Last weekend, I participated in the second annual Gov 2.0 LA event held in Santa Monica, CA. This year’s event happened literally on the beach at the Annenberg Community Beach House. This is the second year I have helped Alan W. Silberberg plan the event. Both years have been great for very different reasons. Last year was very much an experiment in terms of format and to see what kind of response we could get from the community. The response was huge. People wanted more so we came back for year two.
This year, what I enjoyed most was the focused conversation, the interactiveness and the fact that for the first time in a very long time I actually got to meet everyone at the event. Not only did I get to meet them, but I also had the opportunity to have a real conversation with every one there. For me, that meant a lot. I am normally running from session to session, trying to connect with various people before they leave, scheduling meetings, attending to my office’s needs and more. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for always having those face to face conversations that are so meaningful and important to all of us. There is one thing that all of us from various governments could agree on and that is technology will never replace the power of face to face engagement.
I was honored this year to meet Amb. John Duncan. Amb. Duncan is from the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth Office. He is one of the ambassadors who is blogging about his job. And his job isn’t one that is easy to build a community around. He is blogging about Arms Control and Disarmament. He is located in Geneva, Switzerland. Amb. Duncan also tweets. It was wonderful to meet someone at the ambassador level who understands the power of social media and is using this as part of his job. This was very inspiring to me since I spend a lot of time teaching officers and locally employed staff how to use social media both effectively and responsibly.
Amb. Duncan was also one of the keynote speakers. He spoke about whether Digital Diplomacy is Accountability or Propaganda. Some great lessons he had were about how the expectations of time and response have changed, how our credibility is on the line, the importance of transparency and how social media provides opportunities for governments if they leverage them correctly using a strategy. I don’t want to give away all of his wonderful points, but do encourage you to check out his session once it is posted.
I was also fortunate enough to share the stage with two amazing women – Martha McLean and Gina Evans for our discussion on Digital Diplomacy. Martha works for the Canadian Government and Gina works for the UK Government‘s Foreign Commonwealth Office. Both women are exceptional in their knowledge and their passion. We were lucky enough to have two sessions together. One was held as the pre-event to Gov 2.0 LA at NPR’s KPCC and the second was part of Gov 2.0 LA moderated by Alan W. Silberberg.
The most interesting thing here was you could see a nice comparison on how all three governments have approached the use of social media and other emerging technologies differently and yet we have all developed similar opinions about how to implement social media and how we use it. We talked about the importance of being a good community manager and how listening is one of the most critical things we as governments can do. We also talked about how important training is for all of our employees who are required to engage with the public. We talked about the passion and dedication of all government employees no matter what government they serve. We also spoke about how each of us is working to deal with issues of illiteracy and the Digital Divide. Of course due to the current events happening in the Middle East we did talk about the role of social media and other emerging technologies in those situations and how you prepare for a crisis.
One thing all of us remarked upon was how valuable events like this are to help bring us together and share our lessons learned with each other. When we broaden the conversation to include other governments we are suddenly building bridges with others who have recognized their role as global citizens.
A full recap of the Gov 2.0 LA session will be posted soon. An interesting note is we did our session on February 13, 2011. Secretary Clinton gave her Internet Freedom speech on February 15 echoing a number of points we discussed.
Although Digital Diplomacy and the international community are my primary areas of interest, there were many other sessions that should not be missed: Jeanne Holm from NASA talking about Data.gov had an amazing presentation and was a wonderful way to kick off Gov 2.0 LA. John “Jack” Bienko from the Small Business Administration had an interesting conversation with R. Ray Wang of Constellation Research Group on how to be a start up and entrepreneur. There was an interesting mobile panel (Maribel Lopez, Chad Catacchio and Kurt Daradics that provided some good mobile stats and had some nuggets of wisdom not to be lost if you are thinking about using mobile technology. Christina Gagnier of Gagnier and Margossian spoke about various potential legal issues government employees may run into when using social media. This is not your typical legal session! As always you can’t miss a session with Bill Grundfest. This year, he talked to Eric Garcetti, President of the Los Angeles City Council about the importance of storytelling to government leaders and to the citizens they serve. As always it never lacked for humor and inspiration!
Although we had some wonderful speakers, the people were the best part. People came from near and far to participate live in Gov 2.0 LA. Speakers became participants, participants became speakers and due to the use of “Brainjams” and fully interactive sessions the collective conversation never stalled.
I would say the biggest takeaway I have is that it is great to see the community progress from a high energy some what chaotic group into one that is becoming more focused. I am seeing the progress of ideas we discussed last year to where we are now working on those very same ideas with lessons to share and more challenges to overcome. I talked about this change before, but was speaking from my experiences in my agency and with my interactions with other Federal agencies. Here at Gov 2.0 LA, I see this is more widespread. Early adopters as well as people or governments who are new to social media, are participating in more focused practical discussions instead of trying to answer what is social media. I think as a community we are headed on the right path and part of our success is in our coming together as a community to collaborate with each other and help each other solve our issues. As Tom LeVeque, from the Arcadia Police Department, said to me, the level of government or which government doesn’t matter. We all have the same problems and we can all benefit from listening and collaborating with each other.
Videos of all sessions held during Gov 2.0 LA will be posted to the Gov 2.0 LA site. The conversation continues on Twitter under #Gov20LA. If you have ideas for next year’s event or feedback from this year’s please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, we appreciate all of our sponsors for their continued support. We could not have this event without your generosity. We also want to thank everyone who attended Gov 2.0 LA this year. You helped make this event what it is. Thank you.