation, company affiliation, etc. People were just happy to be discussing how social media is changing the way our government operates.
  • My Session 🙂 – “Get on the Government 2.0 Cluetrain or Get Hit by It.” Big thanks go to Mike Russell for having the initiative to coordinate this panel discussion for me. Based on my Government 2.0 Cluetrain post, the discussion centered on the fundamental principles of social media and the government. I really enjoyed talking with the other panelists and the 20-30 people in the room about how the theses from the original Cluetrain Manifesto that were so relevant to the private sector 10 years ago are still true today in the Government.
  • The organizers. Peter, Mark, Maxine, and Jeffrey were simply phenomenal to work with before, during, and now, after the event. From setting up the wiki to coordinating the budget to answering attendee questions, they created the platform for everyone to put on a successful event. I think it’s important to note that they didn’t just do it all themselves – they managed to get others involved and turn it into a real “crowdsourced” Camp where everyone played a role.
  • The sessions. The sessions from Day 1 and Day 2 were varied, timely, interesting, and effective. In each time slot, there were numerous sessions led by qualified individuals and I always had a tough time picking which one to go to. The organizers did a good job of consolidating similar sessions and spreading out similar topics. I particularly enjoyed the “Ask the White House” session with Macon
    Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin from the White House New Media Team

    Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin from the White House New Media Team

    Phillips and Bev Godwin from the White House New Media team. Macon and Bev answered questions and took suggestions both from the audience in the room and from Twitter. My favorite question was when someone told them that they needed to continue to push the envelope because the other agencies/departments took their lead from the White House. His answer – “Go! Do it! Don’t wait for the White House to solve your problems. Learn, evangelize, and implement yourselves.”

  • The location. I know that we all whined and complained upon finding out that the Duke Ellington School for the Arts wasn’t metro-accessible and it had very limited parking. In spite of the logistical challenges, we all made it just fine and I don’t know of too many people who chose not to attend because of it. Additionally, the academic environment – the desks, the blackboards, the theater stage – set up a real atmosphere of learning and sharing.

What I’d Like to See Next Year

  • The wiki. I loved the fact that the organizers used a wiki to transparently track everything leading up to the conference, including attendees, sponsors, and even finances. However, for next year, I’d like to see an actual minimalistic website with all of the significant static details with a link to the wiki. While I had no issue with navigating the wiki, some of my colleagues struggled to understand the whole concept of the Government 2.0 Camp when I sent them the link to the wiki. I can imagine that others may have had some trouble getting approval to attend because of this as well.
  • Better live-blogging. We had hoped to capture all of the sessions’ notes via live-blogs on the Government 2.0 Club website, but participation was sporadic. Most of the session leaders did a good job of identifying a Twitter hashtag to track that sessions’ notes, but identifying a willing live-blogger for each session was hit and miss (mine included). Rather than relying on someone in each session to volunteer to live-blog, maybe we would do better to identify 10-12 roving bloggers prior to the session who volunteer to live-blog every session they attend. Not sure if that would work out any better or not, but it might be worth a try.
  • More skeptics. Most of the attendees at this year’s conference were either already social media evangelists or practitioners, or were interested in learning more. While I never felt that we were in an echo chamber, I think that all attendees would benefit if we had some panel discussions and presentations led by privacy experts or IT security experts – people who, by their very nature, have to take a very conservative approach to social media. I think it’s critical that we make a concerted effort to include those who sometimes make implementing social media difficult so that we can learn their concerns and how to address them.

Overall, I have nothing but good things to say about this inaugural Government 2.0 Camp – it was the first of what I hope to be many more gatherings of like-minded individuals focused on doing what’s best for our government. Collectively, we’re all at the start of something big here, and I can only hope that we realize the opportunities that lie before us now. What we’re doing now MATTERS. What we’re doing here at Government 2.0 Camp and every day in our offices, is making a DIFFERENCE. Let’s always remember that.

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Twenty Theses for Government 2.0, Cluetrain Style

February 15, 2009

130 Comments

I’ve fulfilled one of my social media resolutions for 2009, and have recently re-read the Cluetrain Manifesto.  As I mentioned in that post, I always feel so much better about the work that I do when I look at it through the lens of the 95 theses laid out in Cluetrain.  This is even more true now.  Ever since President Obama’s “Transparency and Open Government” memo was issued a few weeks ago, it seems that every one of our clients is asking about social media.  They all want to know how/if social media can help them become more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.  They all want to know what they need to do to comply with the new Administration’s goals of transparency.  Inevitably, this increased interest has brought its fair share of social media carpetbaggers and alleged Government 2.0 gurus, but it has also done an incredible job of bringing together real-life Government employees with contractors and consultants for a common goal.

Just as the Cluetrain laid out 95 theses that described the new global conversation taking place via the Internet, here are 20 theses (I’m not nearly as ambitious as the Cluetrain authors) for carpetbaggers, gurus, civil servants, contractors, and anyone else interested in Government 2.0.  There are undoubtedly many many more that could be added to this list and I encourage you to add any that you think of in the comments.

  1. The risks of social media are greatly outweighed by the risks of NOT doing social media.
  2. Your Government agency/organization/group/branch/division is not unique.  You do not work in a place that just can’t just use social media because your data is too sensitive.  You do not work in an environment where social media will never work.  Your challenges, while unique to you, are not unique to the government.
  3. You will work with skeptics and other people who want to see social media fail because the transparency and authenticity will expose their weaknesses.
  4. You will work with people who want to get involved with social media for all the wrong reasons.  They will see it as an opportunity to advance their own their careers, to make more money, or to show off.  These people will be more dangerous to your efforts than the biggest skeptic.
  5. Younger employees are not necessarily any more knowledgeable about social media than older employees.  Stop assuming that they are.
  6. Before going out and hiring any social media “consultants,” assume that there is already someone within your organization who is actively using social media and who is very passionate about it.  Find them, use them, engage them.  These are the people who will make or break your foray into social media.
  7. Mistakes can and will be made (a lot).  Stop trying to create safeguards to eliminate the possibility of mistakes and instead concentrate on how to deal with them when they are made.
  8. Information security is a very real and valid concern.  Do NOT take this lightly.
  9. Policies are not written in stone.  With justification, passion, and knowledge, policies and rules can and should be changed.  Sometimes it’s as easy as asking, but other times will require a knockdown, drag-out fight.  Both are important.
  10. Be humble.  You don’t know everything so stop trying to pretend that you do.  It’s ok to be wrong.
  11. But, be confident.  Know what you know and don’t back down.  You will be challenged by skeptics and others who do not care and/or understand social media.  Do not let them discourage you.
  12. There are true social media champions throughout the government.  Find them.  Talk to them.  Learn from them.
  13. Government 2.0 is not a new concept.  It’s getting so much attention now because social media has given a voice to the ambitious, the innovative, and the creative people within the government.
  14. Social media is not about the technology but what the technology enables.
  15. Social media is not driven by the position, the title, or the department, it’s driven by the person.  Stop trying to pidgeon-hole into one team or department, and instead think of a way to bring together people from across your organization.
  16. Instead of marketing your social media capabilities, skills, experience, platforms, software, etc. to the government, why don’t you try talking with them?  An honest conversation will be remembered for far longer than a PowerPoint presentation.
  17. Today’s employees will probably spend five minutes during the workday talking to their friends on Facebook or watching the latest YouTube video.  Today’s employees will also probably spend an hour at 10:00 at night answering emails or responding to a work-related blog post.  Assume that your employees are good people who want to do the right thing and who take pride in their work.
  18. Agency Secretaries and Department Heads are big boys and girls.  They should be able to have direct conversations with their workforce without having to jump through hoops to do so.
  19. Transparency, participatory, collaborative – these terms do not refer only to the end state; they refer to the process used to get there as well.  It’s ok to have debates, arguments, and disagreements about the best way to go about achieving “Government 2.0.”  Diverse perspectives, opinions, and beliefs should be embraced and talked about openly.
  20. It’s not enough to just allow negative feedback on your blog or website, you also have to do something about it.  This might mean engaging in a conversation about why person X feels this way or (gasp!) making a change to an outdated policy.  Don’t just listen to what the public has to say, you have to also care about it too.

The technology that is currently driving social media will change, but the principles of participation, transparency, and collaboration will not.  You can either jump on the Government 2.0 cluetrain or get hit by it.  Which one will you be?

*thanks to Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger for inspiring this post with their book, the Cluetrain Manifesto.

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Social Media Isn’t Always the Answer

December 23, 2008

30 Comments

As one of Booz Allen’s social media leads, I’m thrilled to see more and more of my government clients starting to ask questions about social media and if/how it might help them.  I love logging into Twitter and seeing so many different conversations centered around Government 2.0.  I love thinking about the potential that social media has in fundamentally changing the way our government operates.  I also love telling my clients that they’re not ready for social media.

Let me explain.

I’ve seen Intellipedia, TSA’s Evolution of Security blog, DoDLive, the DoD’s Blogger’s Roundtable, FEMA’s YouTube channel, GovLoop, and many other examples of “Government 2.0.”  I’ve also seen plenty of failed blogs, dormant wikis, and other failed attempts at using social media.  The reasons for failed social media range from the obvious (ghostwriting a blog and not allowing comments) to the not so obvious (middle managers not allowing wiki contributions without first getting them approved).  However, these are simply symptoms of a larger issue at work.

Here’s the thing – unless your organization is ready for transparency and authenticity, and has instilled a culture of sharing, you’re going to have a lot of trouble successfully spreading social media.  This is where I often tell my clients to take a step back from the tools of social media and focus more on the processes of social media.  I compare this type of thinking to a football team that goes out and drafts really talented receivers, but stick them into an offense that’s focused on running the ball.  The receivers (social media) end up failing not necessarily because they’re bad, they end up failing because they were placed into an offense (the organizational culture) that wasn’t optimized for them.

You see, social media isn’t about the technology – it’s about what the technology enables.  And even if your organization is ready for the tools, it may very well not be ready for what those tools will bring.  Before diving into the world of social media, take a step back and see if your organizational culture and internal processes will support what social media will enable.

  1. Are employees discouraged from contacting people outside of their chain of command?
  2. Are employees discouraged from challenging authority?
  3. Is risk-taking rewarded or punished?
  4. Are employees rewarded for collaborating with other colleagues or for authoring/producing original work?
  5. Do your employees have regular access to the Intranet?
  6. Does your leadership value the feedback of employees?
  7. Are employees prohibited from speaking externally without prior permission?
  8. Is the contribution and sharing of intellectual capital part of the employees’ regular routine?
  9. What’s more valued, entrepreneurship or following orders?
  10. Do employees derive more value from networking with colleagues or from using the Intranet?

Asking these (and there are many more – this is just a sampling) questions will help your organization (offense) be prepared for what social media (receivers) will enable.

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