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Following up with the eDiplomacy Team at the State Department

The United States Department of State (aka The State Department) is clearly a leader in the Federal Government in many ways including, in my opinion, making the change necessary to make open government a reality. As you may remember, I chatted with Richard Boly, Director of eDiplomacy, a couple of months ago, at which point he gave me a behind the scenes view into all that his organization has been working on.

I participated in a conference call this morning with members of the press, fellow bloggers, and members of the State Department as Richard gave us a quick update. The invite to the call included key info:

“Richard will discuss how this vision is becoming a reality through resources like Diplopedia (an internal wiki), [email protected] (an internal inter-agency blogging platform), and the Secretary’s Sounding Board (a suggestion board for improving ideas within the department). Over 2,500 Department of State contributors have posted more than 10,500 articles on Diplopedia, and during the Haiti earthquake, the State Department used the wiki format to coordinate relief efforts. There are over 70 internal [email protected] blogs, that combine the knowledge of inter-agency and inter-country contributors, working to share information and perspective. Blogs range in discussion from the economic climate of Japan, to the strategic communications mission in Afghanistan, to the shared interests of all USG personnel who work in our diplomatic missions around the globe. Over the last year, the Sounding Board has gathered thousands of ideas about how to improve the Department, many have been implemented, and others began a people to people conversation about new ways to put good ideas to work.”

Also, Elizabeth Montalbano of InformationWeek, who was also on the call, has excellent coverage of the call available here, it is worth reviewing.

What are the important takeaways, beyond what I’ve shared before, beyond what InformationWeek shares:

  • Businesses and government agencies must stay focused on their key strategic goals. All members of the organization must focus on this mission.
  • While social networking tools may feel like the norm for many of us, the thought of using these tools is terrifying to others. The digital divide is real and your approach to deploying collaborative strategies must take this into account. Richard’s team is focused on this challenge and working to build solutions that work for people on both sides of this divide. All members of your team are critical, remember that.
  • Do not be afraid to duct tape together technology solutions in the short-term as you move forward with your strategy. With budgets tight and no proof of return on investment, the eDiplomacy group has deployed some impressive solutions. Now that value is clear, and the short-coming of these tools are clearly understood, they will be spending money on better tools. No, they are not going out to buy the Rolls Royce, but they are working to upgrade their Schwinn bicycle to a Toyota Corolla (with functioning brakes).
  • Provide training , and training grounds, for your team. The eDiplomacy internal social networks are providing safe training grounds for State Department employees before they talk on more public networks. People are learning how to effectively write for blogging, forums, discussion groups, twitter, etc.. If you want to use tools like this to reach customers/citizens, use them internally too. You will gain benefits in terms of tighter collaboration, and you will be training your staff at the same time.


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