Jan 2, 2011

Doing Gov 2.0 Backwards in High Heels

Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire backwards and in high heelsI was reading the awesomely comprehensive 2010 roundup of Gov 2.0 by Alex Howard and stumbled into a little Twitter dust-up between Alex and one of his readers, Microsoft's public sector evangelist, Mark Drapeau.

The twit-for-tat was around Mark's criticism that Gov 2.0 activities were focused on "govies, policies, and techies, and little citizens, services, engagement." He's right. There continues to be a lot of foundation-level work going on--like writing policies, creating governance, training, upgrading systems, cleaning up and making available data, etc. It makes it hard to see how this is having an impact on citizens and the public.

Then, Alex referenced Gov 2.0 impact on citizens
As the new year beckons, there are more ways for the citizens of the United States to provide feedback to their federal government than perhaps there ever have been in its history. In 2011, the open question is whether "We the people" will use these new participatory platforms to help government work better. The evolution of these kinds of platforms aren't U.S.-centric, either. Ushahidi, for example, started in Africa and has been deployed worldwide. The crowd matters more now in every sense: crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, crowdmapping, collective intelligence, group translation, and human sensor networks--O'Reilly Radar
Alex is finding some Gov 2.0 activity that is actually touching people. A good start, but how does this play for my sister in Indiana?

But, as Mark went on,
twitter image from Drapeau, Well @digiphile, government exists to serve all its citizens. Thusfar Government 2.0 mainly exists to serve wonks and geeks.
he and I part ways.

The heady newness of the Open Government Directive and the first forays into social media are over. We look back wistfully, like on the faded blush of a new romance. That was fun! But now we are left to work in the trenches to realize the promise. Much less sexy, but critical to success.

This year has included some very important new guidance--for example on surveys (Paperwork Reduction Act), privacy (including cookies and participating in 3rd party networks), plain language and prize authority to name a few--that agencies are trying to apply. And there is increasing scrutiny, oversight, and evaluation from both within and outside of agencies.

It seems that nothing breeds slowdowns like success. The layer of people who like things "the way they are" are not excited about new ways of interaction. And some are pulling the many levers at their disposal to doubly ensure that all T's are crossed and I's dotted.

Then, there are many early evangelists who are practicing what they were preaching. Being change agents in their agencies mean that they are less available to take to the pulpits of conferences and blog posts to proselytize across agencies.

I am neither a wonk nor a geek. I am a citizen, though. I am a citizen who works in government. And I am a citizen who works in a government built on--and sustained by--a massive command and control bureaucracy from a pre-Internet and social networking era. I am a citizen who works in this slow-moving behemoth and trying to make change for my fellow citizens, not to serve wonks and geeks.

Folks working in the trenches welcome the thoughtful criticism of outsiders. We don't have all the answers and have plenty of blind spots. Keep our feet to the fire, help us make change, and keep caring! But, I gotta tell you, from an insider's perspective, this is harder than it looks.


  1. Much to think about there. Thank you for the reflections, the link and the comment.

  2. Thoughtful as always! Challenge is that we are still having many of the wrong discussions on many levels. Sequence: (1) expected results with education and evangelism -the why? (2) the organizational investment with story narratives -the how? (3) the experiences created by the combinations of technology -the what? and performance /implementation -the when/who. We are getting virtually every question confused-the why,how, what, when, who because we are using spectrum extremes of "social media" and procedures designed for transactional processes that create communication barriers. Linear vs distributed. For all of the flash, little return to this point. The results we get directly derive from the way that we define the problems. Not hard to obfuscate!


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