This is not intended to be a cliffhanger post, so I’ll tell you what I think right up front: NO!
I think government and passion often co-exist (it’s not an oxymoron) and I have been around long enough to have experienced this first hand. But I can say this with certitude only because I have had the privilege of working inside the Beltway for almost two decades. All you have to do is spend some time on GovLoop (for instance) and you realize that there are many outstanding individuals working in government who are committed, understand and believe in the mission of their agency and are totally passionate about what they do. All you have to do is talk to a few YGL members and you’ll feel the commitment that they bring to the table, not only for the important work that they perform day in and day out, but also because they are committed to attracting some of the best and brightest of their peers to the public sector. Ditto for the Partnership for Public Service and the Collaboration Project (under the auspices of the National Academy of Public Administration).
Now before I go too far, take a moment to reflect on the organizations that I chose to mention. Now set that aside for a moment.
What does government look like nowadays (and by that I mean federal government agencies) if you’re on the outside looking in? Well, I don’ think that I have to spend much time elaborating on the fact that it’s not looking very good. In fact, to a lot of people it’s looking worse than ever. Unresponsive, uncaring and inefficient. And that’s too bad because I think that there is a solution that can be implemented and it’s not a difficult or complicated one. I can’t say that it would solve everything but it would certainly go a long way. Unfortunately, I DO think that its implementation is very little understood within the power structure of most government agencies.
Let’s go back to the organizations that I mentioned at the opening for just a minute. There’s something curious about them and it’s something that makes them different from most federal agencies, or at least what they look like to the outside (that is, if many people outside the Beltway knew about them, but that’s fodder for another post). Their passion is more obvious and transparent because they AREN’T the agencies. Isn’t that interesting? The organizations I’ve mentioned, especially GovLoop, have embraced the collaborative nature of social media and have allowed the passion of many who WORK in the public sector to show through…in an environment that is NOT where they work but that allows them to talk about the work that they do. By and large, the conversation, posts, commentary, participation and plain fun are obvious…and it’s passionate. Folks on GovLoop don’t have to SAY that they are passionate, it’s obvious that they ARE!
And that’s about all there is to it. Give people a forum for true self expression and their passion will show. And that’s the best of what social media brings to the table. When the The Cluetrain Manifesto stated that the internet allowed people to “communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking.” And that “the human voice is unmistakably genuine,” that “it can’t be faked,” they were talking about passion. Passion is the secret sauce that makes social media work. Passion is what motivates people to Crush It! as Gary Vaynerchuk would say (and I don’t think I need to explain what he means).
If agencies could wake up to the fact that they need to add a human voice to their communication efforts (some of them are starting to) — especially when choosing to communicate via Facebook, Twitter or their web sites — then pretty soon they would find that their public face would show different and feel different (in a good way) to the very people those agencies are supposed to serve. People NOT intimately familiar with federal agencies would be able to grasp that there are some very caring and passionate folks working on their behalf because their passion would show. That is, if it was allowed to.
And if the public could see that passion, and feel it, I think that their opinion of government would definitely start to shift in a more positive direction…however slowly.
What do you think?