Helping people understand government 2.0 at the local level, not easy

I have had several great conversations this week. One that I wanted to share with you was a discussion I had with Alex Reed, an Independent candidate who is running for the Maine House of Representatives (District 99). We spent our time discussing how to bring collaboration and communication strategies and tools to the local level, an important goal, a difficult challenge, especially in a state where broadband penetration is relatively low.

Note that Alex has a lot of experience in this area, having worked with several non-profits in social media roles in recent years. He sees need for Government 2.0 and, even more importantly, the need to get citizens the information when, and where, they need it.

A common complaint that he hears is people want more visibility into how their government is spending their money. Another problem, people often do not understand that strategies and technologies exist to help answer budgetary and other questions that surround government. How do we change this?

Education is the starting point. Alex sees real excitement from people he engages with when he explains what is possible with Government 2.0. The challenge is taking the one to one, or the one to small group, conversations to a larger, more scalable, level to help people understand how this can benefit them and their personal needs.

Having infrastructure in place is another challenge in Maine. There is not a large digital/tech industry in place to build upon initiatives like opening up government data. While Maine has done a good job at the State level, bringing this same success to the local level is challenge. In fact, in chatting with Alex he feels that most local government web sites are not being run well, few are updated regularly, many have lots of broken links, the sites are treated as low priority initiatives.

How will he bring more action to the local level?

  • Education. Explaining the value of Government 2.0 to people on a personal level.
  • Performing a state-wide audit of local governments to build benchmarks.
  • Deliver this information to local governments so they can see how they are doing against other local governments. This is a second level of education.
  • Make Government 2.0 available at the local level inexpensively. Many of the tools are free or inexpensive. More education, easier access to tools and knowledge holders, will be critical.

These steps can help all of us at any level. In fact, soon I’ll spend time to pull together a good template for auditing government 2.0 at the local level. If you know of ones that already exists, or have insights into what you think should be included, please let me know.

Also, keep in mind that I have a survey in place to gain an understanding of how people feel government is doing in terms of using technology to communicate and collaborate with citizens. If you can, please take time to answer this survey and share with your friends.


If you need help from The Lab, drop me a note. If you would like to view more case studies and interviews, or just want to read about The Social Ecosystem, click on the links and let me know your thoughts.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Stephen Peteritas

It’s a shame gov2.0 really hasn’t blossomed at the local level. When I really sit back and think about it gov2.0 on the local scale will be much more helpful for the everyday citizen then it will on the national level. Both are necessary but local could really catch fire if done correctly. Good Post John!

Andrew Krzmarzick

Yep. Set up little workshops in libraries, schools, churches, local civics organizations, etc and work it into the regular schedule of the town’s events (vs. setting up something free standing).

Make it free and make it potluck for food.

Darron Passlow

Community Engagement is now mandated (by legislation) in my home state (NSW in Australia). So local government needs to become more efficient and more effective. We cannot do this with old tools and old ways. We need to change and integrate our communities into our decision processes.
The challenge first is getting the people in the authorities (in local government) to accept and adopt the new ways and then we need to get our communities invloved in a trusting and supportive relationship.
We can do this through the practices of Gov 2.0 using the tool of Web 2.0 but we need to get moving and get local government executives involved.
And Stephen is right – local government is where “the rubber hits the road” and there is no better place to be doing community engagement and Gov 2.0 well.