Catalysts for Change

For the past couple weeks I’ve been thinking about a comment Justin Herman made to me regarding his new colleagues.  The rough paraphrase was, “They are great people who are extremely knowledgeable, but they don’t seem to be on the circuit.”  This got me thinking about how the majority of people who work for or with the Government are the kind of dedicated workers who come in every day, work hard, are passionate about what they do, and don’t get much recognition for their efforts.  These are the people we may never know or names we may never hear about.  But this doesn’t mean their contributions are any less than people who are visibly active in the community.  They are just different.  But they all fight the same battles, have similar constraints and although some are more public than others, all of them are helping to build the foundation for the future.

They are the “Public Sector Ninjas and Rockstars“, the “Gov 2.0 Heros“, “Government 2.0 Voices” and more.  What all of them have in common is that they are all leaders in their own right.  They come in many different flavors and may all work in different parts of the organizations, but what makes people leaders, whether they are reluctant leaders or not, is they have courage.  The courage to be a “catalyst for change both outside and inside the organization” and courage to hold on to their beliefs in the face of adversity.  As we all know, trying to change how government works is not easy and is very much a labor of love.  Some days it feels like a Herculean task.  As my friend, Charlene Li, says,

“No matter how compelling a technology or potential relationship might be, in the face of an immovable mass called company culture, and without the right organization and leadership in place, any digital strategy will fail.”

This is a warning to all of us.  It reminds us that we need to value our leaders and recognize their contributions or as Steve Radick says, “…there are many other organizations searching high and low for people just this who are more than ready to show them the love.” We all need each other.  We need to support and encourage each other even if we do not agree with that person’s opinion or approach.

I encourage you to think, not so much about the people you know are helping to to transform government, but those you don’t know about.  Who are they?  How can you help them?  How can you help their ideas and solutions get communicated to the rest of the community and beyond?  We need many voices, ideas, and solutions if we intend to succeed.  There is no one solution or path for Government.  It requires hard work, dedication, passion, and a belief in a shared dream of a government that will provide “…increased efficiency, better management, information transparency, and citizen engagement”.

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17 Responses to Catalysts for Change

  1. Justin says:

    It’s true: I find that the people behind the scenes making it happen are often not the loudest public voice because they are, as we would want them, busy making things happen. They are the trusted advisors, the men and women who sometimes have to skip the cocktail parties to deliver the milestones. Finding these people and talking with them can reveal more about how we are going to make government innovation and culture change a reality than focusing on the armchair commentators, who as we’ve seen, are already asking if Open Gov is dead if only because they often don’t take time to research the policy.

    Take the time to find a “gov20 doer” in a government office, an unsung hero, and you’ll find what you may feel you’ve been missing in the dialog.

    • I agree. I really wanted to remind people, and your comments reminded me, of all those people who are working hard every day. I think knowing their ideas and having their contributions will be valuable insights for all of us.

  2. John Moore says:

    Lovisa, excellent post, I love ” We need many voices, ideas, and solutions if we intend to succeed. ” If we are to continue to drive positive change it will take the entire community, not a handful of voices.

    • Thanks. All too often I think it is easy to assume the Government 2.0 community are the people you see most often in the #gov20 stream, but in reality it is so much bigger than this. Believe me, when I am not tweeting it means I am working and making things happen. This makes me a better contributor to the community, but there are more out there who we don’t hear from. They have important stories for us. We need to capture those lessons learned on the front lines.

  3. Pingback: Catalysts for Change (via Athena’s Lightning – A blog by Lovisa A. Williams) « The Lab is open: John Moore's Blog

  4. Pingback: Catalysts for Change (via Athena’s Lightning – A blog by Lovisa A. Williams) « Gov 2.0 and Gov 3.0 Thoughts

  5. Alan W. Silberberg says:

    This post is sort of the post modernist view of Gov 2.0. 🙂 You hit many important subjects right on, and the more inclusive we can make the conversation, the more likely we will implement meaningful change.

    • I agree. This means more people from not just U.S. governments, but world governments need to be contributing. We are in the age of the rising of the concept of the Global Citizen where we need new ways of thinking about governments for all citizens of the world. How can we accomplish this without these voices? We can’t.

  6. “…they all fight the same battles, have similar constraints and although some are more public than others, all of them are helping to build the foundation for the future.”

    Hats off to the “Gov 2.0 Heroes You Don’t Know Yet” 😉

    Keep blogging – love to hear your insights, Lovisa!

    • I knew I had seen something like this from either you or Steve! I couldn’t remember who or where. I asked Steve, via DM last night, but he didn’t get back to me in time to make deadline.

      Always enjoy the fact that even when we may not chat in real time for months we are still thinking along similar lines. 🙂

      • “Always enjoy the fact that even when we may not chat in real time for months we are still thinking along similar lines.”

        That’s exactly what I was thinking when I was reading your post!

  7. Lovisa,

    Another thought provoker, congrats.

    I’ve just wrapped up two days as the Government Technology conference (#gtec) in Ottawa. While numerous topics were addressed there were some consistent themes raised, change and leadership being the most repeated.

    On leadership, Keith Leslie of Deloitte spoke about the need not for more leaders, but for more leadership at all levels. Each of us possesses, as you note, the ability to identify barriers or obstructions (catalysts!) What it comes down to is whether or not we have the knowledge, capacity and courage to address them. Having a community of support is fundamental, but ultimately each of us must take action.

    People often mention “government needs to change.” Yes it does. To that I ask, what are you doing to help that happen and/or what will you do when it does?

    Great post Lovisa!


    • Thanks Martha! Sounds like you guys were having a great conversation at your conference. Yes, all to often we think of leaders as people being in roles that say leadership – manager, director, partner, VP, CEO, Under Secretary etc – but really we can all be leaders. For something as complex of an issue as changing government, we require people at all levels to participate and have the courage to be leaders when needed. Perhaps one of the best traits of a leader is knowing when to lead and when to allow others to lead.

  8. My publisher pushes me to find stories that show how people are changing the world and to share the knowledge of innovators. That feels very much in line with what you are talking about here, Lovisa, and reminds me of an interview that Andy Carvin did with the Poynter Institute this summer, where he conveyed a useful viewpoint: social media lets NPR empower those who love us and listen to those who don’t.

    We may not always agree with one another – and when it comes to government, politics and the media, it’s a certainty that citizens will not – but it’s important that the voices of all citizens be heard in a democratic state.

    The one thing I would push (gently) back on is your statement that “We need to support and encourage each other even if we do not agree with that person’s opinion or approach.”

    I will not support or encourage those that express intolerance, cruelty, ignorance or hatred, though I do support their write to free speech. One of the compacts that the founding fathers set with the Bill of Rights is that certain truths are self-evident. There are people around the globe who do not agree with all of the rights enshrined therein, including civil rights or equal rights for women, separation of church and state or the freedom of the press. The recent loss of the site because it violated Libyan Sharia law should serve as an example of how that can translate into the digital realm.

    While citizens can and should express their differences constructively in the public sphere, I don’t think we’re obligated to support or encourage everyone.

    I know this is tangential to your generally positive post; forgive me if I’m feeling a little dark about the shuttering of voices around the globe today, not the flowering of open government or the people quietly dedicating themselves to public service outside of the new media spotlight.

  9. Thom Kearney says:

    We just finished GTEC up here in Ottawa which is our annual government tech conference and the theme that emerged was very much about putting people first. It was also about leadership at all levels and I could not agree more that we have to do everything we can to recognize and support those (at any level) who are willing to stand up lead.

  10. Lovisa – as I alluded to in many of my posts, and as you’ve done here, being a “catalyst for change” isn’t something that can be put into a job description or added to someone’s responsibilities. (“Hey Nancy – I was wondering, if you had some extra time, would you mind changing our organizational culture?). It’s done by people, with personalities, with strengths and weaknesses, who takes risks large and small to help change their organization. That’s why when you find one of these people – one of these Gov 2.0 Heroes, Ninjas, or Rockstars – it’s all the more important that you identify them, empower them, and reward them.

  11. Pingback: Government 2.0: Catalysts for Change | Government 2.0 in Action

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