Government 2.0 Un-Conference, Un-packed

The first-ever government 2.0 un-conference was impressive and invigorating. Coming together with a reported 500 colleagues, enthusiasts and thought leaders in social media and web 2.0 applications was a great opportunity to focus my individual efforts as well as those driven by the Social Media Subcouncil on which I serve. Not to mention, the gathering allowed a forum for our Subcouncil to meet and interact with the larger community.

110 sessions over two days addressed relevant, and sometimes tough, questions that our Subcouncil is working through. I was impressed by the enthusiasm and expertise brought to each session I attended. From exploring how Federal employees can use social media to achieve their mission, how to effectively engage communities to a session drafting a list of transparency objectives for the new administration, every 45-minute session was filled with rich and thought provoking discussion.

I loved that attendees not only represented the federal or private sector inside the Beltway; I had great conversations with Congressional staff, local and state government managers and non-profit organizations. Government 2.0 is not an exclusive club and we want to continue the conversation.

Jaqi Ross led a session about the Social Media Subcouncil where we fielded questions from the crowd. We shared information about how the Subcouncil was formed, who’s represented, where folks can find us online, what everyone’s role is, and why they should get involved. Stay tuned to the public wiki for a growing collection of comments and suggestions.

We heard about access issues from GSA representatives and a great open forum with Bev Godwin and unannounced attendee White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips. Their presence and interest our discussion is proof enough that our work is more important than ever.

Many of the Subcouncil members led discussions during individual sessions that generated a buzz still lingering in cyber-space. I can’t begin to talk about sessions without acknowledging Subcouncil co-chair Jeffrey Levy – one of the Government 2.0 Camp organizers. Not only did he help plan and run the event, he brought with him a commanding portfolio of lessons learned and words of wisdom to share with all that would listen.

With him, one of my public health colleagues Andrew Wilson of the Health and Human Services sat on a panel with General Service Administration leaders on how social media has helped reach mission goals such as reaching new communities, motivating citizens to participate in activities or informing the public in the event of a public health situation. A great case study on using social media in a public health event, Erin Edgerton at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented a case study on how they along with HHS agencies managed the peanut product recalls.

On the use of social media in public diplomacy and foreign affairs, Lovisa Williams was everywhere. She led and participated in a few sessions over the course of the barcamp and hopefully you were able to meet her. Hugely successful, Michelle Springer presented the Library of Congress Flikr Project as a case study on adding content to a public social media site and better understanding the impact social tagging and folksonomies.

Not surprising, employing Twitter as part of the overall mission or during a crisis situation was a popular topic. One of the Subcouncil’s state reps Julia Gregory covered one of these sessions along with Erin Malick at the Federal Trade Commission. The rate of expansion in this space is staggering and how different groups use the medium was interesting. Reinforced takeaway: It can be what you make of it.

After two days of talking all things social media and web 2.0 I left with wide eyes, a mind full of ideas and a pocket full of business cards. Even though these phenomena empower virtual connections and collaboration, it’s the people that matter most. If we didn’t meet this time around, it’s not too late.

Amanda Eamich is Director of Strategic Communications and New Media at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and member of the Social Media Subcouncil. You can connect with her on Twitter or GovLoop

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