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.
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.
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.
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.
I had the honor in February to be on a panel on Digital Diplomacy at this year’s Gov20LA. The panel included Martha McLean of the Canadian Government, Gina Evans of the UK Government and myself. Our discussion was very interesting because it was only a couple of weeks into the Arab Spring. We talked about how we are leveraging technology for diplomacy and it’s impact on global events such as the Arab Spring. Alan W Silberberg was the moderator for the session. His questions were great at getting to the heart of what diplomacy means in the modern age, where it is going and it’s potential impact. I really enjoyed this panel and think it is one of the most interesting public discussions I have had on the topic of Digital Diplomacy.
We are living in interesting times, especially if you are in the Government and happen to be working on implementing Government 2.0 in your agency. Doing this is not something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of time and perhaps more importantly it takes dedicated, passionate people who have patience and a lot of intestinal fortitude. There are a number of challenges we must address as we work on trying to help our respective agencies use these new technologies in the most effective and responsible way possible. Some of the challenges we must work through are: privacy, security, personal vs. professional selves, ethics, contractual issues, intellectual property and copyright issues, procurement concerns, records management, accessibility for the disabled, legal issues and many more.
This only addresses the immediate concerns that effect all of us, it doesn’t get down to mission specific issues or the cultural changes we have to battle with daily. These can seem insurmountable, but in just over two years the government at all levels has come a long ways. This has been accomplished through the hard work of dedicated people who wear their scares as badges of honor.
One of the ways agencies have begun to organize themselves is by recognizing they have new responsibilities to take on due to the advent of social media and the influx of new emerging technologies. In some cases agencies have added these responsibilities to existing people’s portfolios, in other cases they have hired people specifically to address these issues. Over 50% of the agencies, who answered my recent survey, had either developed a social media office or had added these responsibilities to an existing group of people.
The responsibilities that are or what people want a social media office to handle are as follows. Not all items were ranked the same, but all were considered important responsibilities that need to be considered by all agencies. See Figure 1 for the top ranking responsibilities.
- Research emerging tools and technologies
- Develops custom apps, sites, platforms etc.
- Provides one-on-one consultations to others in the organization
- Develop resources to help people use emerging technologies
- Create policy and guidance for the effective and responsible use of emerging technologies
- Manage an agency’s website
- Manage an agency’s social media presence
- Develops content for websites and social media
- Provides Community Managers
- Provides training for all employees on use of social media
- Provides graphic design expertise
- Manages a centralized Help Desk for Social Media
- Develops strategic and tactical direction of the use of emerging technologies
Why is this important? If we recognize that the world has changed, how we do business also needs to change, and the tools are constantly evolving then we have to figure out how we are going to address these changes. Gone are the days where we could afford not to be proactive. Now, we must start thinking more strategically. We must be thinking about how to build a strong foundation for our future.
If we are to remain relevant and if one of our goals is to develop a government that can better relate to its citizens, then we need to find better ways to engage with them. We will need to build working relationships with them. We are now in an age where citizens must participate in their government as much as governments must reach out to citizens. We are now equal partners in this new age. If we are to be successful and ensure our joint survival then we are going to have to start thinking about how we can establish this foundation for success. One of the ways we can do this is by making an effort to encourage innovation and by establishing the structures to ensure these innovations become institutionalized into how we do business.
Innovation is the lifeblood of all organizations and countries. Innovating a new way of doing business or developing a new process isn’t enough. We must establish organizations who can help us through these changes. They must be agile enough to sit at the intersection of government, citizens, and technology. They must be able to have the vision to see what new things are coming. What opportunities and risks are present with introduction of these new emerging technologies. They must evaluate them for government and citizen use. And perhaps most importantly they must help employees leverage these technologies so that they can effectively and responsibly use them. People have an emotional response to change and it usually is one of fear. It can be decreed from on high, but if people aren’t willing to embrace and adopt the changes then it won’t happen. People need help to be successful.
Most people understand the first part, the researching and evaluating what new technologies are out there. More often than not, they forget about the rest because this is the harder part. Plus it’s a lot more fun to talk about cool tools than it is to actually integrate them into your work. This is where we have to balance the current laws and our operating environment with how these emerging technologies will change how we think about our work and how we do this work. If we haven’t established policies on how to use these technologies, helped people overcome their fears, and taught them how to effectively and responsibly used them then ultimately we fail. This is where having an office or group of people dedicated to these responsibilities will help ensure our success and our ability to stay relevant.
The biggest problem is we have a long ways to go. Most agencies feel they don’t have an environment where innovation is part of the culture or is encouraged. There are significant deficits in training, responsibility for training and the development of training resources. Agencies have also identified the need for additional resources, funding and more empowerment to make decisions as areas that could significantly help them better integrate social media and other emerging technologies into their organization (Figure 2).
We are in challenging times where hard decisions need to be made. Some have already been made that could potentially be putting a major agency at risk. When employees don’t have access to the guidance and training they need, the potential for error increases. How can we expect employees to know all of the legal issues and other complications that make using social media difficult for government? We have people working full time on these things. They are not intuitive. By not establishing a group of people to take responsibility for addressing these concerns it puts all of our future at risk. You are building a foundation of sand.
With the threat of a Government shutdown looming, we need to think about the future we want and how we plan on getting there. Agencies are already struggling to determine if they are willing to make the investment in emerging technologies since they have to choose between funding existing programs and cutting new programs like social media and emerging technologies. We need to balance our existing programs with what we need for that future.
This is more than just funding for programs, but also the ability to maintain and keep intellectual resources. With a potential government shutdown, government faces not just the loss of funds and programs, but perhaps even more critical the potential loss of younger workers. These are the employees who have the skills and knowledge we need for our future success. We need to invest in the future we want since it doesn’t happen overnight, but is built day by day, one brick at a time. As President Obama stated, “…it will also require investing in our nation’s future – training and educating our workers; increasing our commitment to research and technology; building new roads and bridges, high-speed rail and high-speed internet.” As with most things, the most valuable thing we have is our people and our investment in them is our future.
If you are interested in voicing your opinion on my survey about the role of the Social Media Office please add your thoughts here. Final results of the survey will be posted in a separate post by the end of March 2011.
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.
This is a wonderful post by my friend, Alexandra Bornkessel. This post expands upon the general concept I put forth in a previous entry and builds upon it. My question to you is are you are world leader who is ready to step up?