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Communities of Like-Minded People Can Cause Real Change in Government

GovLoop is sponsoring a symposium on Customer Service, August 23. It promises to be a great event – bringing together customer service experts and passionistas from within and outside of government, and it hopes to culminate in some real actions to improve customer service in government. Hurrah! Wish I could be there (I was invited, but I couldn’t make it this time).

But this symposium isn’t the point of my blog today. I want to talk about GovLoop. And I’m not just talking about the social networking website by that name. I’m talking about the grassroots community that has emerged and is shaking things up. And I’m talking about a guy, Steve Ressler (a former Fed), and his band of colleagues who are showing us that real leaders don’t require legal authority and a job title to cause change in government. Coalitions of like-minded people, working with principles and passion, can make a difference in the way government works.

Steve Ressler, who founded GovLoop, is a great example of government employee who has an idea and the courage to give it a go. Three years ago, he threw up a social networking site with the idea that people in all levels of government, people who had retired from government, people who want to be in government, people who want to sell something to government, people who are advocates for others who interact with the government, and people just interested in government might want to come together to talk about common problems and ideas. Bingo! He was right. GovLoop now boasts more than 45,000 members, and it’s growing every day.

Plus 1: GovLoop gives everyone a place at the table. Ideas can come from anywhere, and it’s better to risk a few bad eggs than exclude one really great idea-maker.

But this isn’t just a big leaderless blob. Steve assumed leadership, and he surrounded himself with some equally-passionate co-workers (Andy, Megan), affiliated with GovDelivery, sought other sponsors and partners, and built an organization that supports the GovLoop community. They started holding training sessions and symposia and conferences and other meet-ups. They target the new and the next generations of public servants; but they also reach out to old-timers like me, brokering knowledge transfer and mentoring.

And here’s what I love most. Steve and company dare to ask those “what’s next?” questions. What should the next government CIO do? How should we implement the new Customer Service Initiative in the federal government? The GovLoop team gin up conversations on the website and do their best to get folks to participate. And they encourage others to do the same.

Plus 2: GovLoop provides leadership for an amorphous community, moving it toward connections and outcomes. Grassroots efforts don’t succeed only by bringing people together. Leadership is essential.

One more thing…

Plus 3: the GovLoop gang communicates with the entire community, regularly. If you’re already a member of GovLoop, you know that Steve sends a daily email alert to point out blog posts, interesting discussions, and new job listings. He Tweets numerous times every day, making sure we know the latest. They stir the pot and keep the community excited about ideas.

Bet you think this is just a big ol’ plug for GovLoop, huh? Well, it is. I truly admire this effort. If you aren’t a member already, I hope you’ll join the fun. But that’s not my bottom line.

My bottom line is this: groups of like-minded government employees (and others!) can cause real, positive change in government, with good, consistent, visionary leadership. The federal web manager communityis proof. GovLoop is proof. You don’t have to wait for a charter or a designation or a sign from the universe to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t take an appropriation or budget to bring people together. It’s amazing how much we can accomplish if we’re brave enough to step into the void, be open to new ideas, and put the time and energy and ingenuity into making change happen.

Now let me circle back around to customer service. So many of you have great ideas about ways to improve customer service. Don’t sit in silence. Don’t say it can never be done. Find a group of like-minded colleagues, and create a grassroots community. If you aren’t a natural born leader, find someone who is. Be inclusive – good ideas and willing hands are everywhere. Be gutsy, like Steve Ressler and the GovLoop gang. And follow through.

Communities of like-minded people can do great things!

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Susan Thomas

Members of Congress should peruse this website They would particularly get a much needed dose of reality from federal employees.

Deb Green

I had a wonderful mentor as a junior officer. He called what we did “Leading from the Middle”. Not being directly in charge, but having an awful lot of influence on what happened at the top and how it was perceived from the bottom. You can always lead from where you are.

Megan Price

Thank you Candi! Great wrap up of things that are going on and I love your bottom line…Be Gutsy and follow through!

Scott Collins

Great post Candi! I entirely agree with your assessment, it takes a team of like-minded, passionate and smart folks to make great things happen. I recently started a new job for a local government filled to the brim with innovative thinkers and great implementers. Having worked in other orgs that lacked a strong team committed to change and improvement, I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it is to go to work each morning.