Disruptive Diplomacy

This post was originally published by Portland as part of a series of articles on digital diplomacy and the G8.  

Diplomacy, and how we define diplomacy, is changing. No longer is it just an art for the elite or people with titles.  It is becoming a social craft that requires mastery of social technologies and a knack for relationship building.  It has begun to empower people at all levels of government to engage more directly with the public.  This empowerment is not only changing the conversations we are having with the public, but also providing us with more opportunities for public/private partnerships, informal collaboration with the public, and the ability to reach more people in places that previously were not accessible.

Most governments aren’t prepared for the changes that technology and the world are thrusting upon them.  Most consider these changes disruptive and uncomfortable.  Many prefer to ignore their existence or think they can smother them if they sense they are encroaching on their borders.  Change is difficult for everyone.  Change forces all of us to look in the mirror and contemplate who we are, what is our value, and how we may need to change for success in this new world.  This is not an easy journey for us individually, let alone for governments.  But we have no choice.  We are being forced to adapt.

One of the greatest challenges we all face as we evolve into more social organisations, is how do we prepare to become more social?  Social and government haven’t usually co-existed well in a formal sense nor are they normally considered to be easy partners.  But since there is no choice, how do we manage these changes? How do we ensure success? In an age where all of us are increasingly budget conscious, how do we scale activities and training for employees in a way that is cost-effective and valuable?

We may intellectually understand the changes these social technologies herald.  We may be able to master the tools to make us successful.  But real success comes from embracing the ideas of how to be social.  How do we have an official conversation?  How do we provide opportunities for collaboration?  How do we build trust with the public?  How can we be more transparent in our dealings with the public?

It will require our employees to embrace new ways of thinking.  This culture change comes from strong leadership, realistic policies, flexible processes, creation of an innovative environment, and extensive training.  While formal approaches to cultural change are important, it is even more important to recognise the employees on the front lines of our organisations.  They are the practitioners of social technologies. Chances are they had been experimenting with these technologies long before you thought about writing a social media use policy.  These are our pioneers and future leaders.  It is important that we support and incubate these employees. It is no longer a choice about whether we should to make these investments in our people.  We must do so.  They are the lifeblood and our future.

In 2012, a small grassroots meetup group called the Digital Diplomacy Coalition (DDC) started in Washington, DC.  The premise was to explore and share how we are using social technologies for our various diplomatic missions.  It is free for people to participate and most events occur after hours.  What started as a meetup group has grown to be a fully-fledged community of over 700 members.  We meet to share best practices and talk about issues unique to governments who share the diplomacy mission.

With the celebration of our one year anniversary, the DDC has started to expand to other world capitals.  We will be developing DDC chapters where there are people who are willing to commit to helping each other learn and be more effective with social technologies.  For us, this is an exciting development.  It provides the opportunity for more people and governments to get involved and start collaborating more with each other on social technologies.  It raises the level of social expertise for all participating governments.  This participation does not just provide governments with the ability to be more successful in providing information, services, and opportunities for collaboration with the public, but it begins to build new relationships and communications channels between governments.  It is the creation of a truly global diplomacy community.

There are significant opportunities available to all governments who can embrace social technologies.  But that success will be directly related to having the right people in place who understand the technologies, knowing how to build relationships with people, and understanding the diplomacy mission.  The DDC is just one option for how a government might start to build social capacity.  We are truly on the cusp of changing how governments work, how they engage with their citizens, and the impact they can have globally.

Lovisa Williams serves on the Leadership Team of the Digital Diplomacy Coalition in Washington, DC. She is also the Senior Policy Advisor for Emerging Technologies at the US Department of State.

Posted in Digital Diplomacy, Government, Innovation, International, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Digital Diplomacy Open House

The Digital Diplomacy Coalition (DDC) is excited to announce we will be hosting the first Digital Diplomacy Open House and reception.  This event is part of Social Media Week DC.  This open house will bring together fourteen different embassies and international organizations from around Washington, DC to show how they are connecting with citizens and leveraging social media to engage the public.  The event will take place on February 21, 2013 at 4:30pm.  Although this event is currently sold out, I would encourage you to sign up for the Wait List.

This event will be set up exhibit hall style with a booth for each embassy or international organization.  Each booth will showcase a different approach to Digital Diplomacy.  You will be able to meet and talk to the Community Managers behind the online accounts, obtain firsthand knowledge of what running an embassy social media account is like, and learn how each country is thinking about how to engage the public.  This is a unique opportunity to not only meet the people behind these accounts, but also to compare and contrast the evolution of social government globally. DDC_logo

In addition to meeting the Community Managers, you will also have the opportunity to do a deep dive into a specific campaign, program, or other initiative with our “Lightning Talks”.  A Lightning Talk is a short ten minute presentation followed by a five minute question and answer session.  These Lightning Talks will be going on throughout the Open House.  The schedule for the Lightning Talks is as follows:

  • 16:30 – U.S. Department of State, Office of EDiplomacy
  • 16:45 – Embassy of the Republic of Poland
  • 17:00 – British Council
  • 17:15 – Embassy of Greece
  • 17:30Welcome & Opening Remarks – Levick and Amb. Vale de Almeida
  • 17:45 – Embassy of Israel
  • 18:00 – Embassy of Italy
  • 18:15 – Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • 18:30 – Embassy of Sweden
  • 18:45 – British Embassy
  • 19:00 – Embassy of Peru

Be sure not to miss out on hearing Ambassador Vale de Almeida, from the Delegation of the European Union to the United States, provide opening remarks and showcase the new EU Delegation website.

Of course none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for our generous sponsors Chief, Levick Strategic Communications and the Delegation of the European Union to the United States.  We appreciate their donation of the space for our event (we actually had more embassies wanting to present than we have room for!), for all the marketing, for the reception and for supporting the Digital Diplomacy Coalition’s desire to connect more social media users in the diplomatic community.

Are you looking for your official invitation?  Here it is!

If you are interested in getting involved with the Digital Diplomacy Coalition (DDC) or attending one of our future events I encourage you to follow us @digidiplomats and sign up for our email list.  The DDC is a grassroots volunteer organization dedicated to connecting social media professionals in the diplomatic community.

Posted in Global Citizenship, Government, International, Public Diplomacy, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Leadership Choice

I am not much of a creative writer, but please be patient with my attempt at storytelling.

There once was a great and powerful king who was known for being a kind and just king.  He owned a vast kingdom that stretched further than the eye could see.  It included mountains, rivers, forests, beaches, meadows, towns, large cities and was filled with citizens who loved their king and their kingdom.  People would come to this king’s court from far and wide to seek his advice on how to manage a kingdom and inspire such happy people.  The king was generous with his time and made sure each person he received felt they had his undivided attention.

One day, a stranger from a foreign land came to the court.  He requested an audience with the king. The stranger was lead into a grand hall mirrored the wealth of the land and it was filled with light from every corner.  There seemed to be no place for darkness to hide in this great hall.  The stranger approached the king and bows before him.  The king proceeds to welcome him and asks the stranger about the purpose of his audience.  The stranger replies, “Dear King, I have heard stories of your greatness.  Your wisdom, generosity, your political acumen, your mastery of diplomacy, and how you have built this amazing country.  I see these stories do not exaggerate.  I see with my own eyes these things are true.  But today I come before you to ask you how you are able to grow the most amazing apples I have ever tasted.  I have come to learn the secret of these amazing apples”.

Photo courtesy of the film King Arthur (Buena Vista Pictures 2004)

Well, the king found that for the first time he did not have an answer.  The king was very perplexed.  Many people from far and wide had come to hear his wisdom and to learn from him.  But none had ever asked a question like this before.  How could this be?  He is the most powerful person in his kingdom.  He has ridden through all parts of the kingdom.  He can name all the products they export to other lands, he can tell you stories about brokering deals with other nations, about finding ways to provide for his people, and yet he didn’t seem to know the answer to this simple question.

After much thought and a silence that seemed to last forever the king finally replied.  He told the stranger that he did not know the answer, but if the stranger would come back in two days he would be able to provide him with the answer.

On the third day, the stranger came back to court to obtain the answer to his question.  When he arrived everything looked the same in the grand hall except near the king were a number of people who had not been there the last time the stranger appeared in front of the king.  After the exchange of formal greetings the king told the stranger, “I thought a lot about your question and realized I cannot answer your question.  Since I cannot answer your question I have brought you all the people who are experts in producing our apples for you to hear how they have created our apples”.  And with that each expert in turn talked about his area of expertise and how it was part of the larger process for creating these apples.  The stranger heard from  a botanist who were interested in how apple trees reproduce and how to create hybrids that would produce the right fruit with the least amount of effort.  He heard from a pedologist and a agronomist about how they cultivate the soil and ensure it properly prepared for the apple trees.  He heard from the farmers who have been growing this fruit, pruning the trees, and selling them at the market.  All of these discussions were fascinating to the stranger and proved to be very informative too.  The discussions lasted all day.

As the day was coming to a close, the king asked the stranger if he had received the answer he wanted.  The stranger replied, “Oh mighty king, you are indeed wise and knowledgeable.  You have shown me the richness of your kingdom and have provided me with more information on my question than I could possibly imagine.  Through my discussions with your experts I have learned how you have succeed in cultivating your amazing apples.  I hope to take this knowledge and teach my countrymen to do similar things with their fruit crops.”  And with some additional parting words the stranger left the king and his kingdom full of joy about all he had learned.  He was also excited and had a renewed faith in himself and his people to be able to apply what he had learned to his fruit crops.

After the stranger had departed, the king sat in silence for a long time contemplating the turn of events and found he was pleased that he was able to help the stranger.  He also began to wonder if it was a sign of weakness or perhaps bad leadership that he had not known the answer to the question the stranger had.  He wracked his brain trying to see what other alternatives there were, but found he could not think of any.

Over the next couple of days the king found himself lost in thought trying to figure out if it was his responsibility to know about his kingdom’s apples.  This was starting to eat away at the king as he wondered how people would perceive him if they knew he did not know how the kingdom’s apples were created.  Finally, after days of torturing himself he went to see his old mentor.

The king’s mentor was a very old man who was half blind.  No one was really sure how old he was, since none could remember a time when he was not there or was not old.  That being said it was a well known fact that this old man knew the entire history of the kingdom and was wise in the ways of the world that no one else seemed capable of matching.  For these reasons alone he held a place of honor in the royal household.

Photo courtesy of t3mujin

The king arrived, sans entourage, to talk to his mentor.  After listening intently to the king’s tale about the stranger and his self doubts, the mentor posed a question to the king, “Wouldn’t you agree that the world is indeed vast and it is impossible to know all there is know about the world?”  “Yes” the king responded, “I know it is impossible for any mortal to know everything about the world.”  “If this is true, then isn’t it also true that a wise man will always find the wisest person to address the issue at hand?” the mentor queried.  The king had not thought of it this way before.

As he reflected on what his mentor was saying he realized how right he was.  He realized he did not have to know everything about his kingdom, but he did need to know who all of his experts were so that when they were needed the king’s assistants would know who to call.  The king also realized how lucky he was to have such amazing professionals who are talented and have spent their careers honing their skills and their craft.  It was then that the king started looking at his people in a new way.  He realized that the kingdom wasn’t just a name or his name and face, but it was about the people that lived there and who helped make the kingdom was it is today.  With their skills and expertise and with the leadership of the king the kingdom had grown and prospered.  Without the work of all these people the kingdom would not be the same place it is today.  The king also realized that part of the reason why people knew him as a wise and generous king had a lot to do with not only his accomplishments, but perhaps even more so the accomplishments of his people.  The king made a promise to himself to find all of those people in his kingdom who have a certain expertise.  He wanted to ensure that he cultivated these talents and helped share them since not only would he be seen as wise king for doing so, but these experts may learn something from these discussions that could help the kingdom continue to be a prosperous place.

In a social media age, the people who work for you are your greatest asset.  You carefully hire them, invest in training them, and rely on them to do their part in contributing to the success of the organization.  These people are not just the people who get a paycheck from you, but are also a reflection of you, your organization, and your brand.  They are the brand’s essence.  They are your brand ambassadors.  People have always been asking them about their job and about your organization, but now these conversations can occur in a more public forum allowing for employees comments to impact how your organization is perceived.  You may not be able to control social, but you can help cultivate employees to be better at fielding questions about the organization, your products, services, and generally what type of culture you have.  By leveraging these brand ambassadors, you help shape your public image and this can result in greater public awareness.  Some of this awareness may also result in more transactions, although this will be harder to track.

So instead of putting the fear of God into your employees for using social or saying they have no rights to social media accounts in their personal capacity, empower and train them to say the right things.  Encourage them to conduct outreach on your behalf, speak at both formal and informal events, talk about their work and experiences with your organization.  There may be a few issues that may be problematic, but those should be handled just like any other management issue.  For the most part, I think you will find people will be responsible.

You do have a choice.  You can be the king who recognized the value of empowering his people or you can be the organization that is ruled by an iron fist.  You may think this will work, but people will find a way to express themselves and by that point they will be beyond listening to you.  Recognize there is no controlling social or people’s use of social.  The best approach is embrace it and stay engaged with your employees use of these new engagement tools.  The choice is yours.


Posted in Government, Lovisa A. Williams, Open Leaders, Organizational Transformation, People | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tips for Government Transparency

People often ask me how to make government more transparent?  What steps can I take?  Here is my advice.

  • Allow your employees at all levels to tell the story of your government and of their specific agency.  Middle level employees are becoming more credible than your senior executives in the eyes of the public.  Not only does this form of outreach function as free publicity about your organization, but it allows these individuals to tell the story of the organization from their perspective.

    Image courtesy of Alan Cleaver

  • Develop processes that ask the question: How can we be more transparent in this situation?  Sometimes the answer will be easy, sometimes it won’t.  But, it is better to make decisions based off of a logical assessment of a situation instead of an emotional response.
  • Ensure your Community Managers are trained on how to engage people in conversation with the objective of creating trust relationships.
  • Council Community Managers and train first line managers in transparency in how we manage our online communities.  Ensure this ideal is reflected in all decision making regarding the taking down of content, banning of community members, etc.
  • Write transparency based performance metrics into all social media strategies
  • Recognize personnel who excel or meet all of their transparency metrics through an award or bonus system.

There are probably a number of other options, but these are items I have been actively championing in my agency.  Since I started working on these issues over 5 years ago, they have started to take root, but we still have a ways to go.

If you are interested in more information on my thoughts about transparency, check out my previous post on the topic.

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Transparency Challenge

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about transparency.  Mostly in the context of how do governments view and implement transparency in what they do.  Some people associate the concept of transparency as being part of a big data movement i.e. providing public access to the data governments collect or as just another paperwork requirement included in the Open Government Directive.  But for me it is much bigger than this.

I think about transparency as something we should be thinking about in everything we do as governments.  The way to make anything big attainable is by taking baby steps.  This isn’t just a paperwork drill or a way to spend time and money re-formatting data to make it accessible by the public.  This is really about culture change.  It is about changing how we think about the work governments do and the processes we use to achieve the large variety of missions governments cover.

Being transparent about what we do and how we do business is not easy.  This is true for all businesses, not just governments.  This is a difficult mindset to embrace, but embrace it we must.  It requires us to have people within our organization at all levels who are willing to accept this challenge and remind those around us why we need to move in this direction.


Image courtesy of Dey

There will be times when we stumble and fall back to the comfort zone to the way we have done business in the past and yet with concerted effort there will also be gains and successes.  This is a big challenge and like all good challenges worth fighting for, this one is far from easy.  This quest of ours will take us on our longest and darkest journey into the very depths and soul of our organization.  It will challenge us to think differently, ask us to be more creative, and to challenge the status quo.  There will be people who will whisper about the advantages of the old ways and how those methods produced measurable results.  This is a seductive mantra.  Many weak people will fall for this mantra and try to use it to gain power and influence.

Yes, I know.  This all sounds good, but I know you are more interested in how do you make transparency a reality in government.  As I said before, it is about baby steps.  Culture change or any kind of change to an organization doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes a lot of time and hard work to achieve, but it is possible.

One of the ways I talk about transparency at my agency is in how we manage online communities.  This means I need well trained Community Managers who understand the nuances of how government works and the cultural aspects of the community they are running.  What I challenge my Community Managers to think about is how do they articulate to their respective communities what we as a agency and a government are doing for the local population.  Sometimes this comes in the form of finding new and creative ways to discuss our policies and how we are working with that host country government on behalf of all citizens.  But more often than not, it comes from listening to our communities, understanding what they want, responding to those needs, and most importantly showing them how we are responding to them.  The “how” is the transparency part of things.  The bottom line is we are building trust relationships and all relationships have to have an element of transparency in order to be successful.

Another way our Community Managers are asked to demonstrate transparency is by how we manage the community.  By this I mean, how we enforce the rules of our communities in a transparent way.  Our Community Managers are not allowed to just take down content or ban a community member with no explanation.  They must cite violation of one of our rules of the community and must show they made an attempt to resolve the issue with the community member.  Where possible, we try to let the community self correct, let the community member who violated one of the rules resolve the issue, or as a last resort we remove the content/ban the person.  We ask the Community Managers to be transparent about what is going on with the situation as needed with respect to transparency.  Obviously, there are some situations where it would be difficult to follow these rules, but where possible we ask our people to do so.

As consumers we are constantly asked for our opinions and ideas.  Sometimes these come in the form of surveys, but more recently have been coming through contests and challenges.  When we are inspired to provide information, ideas, or opinions, we take these things personally.  After all, we are taking valuable time to respond.  Humans generally want to be helpful to others and we are flattered that people want to know what we think.  The problem is everyone wants to know what we think, but we never know what happens to our ideas or opinions.  We don’t know if what we provided made any kind of difference.

This is where the idea of transparency can come into play.  What if we told people what we do with their ideas and opinions?  What if we told people how their ideas have generated new programs, better information sheets, or process flows?  Better yet, what if we acknowledged and thanked people for their input?  If we talk about how we implemented their ideas and suggestions, show them how their input has made a difference, and how we are using their feedback we are being more transparent about how we use the information we collect from the public.  This is what I call the “Transparent Feedback Loop”.  It’s not just about collecting ideas, but most importantly telling the community what happened after we collected the information and how what they gave us is changing how we do business.

This isn’t just an idea, it is something I am working on practicing every day in my agency.  We have had some successes and from those have grown our largest and most successful communities in terms of level of engagement.  We are not perfect, but continue to strive to make this a standard way of doing business and a part of our culture.

The threat people, especially governments, fear about transparency is the lack of control and power.  What they fail to understand is that power now comes from sharing information and working in a collaborative way with your partners and your customers or citizens in this case.  But this need for control and concentrated power is not an easy to ignore.  Governments and large companies have always seen themselves as the leader of conversations and the entities who know what is best for people – what they want, how they want things, and how best to provide what they want to them.

In times of crisis, where fear is rampant, people tend to lean on their traditional Public Affairs/Public Relations staff for guidance and advice.  It is where the first rule has always been “control the message”.  I don’t blame my colleagues for this approach.  After all, it is difficult to stand up day after day to the questions from the press, media, and general public about what we are doing and how.  This approach is also time tested and has been shown to produce results.  It is easy to understand where in a time of crisis you might rely on this approach, but what if instead of trying to “control the message” we actually talked about what is really going on?  Granted not all situations are equal and governments cover a wide spectrum of crises.  Everything from reputational crises to those of humanitarian, war, and natural disasters.  But what if instead of just issuing the standard press releases, holding a press conference, and blasting social media channels, we actively seek to engage the public on the topic and hold an open discussion?

This would mean not classifying information that isn’t classified or marking something as sensitive when it isn’t.  It also means proactively having Community Managers actively engage people on the topic at hand.  It also means allowing ourselves to be questioned either by our communities, the Press, or the public through FOIA requests.  If we are going to be a government and a group of people that people trust, then we have to be transparent about our motives.

The hope here is that by being more transparent about what we do with information and how we make it actionable then we will continue to build trust with the public and nurture the relationships we are building.  Yes, this is a gamble, but we can’t hope to continue to do business as usual and get different results.  We have to try new things, if we want to continue to grow and be relevant.  If we don’t take risks and try new things, our fate is sealed.  Ultimately, transparency and trust go hand in hand.  You cannot have one without the other.

For some additional practical tips on how to make transparency part of your organization see my post titled Tips for Government Transparency.

Posted in Community Management, Government, Lovisa A. Williams, Organizational Transformation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Twitter Cliff Notes

As easy as Twitter is to use when it comes to tweeting for the Government there are a lot of things you need to know.  One of the big obstacles we run into is our senior management doesn’t always understand how Twitter works or what real engagement is.  They, like I assume many commerical managers, are looking for fast results.  I think there is a perception that if it is so easy to tweet then you should be able to build a community quickly and have big numbers.  Of course we know communities don’t happen over night.  We also know that if you are doing real engagement, the size of your community is less important.  In fact, having too big of a community can be detrimental to your end goals.

To help our managers and other people get started with Twitter, I developed what I call Twitter Cliff Notes.  This is meant to give someone who may or may not be using Twitter a better understanding of what the tool is and how it works.  And perhaps most importantly it talks about how we expect employees to act on Twitter.

1.       Introduction

  •      Twitter is at tool meant to be used for real time engagement with the public.  Twitter is an ongoing live conversation.
  •      Twitter is considered to be an advanced social media tool because there is no room for error.  Once you tweet it there is no going back. 
  •      Public engagement should only be conducted by trained professionals.  You should not tweet about something you are not an expert in.  An example would be if you are not a consular officer do not talk about the visa or passport process.  Direct those people to the appropriate subject matter expert.
  •     Twitter is a live community of humans and reacts the same way as people do when engaging with them in real life.  You should focus on developing a “human voice” or persona for your community.  This means no generic tweets or “ever green” tweets!  Mass messages across all Department accounts are also considered to be an inappropriate use of Twitter.
  •      All social media communities should be governed by the ideals laid out in the Open Government Directive for providing a community that is transparent, provides opportunities for people to collaborate with us and participate in the development of foreign policy.
  •       Before using any new social media tools for official State Department purposes, it is important that you are familiar with State Department Policy on Social Media: 5 FAM 790. You should also review the Managing Your Social Media field guide.  This guide is very important to helping you plan, create, and execute a successful social media campaign.

2.       Personal vs. Professional Self:

  •        You must have permission to tweet in your professional capacity.  Permission is granted by the head American officer in the section or the Office Director for domestic offices.
  •        If you are tweeting in your professional capacity, you must disclose the account as being an official Department of State account. 
  •        If you are tweeting on someone’s behalf, you must state who is on duty.  Transparency is critical to building trust with your community.
  •       When tweeting in your personal capacity you should not talk specifically about your job.  See 3 FAM 4170 for additional information.

3.       Getting Started:

  •        Conduct Community Analysis to determine who you are engaging with, why and on what technology platform they use.  Validate Twitter is the appropriate tool to use.
    •      Experiment with the tools
    •      Develop a Business Case
    •      Map to Strategic & Policy Goals
    •      Understand the Policies and Legal ramifications of engaging online.
    •       Develop metrics.
    •       Develop an Engagement Strategy i.e. how you are going to manage your community.
  •        Content should be timely and relevant to your intended community.  90% of the time you should be providing information and value to your community.  The remaining 10% can be devoted to promoting your organization, products, services and events.

4.       Managing Expectations:

  •       Communities do not grow overnight.  With care and feeding you should have a successful community within a year.
  •       People have the expectation you are there to engage with them; lack of engagement = no community.
  •      Prepare to commit the resources required to maintain your presence.  It will take up to 1 full time person to manage your Twitter account.
  •       It is not appropriate to have an intern tweet on behalf of the Department of State or the USG.
  •         There are no accurate metric and reporting tools available.  All are flawed.
  •       The number of followers you have does not determine the success of a community.  Success is based on level and quality of engagement. 

5.       Twitter Resources:

The resources below are provided to give you additional information on how to use Twitter and set up your accounts.  All resources listed can be found on the Social Media Hub.

  •         Twitter Field Guide
  •         Hootsuite Field Guide
  •         Managing Social Media Field Guide
  •          Community Manager Program
  •        Ask the Experts Webinar Program
  •         Email us at OIESupport@State.gov for additional questions
  •        Formal training on social media is provided by FSI in the PY 360 and PY 363 classes.

I removed the hyperlinks to some internal resources we have to support the use of Twitter and social media at the Department of State.  I know you would all think I provided broken links other wise!  One of my current projects is working with GSA and the Sub Council for Social Media on how to better share these internal resources with the rest of the U.S. Government.  Yes, that would include all levels of government – state, local and Federal.  More information should be forthcoming on this project over the next couple of months.

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Choose Your Own Adventure

When I think about SXSW, I think about how many different ways there are to experience what SXSW has to offer.  I don’t think one way is better than another, they are different paths for achieving different objectives.  Some come on the traditional conference track of trying to cram as many sessions into their schedule as humanly possible.  Others come strictly for the networking while I think a majority of people tend to do some kind of hybrid.  There are those super human people who some how manage to attend a fair number of sessions and still manage to continue to build their networks.  This is why SXSW reminds me of those choose your own adventure style books.  There are lots of choices and lots of differenet endings.  There is no one correct way to participate.  Everyone I know comes back with positive experiences.

A big part of going to SXSW is the sessions.  Sometimes we go to sessions because we are interested in the topic, sometimes our friends drag us, and sometimes we go to support people’s work we admire and respect.  There are plenty of sessions to choose from depending on your interest and what type of attention span you have.  But in order for people to become part of the official agenda, SXSW asks the community to vote on the sessions they are most interested in.  This is your opportunity to tell all of us what issues are most on your mind.  It helps all us provide choices for all the people who attend SXSW to ensure we all have grand adventures in Austin.

This year I have submmited a session titled, “After the Honeymoon: Are You Still in Love?”.  This panel session will include Erik Boles, Venson Kuchipudi  and myself.  Brett Petersel will be moderating this session.  The focus of this session to talk about what do you do after you have been running your social media program for a year.  There have been plenty of discussions on how to get started using social media, how to achieve senior management buy in, how to start a community, how to select a tool and more.  What we haven’t seen as much discussion on is, what do you do after you have taken everyone’s advice?  What happens when your community starts to go stale or perhaps your management still isn’t convinced you are achieving the results they thought you promised?  These can be scary things to have to think about.  Like most people I assume you thought once you got started the hard work would be over.  Yes, this is partly true, but as with anything new challenges always surface.  And in year two and beyond those challenges are very different from the ones you tackled when you first started talking about social media.

At this session we will provide practical advice based on our respective experiences in commerical companies, startups, and across a number of industries including the Federal Government.  You will walk away with:

  • Better understanding of how social media should fit in to your organization,
  • Knowledge of the role innovation plays,
  • How to resource your social media efforts,
  • Importance of customized content, and
  • How to evaluate your work

Do you think that will cover all of the challenges you are facing?  Have we forgotten anything?  Please help us out by voting for us and add your comments to our panel submission.  We really do want to make sure that if you attend our session it will be a highlight of your adventures at SXSW.

This is your chance to determine what adventures will be available for people to choose from when they get to SXSW.  Don’t be shy -we can’t see who voted for us nor do we know how many votes we receive.  What we do know is that without your vote we won’t have a chance to help you take your social media programs to the next level.

Voting for the panel sessions will remain open until September 2, 2011.  Don’t forget to share some of your voting love, by taking a moment to look at some of the other sessions being proposed.  Thanks for your vote and support.

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How Many Community Managers Does it Take?

I have been asked to start contributing my ideas and thoughts about Community Management to The Community Manager.  This is a great resource for people who are just starting a position as a Community Manager and also for those more seasoned vets.  If you are interested in connecting with other Community Managers and learning from some of the most best I would encourage you to check out their site.  My first post went live today.  I’d love to hear what you think.  Please add your comments either here or on The Community Manager site.

Posted in Community Management, Government, Organizational Transformation, People, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disruptive Changes

I talk a lot about how technology, like social media is a disruptive force in our lives.  It makes us change how we think, asks us to look at life and ourselves differently, and it also asks us to change our behavior.  These changes are not easy for any of us.

In October 2010, my bureau starting going through an in depth self evaluation to review what we are doing, how we are doing it, and if we need to change how we do business.  The conclusion was that we do need to change and evolve as an organization into something that will better support our embassies and consulates around the world.  These changes are actively being implemented.  One of the factors taken into consideration was the budget cuts we have taken and are preparing to take in the coming fiscal year.  Many changes have already been implemented and we understand more are forth coming.

The current round of changes has asked my office, the Office of Innovative Engagement (OIE), to reduce it’s staff and make significant changes to the scope of our work.  As part of the reduction in staff and due to the senior leadership within my bureau’s recognition of my policy work, my position has been re-located to another part of the bureau.  As of June 27, 2011, I will no longer serving the Office of Innovative Engagement as their Deputy Director.  I am being re-located to serve on the Department’s Internet Steering Committee.  This committee has oversight and policy making authority for all technologies associated with the Internet to include social media and other emerging technologies.  It is still not clear what the full scope of my duties will be in my new position.  I assume it will evolve based on the needs of my bureau, the Department and most importantly on the needs of our embassies and consulates.

As much as I understand change, talk to people about change, it is still hard when it happens to you.  But with change comes future growth, new challenges, and new opportunities.  All of which are exciting thoughts for the future.  As much as leaving is hard, I move forward knowing that I helped start a very special and unique office; built the foundation for social media and emerging technology at the Department of State; sparked the imagination of many people and helped make them successful; and I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work with a wonderful team of practitioners and strategists.  I wish OIE much future success as they start down their path towards continuing to stretch the Department’s imagination about what diplomacy and public diplomacy is and how it can best be accomplished.

Posted in Government, Lovisa A. Williams, Open Leaders, Public Diplomacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Open Gov West 2011

Last week I was in Portland, OR for the first time.  I flew out there to participate in Open Gov West 2011 organized by Sarah Schacht and the Knowledge As Power team.  I was going to participate in a panel and meet some of the people in the western part of our country who are doing amazing things in the Open Government space. 

I have been to a number of events, conferences and “unconferences” to the point where I am skeptical about how much value they will have for me.  I am not normally pessimistic, but so often I have found the conversations lacking at best.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a very thoughtful group of interesting people at all levels of government.  All were passionate and working hard from their respective companies/governments to make government more open and to allow citizens to participate in a more meaningful way.  This was not your introduction to Open Government or social media.  These are the people who are toiling day in and out to make Open Government a reality. There were lots of great conversations being had at Open Gov West.  If you would like to see some of what was being talked about check out their hash tag #ogw11.  Perhaps one of the things I was most thrilled to hear was people recognizing that that hardest part about working on Open Government or Gov 2.0 is not the technologies, but getting the people on board and changing the government culture.

One of the most interesting people I met was Elizabeth Topp from shiftalliance.  She specializes in understanding the people and cultural sides of things.  She was on a panel talking about how to change the culture of governments.  It was a wonderful conversation and not the kind I get to have every day!  Two of the keynotes were Alan Rosenblatt from the Center for American Progress  and Tiago Peixoto from the World Bank.

Collaborating with Tiago Peixoto and Alan Rosenblatt

Both people I had either met and/or known of, but hadn’t had a chance to sit down and talk in depth to.  Open Gov West gave me those opportunities.  I was rewarded with interesting conversations that have helped me grow and I hope I have provided equal value by explaining how the Department of State is using social media to engage people around the world.

The panel I participated on was moderated by Julie Germany.  The topic was “Growing the Open Government Community”.  The other panelists were, Karen Fung and Chach Sikes.  The conversation focused on both formal and informal ways of building communities.  Some of the takeaways were the need to know who your audience is and tailor your community to their needs.  An example would be if you are trying to get stay at home mothers to be involved recognize they might not have time except in the evenings or they may be able to do something during the day if you provide some kind of child care.  This may sound simple, but it is amazing how often people forget or don’t take time to understand who their audience is.  If you don’t make participating in your community easy then people won’t do it.  Another takeaway is government needs collaborators outside of government.  Find and convince your local government workers to get involved.  The overall message is, Government cannot solve it’s problems alone.  It needs lots of collaborators both in the formal and informal sense.

The other thing I loved seeing was the continuation of the conversations we had at Gov20LA.  This was done through a number of people participating in Open Gov West who have also participated in Gov20LA such as Aaron McGowan, Michael Riedyk, Alicia D. Johnson and Julie Germany.  These connections between events in the form of people are critical to our collective success.  These are the things that help keep the conversations going and ensure we make progress.

Last but not least, I was happy to have the opportunity to see my friends from Adaptu and connect with them about the cool financial community the are running in Portland.  Check ’em out.

Overall, I had a great time at Open Gov West and encourage those of you who could not attend to think about getting involved and attending next year.

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