“Bringing Change to Our Largest Social Network” – by Sean Herron


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Far too often, it seems that Americans have the perception of their
government being a monolithic block, incapable of progress, change, or
efficient functionality. While this may be true in some cases, it’s not
something that should be allowed to continue. American government lacks
the trust of its citizens, and the goal of getting it back should be our
top priority.
Our government needs to be for the people. It needs to be open. It needs
accountability. It needs to leverage technologies to enable citizens
to participate and collaborate in the same way they do among their
coworkers, friends, and family. By paving a road of information, ideas,
and community between policymakers and everyday citizens, a new bond of
trust can be formed, and fresh insight into our most troubling problems
can be found. Our government, to an extent, has already begun to work on
this challenge. Efforts such as Data.gov, the Open Government
Directive, and increased citizen financial oversight have placed
previously unavailable tools in the hands of the public. But what’s
next? How do the tools made available get used by the average person who
is likely to only use a .gov domain once a year when filing their
taxes? How do the thousands of comments, criticisms, and questions
flooding government inboxes everyday turn in to real, implementable
That’s the problem I want to work on. I’m fascinated by the intricate
network of our government – the massive flow of information, people, and
ideas that passes through a complex, and sometimes bizarre, system that
runs our nation. It’s a network that is social by nature, but in most
circumstances is virtually impossible to gain access to by an ordinary
citizen. I want to work on breaking down the barriers that prevent the
free flow of information to the people and on building the
infrastructure to support their direct involvement in their governance.
I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to sample what a
difficult challenge this is. As a Policy Studies and Economics dual
major at Syracuse University, I’ve had the chance to spend the last
semester living in Washington, D.C. and working at the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration. Some of my work has tackled these
very issues, and I realize the huge challenges in making such change. As
much as I’d love to jump in and get my hands dirty, I also need to go
back to Syracuse in the fall to finish my degree and, most likely,
obtain a graduate degree before pursuing a real career in the public
sector. The CampusGov and GovLoop scholarship will enable me to continue
my educational pursuits, in the hope that I can use the skills I gain
to help bring positive change to a process that sorely needs it.

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Beth Beck

Sean, SOOoo glad you’ve decided to go straight to grad school before coming back to the government. I eoxpect you’ll be selected for the PMF program, which means we may be able to snap you up again! Hopefully you won’t find a better offer in the meantime.

You deserve this scholarship!

Ken Purcell

Sean, glad to meet you at the NASA Tweetup for STS132. It’s obvious that you understand the role social media can play in making government a participatory endeavor. As you say in your essay above, government needs to catch up with the technological tools available to communicate on a scale never before possible. Why conduct a political poll that reaches hundreds of participants when you can access a network of tens of thousands or greater. Good Luck on the scholarship! Either way I know we will be hearing from you.

Patrick Herron

Social networks have the greatest potential to involve citizens in our democracy. We are approaching a tipping point in communication and information sharing that may prove to be the most revolutionary and liberating era of mankind. Sean, I share your hope for the future. Go #7!

Melanie Zilora

Agree with your points quite a bit. I would say, though, that crowdsourcing efforts like Apps for America are also a good step towards breaking up that block–turning gov’t data into something relevant for citizens. While parking space apps may seem frivolous, they go a long way towards changing the conversation from a gov’t responsible to its citizens to one responsive to its citizens…a necessary paradigm shift. Best of luck in your pursuits!

Jennifer McHenry

There are a lot of really interesting things going on in government with social media, and a lot of places where it’s being neglected. It’ll be interesting to see where those gaps are and how to use it all effectively. Win or lose I hope you continue to pursue this topic! Best of luck to you.!

Tom Bullington

Agreed, Sean. It is so frustrating to hear people make reference to “the government” as if it were all one large organization. This is no more accurate than saying “medicine” to refer to health care providers/drug companies, etc. or “finance” to include everything from mortgage brokers to bankers to the Brinks armored car driver.

Collectively, “government” is a social network that includes members who, a great degree, care deeply about their work and the impact it has on quality of life in our country. Most government employees don’t have an agenda – other than working hard on behalf of their fellow citizens. After all, at the end of the day, “government” is truly all of us – everyone who lives and works in the US.

Melanie Zilora

Tom is quite right. Sean, you deserve to win–someone who truly recognizes the importance of an individualistic, in-touch approach to governance.

Stacey Brooks

Sean was really helpful to NASA while he was an intern here, and I am voting for him because I want him to continue helping the government in the way he helped NASA reach out to new audiences.

John W Howaqrd

I am voting for #7 Sean Herron. We need bettrer information flow and transparency of govtnernment decisions and operations and Sean is focusing on these points.

John W Howaqrd

Sean is very astute in analyzing our sociaql networking with my experience with him in securing donations for the John Dau Foundation. I am voting foer him.

Debbie Wollman

I vote for #7, Sean Herron. He understands how the ordinary citizen feels a bit overwhelmed by big government. He deserves the scholarship and we deserve Sean!

Donald Cross

Sean, you are on the right track! We need an informed electorate which does not rely on sound bites or the political party’s talking points. You have my vote!
Don Cross