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Is Government a Partner with Private Sector Initiatives for Change?

This past weekend I had the good fortune to attend an un-conference on Social Media, Collaboration and Social Enterprise. It was great to be around my peers from other sectors.
The government sector is rarely at this table as a partner. I think this is a problem.

There is a convergence of thinking and emerging collective intelligence around the need for new ways to collaborate, change the world and innovation. I continually observe the development of parallel tracks, which should be cognizant of each other which are not.

There is a call to draw a map of all activities and groups, somehow invested in the enterprise of change, through collaboration, investment, community service, social media, accountability, transparency and participation.

Some are feeling a sense of chaos with who is doing what for whom. A sense of chaos, by itself can be expected in massive change, but as many people are founding new ways to bring people together, we are in danger of creating the redundancy of effort we seek to prevent by collaborating.

Changemakers come from many walks of life and professional association and organizations. Many more are emerging every day. The fact we are seeing so much interest is terrific.

How do we identify the most worthy activities and organizations to get behind? How can we be more aware of the landscape? Why is government often left out of the equation? What does government have to offer the emerging collaborations in the non-govt sectors?

I think this is a ripe subject and an important one to discuss. Sustainable and thrivable change will only occur if we are working successfully together, each sector doing what it does best.

Comments on this are very welcome!

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Profile Photo Andrea Schneider

Hi Lucas,

The more we can map and connect what's going on where the better. Kind of like a view from a high mountain where you can see the whole landscape. There are some amazing people generating groups, organizations and initiatives quite outside the government sector. Of course there are government initiatives as well.

I think we would be doing a real service by mapping who is connected to who and who is doing what. I know I'm having a hard time keeping track of what I'm even connected to right now.

What are the public-private partnerships doing? What are they collaborating on? Are they sharing resources or talent? It would be good to start documenting what is emerging, even in an abbreviated format. It will constantly change, but it would be nice to create a repository in a couple of places.

An action item from the conference I attended is to start cataloging things like this big and small, public or private. I'll let everyone know where some of this is going on so it can be shared. It may get overwhelming, but it's worth a try.

Andrea

Sometimes people or agencies don't want to give up their leadership and join another effort, so I'm hoping we can address some of those "ego" issues which will reduce redundancy and increase our efficiency and outcomes.

Profile Photo Keith Moore

Hello Andrea.

This discussion should create a flurry of discussions which could be good for those of us stuck in what looks like a week of snow storms here in DC. Your comments should also do something that I had envisioned could come from Gov Loop when I joined back in November 2009; which is to encourage and create more public private partnerships within Government.

Public-private partnerships realistically may be our number one answer to bringing public trust back into government. A successful implementation of the Open Government Directive could encourage government to encourage the private sector to invent tools to encourage partnering with the private sector. The private sector here is not defined by one large prime contractor, but an expansive number of businesses that represent every sector, every institution, and offer every agency new solutions.

I have followed some of the blogs related to this subject, and I think that it is important to recognize that members of Gov Loop including myself are now being put to the test when people talk about pen Government. For example, do we as professionals and as a group earnestly believe that transparency is the gateway to new ideas, varied interpretations, and expanding definitions? Secondly, are diverse ideas what we really want to be the result of transparency? Do we believe that access to information as a result of transparency gives opportunity to produce new collaborations and new levels of participation with government?

After almost ten years as a private sector consulting firm, our firm has paid for every travel cost, lodging and food expense associated with attending government conferences on doing business with the government,(except for the ones our clients reimburse us for). At these conferences there were fees charged by government to the business attendees and the greatest value of the conference was not the panelists on the panels, but it was the networking that afforded free discussions, new network building, and follow up opportunities for the attendees. So year after year we attend readily with anticipations for our clients for new and realistic business opportunities. New government business for many federal contractors is the only way to grow jobs.

I for one firmly support Better Buys premise which says that doing business with the government is way too complicated.

Better Buy’s focus is to find out how social media and other web 2.0 tools can be used to make government procurement more effective and efficient. Even here, we must get a common understanding for the use of the terms “effective and efficient.” We also should agree on which community, public or private are we seeking to become more effective and efficient? I submit that it should be both, not
one party versus the other.

Since last November I have seen how the virtues of Open Government can indeed revolutionize the way government both interfaces and encourages business to provide product and service solutions. If one applies transparency and encourages participation through collaborations, the Open Government Directive then seems to be able to have the ability to break the traditions and practices that have not worked well. It was Senator Snowe who told the President at the Conference of Governors weeks after the election that the procurement process is broken. The president agreed and repeated this at a town hall meeting last year. I think the executive leadership in the House and the Senate also believe that we must find ways to effectively bring down the high walls of doing business with the government that have traditionally caused especially for small business an unsuccessful experience in the government contracting world.

Because I saw new possibilities for the business community, we at Open Government TV decided to sponsor the costs of producing the Open Government Playbook, and provide live streaming and post editing television. We did so because as a small business, we believe in the core values of transparency, the hope energized by collaborations, and the possibilities to increase participation for more stakeholders to engage with government. This is what we go to work for every day. I can only trust that this is not the kind of conversation that gets labeled as politically slanted but is indeed part of a conversation that needs to be addressed. I trust not in the former but the latter.

The article below found on our RSS feed at http://www.opengovtv.com interestingly enough lays out the case that not enough people really do not understand OGD or (web 2.0). So it would seem that we must be prepared to be ambassadors of diverse thoughts with a focus on being able to offer a layman’s interpretation on how the new transparent environment create new opportunities for our business community.

Our mission to create 100 new jobs with Open Government TV. We want to engage, educate and empower the business community to regain confidence in government initiatives such as Open Government Directive. This is the community that can process the new transparent information and engage in innovations, that help business produce products and services to the government. Our economy needs new industries, manufacturing and employment from small, midsize, and large businesses . So Andrea, I encourage keeping this conversation going and perhaps the blog below that came from our website RSS feed at http://www.opengovtv.com Enjoy:

Gov 2.0: A Message from Hollywood to the Beltway

When asked by Alan Silberberg to speak at this past weekend's Gov2.0LA unconference, Bill Grundfest, a television producer from Hollywood, asked an important question: What the hell is Government 2.0?

Government 2.0 serves as an umbrella term for the variety of projects and platforms coming from both the public and private sectors that have the goal of bringing government into the 21st century and getting citizens engaged. Yet, when you ask people in the space what it means, no one seems to have the same definition.

In a panel on Language Standards for Government 2.0, Grundfest, the former producer of TV sitcom Mad About You, spoke about the concept of Government 2.0 from an important perspective that is often forgotten in the space: people. Forthright in his admission that he knows nothing about technology and transparency, Grundfest pointed out that he did understand that the way that Government 2.0 evangelists are currently communicating their message to their target audience is clearly not engaging.

Congratulations. You are all in show business.

Grundfest began the discussion by recruiting the entire Gov 2.0LA audience into show business. Government 2.0 evangelists are self-promoting and advertising themselves to the world through social media like Twitter and Facebook. Those who are introducing Government 2.0 communications and projects to government entities and citizens are much like the writers that create a new pilot for a TV show: they are pitching new ideas, some of which will capture attention and others of which will fail. Just like you have to test a pilot to see if an audience likes it, Government 2.0 innovators must test their new platforms with their intended audience members, citizens. It is this testing that will help the space figure out how they can truly serve citizens and get them engaged. It's about finding out what people really want.

Lessons: Engage & Humanize

Government 2.0 needs a narrative that anyone can understand. The "schlub" with the pothole in front of his house wants to know how he can fix it. He realizes he can use a mobile application likeCitySourced or SeeClickFix to report it to his local government. It gets fixed. Whenever explaining Government 2.0, it should be in terms as simple as that. When people realize that technology can help solve the government problems that affect their daily lives, they will become more engaged.

While it is almost second nature for people in the Government 2.0 space to use jargon (even by using "Government 2.0" as a term), the use of jargon, as Grundfest points out, is inherently an anti-democratic thing to do. Grundfest is right, because it creates an "in crowd" as well as just contributes to the existing echo chamber, drowning out the voice of the average citizen. Anyone who considers themselves to be a part of the Government 2.0 space should make it their responsibility to translate concepts like transparency and open government for the masses of people who do not run in these policy and technology circles.

Using Hearts to Change Minds

The most important lesson from Grundfest: those in "politech" need to use hearts to change minds, not "minds to change minds." A compelling story, an interactive video or a personal conversation can go a long way in recruiting citizens to the cause. Even if the government cannot fix all our problems, it still can provide space for citizens to be heard. That really is the half the battle. There are many people who simply feel like they do not count, whether at the local level when that same pothole does not get fixed or at the federal level with a national debate like the one surrounding healthcare. Government 2.0 has to be about conversations and connections, not just open source code and policies.

Profile Photo Daniel Bevarly

Hi Andrea

My observance has been that there is too much focus on objectives and not enough on goals --and it's all occurring in a vacuum. Objectives are plentiful and always available. I understand the motivation of the private sector to find solutions for collaboration and innovation. What's the motivation for government? Is it collaboration and data sharing, or is it better policy making through a more informed and involved public? Is it all of these or something else?

You ask "How do we identify the most worthy activities and organizations to get behind?" That's easy; it's the ones that are advancing the goals.

Government may be "left out of the equation," because unlike their private sector counterparts, there does not appear to be an appreciation for the need for, or benefit from engaging their customers. Consider government strives made toward "change," without citizen involvement. Would a business spend these kinds of resources (human and financial) w/o the benefit of feedback or advance planning from customers?

Profile Photo Andrea Schneider

Dear Keith and Daniel,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. You offer us a lot to digest and think about. Daniel, I'm not sure it's so easy to answer the questions and what goals you are referring to exactly. Could you clarify?

I'm also hearing a lot of frustration from Keith. I think you are both reflecting important themes.

I want to keep this conversation open and going. I am sure this is a worthy can of worms to open up sooner than later. I also want to encourage a solution oriented dialog, one that moves us to better results on many fronts and is open and candid.

I want to think about what you both have said and respond thoughtfully. Ditto anyone else who add to this conversation. In so many ways we are all exploring new relationships, new models for working together and sometimes it's uncomfortable professionally and personally.

I haven't ever seen so much keen interest, on so many fronts, at the same time, ever. I think we have to capitalize on this energy and it does create unique challenges for the government sector, who has not always been respectful of the end user or the idea of partnerships and collaboration.

The questions can be tough and make us uneasy. I do think we have an opportunity to conduct business differently with a better use of our collective intelligence and resources. I don't want government to be left out of the equation for change. Maybe I'm naive.

Andrea

I want to think more about what you all have written. It's important. Please also feel free to respond to each other.

Profile Photo Keith Moore

Good Morning Andrea, I hope you hear more passion than frustration. Frustration can move to stagnation. There is the most amazing opportunity here before this group and for all who are committed to enacting change for the better. Your spirit expressed here is the key to any advancement. I guess thats where the saying, where there is a will, there is a way. Since I want to encourage a more full participation in this conversation, I'll stand back and view the comments that come in with an eye on contributing as we already have.

Great content, keep it going.

Profile Photo Andrea Schneider

Hi Keith,

Please don't stand back. No don't do that.
When I think about the private sector, I not only include those already involved in government contracts, but those that have nothing to do with government at this time. I am getting involved with people who are promoting some amazing collaborative models which promote social enterprise, investment and advisors to make the initiative the best it can possibly be. No one has all the expertise needed to create organizational and social change by themselves. This past weekend, I met someone who had a brilliant grass roots effort which couldn't go any further without more sophisticated help, there were people who could help.

We want to start cataloging efforts currently "under the radar" but vitally important, especially as they relate to doing well and doing good in the world. Many are business people who support start-ups who have a social agenda (example: Tom's Shoes).

Frankly, I can get confused about what everyone is doing and how to jump on board. I think there will be some personal thought about ego and what it means to join other efforts, if one isn't the best one or most effective. It might mean giving up the sense "of mine". Going for the common good is a theme.

I do worry that government could get left behind, out of either not understanding the role of government well enough, or from past negative dealings. Of course, I think the most effective initiatives will involve public policy and strategic funding as part of the whole.

I also want to see more emphasis on non-quantitative results, giving context to numbers if you will. We will see how far the paradigm is really changing as we move together toward action. There is a necessary give and take for this to work.

Andrea

Profile Photo Andrea Schneider

Can you all identify initiatives or groups doing excellent work in this area? I know some of this is very new, especially with the integration of social media, but send your thoughts and my way.
Thanks.

Profile Photo Keith Moore

Hi Andrea,

There is a real fear in the world today Andrea. I think, and truly pray that this fear could ultimately result in becoming a healthy fear that leads to a wake up call to the nations leadership within government agencies. A fear that causes us to pause and pay attention to those of us who are new to the Open Government discussion, not IT juggernauts, but have been around the government space a long time and are given a healthy welcome into the OGD participation process by those who are responsible for implementing the OGD plan. If this is done willfully, then I believe this fear can turn into a healthy phase of transition. We at OGTV decided to test this proposition after spending close to ten years in the government space as business development consulting firm. (not a lobbying firm, by choice). We started a TV program called Open Government TV where our mission is to engage large businesses, educate small businesses, and empower public and private sector on how to implement a sustainable Open Government Directive in an American Recovery Reinvestment Era. Our goal is to create 100 jobs. Partnering and true collaborations can bring reality to our vision. In turn, we look forward to being a part of helping to empower those who over the course of recent history have been disempowered. Many who are highly educated and well trained, but due to a bad economy have fallen on hard times and are valuable to a firm and to the gross national product.

My response to you Andrea however for the moment is not about OGTV, but about Society's overall fear of and doubt about government initiatives working..Including Private Public partnerships...

Lets take specifics-
Many who have worked for government and those who have and are attempting to do business with the government say repeatedly to me that "small business agency, and small business Directors for example who are paid well to help the business community grow in reality do not help, they give lip service.. A few success stories do not represent the overall success of the national business community. So why don’t we ask that all small business conferences incorporate web 2.0, and OGD subject matter so that government private sector get on the same page at the same time. Imagine a small business deciding to stand up to the OSBDU Directors and get them to see the efficacy in implementing OGD principles in their outreach for helping small business. Most small businesses if too assertive are fearful of being labeled which could hinder their doing business with the government. Another idea is to get Contracting officers more engaged in this discussion. Decision makers who decide on the fate of a businesses livelihood must become a part of the Directive’s new mandates. if not, then what good is the transparency of the information we share with the public.

Go to any blog and find out that citizens are cynical. Look at the health care debate. Look at the E-Buy initiative which needed to be dismantled due to an inability to sustain it. An initiative that was designed to help small business get GSA schedules more quickly. And today a business without a GSA schedule is subject to losing out on contracts in a very huge way. Look at what is going on on the Hill. Senator Evan Bayh, and many others who are dropping out of the congress and senate because of gridlock in washington. So all I am saying or asking is that we as a Gov Loop community unite our talents, knowledge and resources and support each other for the common good of an open government. Open government has the ability to turn this country's economy around not because we are making information more transparent, but because we are making information available to be used as a tool to empower and grow people's capacity to achieve the American Dream. But with no branding or marketing budget, its nearly impossible to get the public to believe the hype. Under OGD, not for profits should not compete with small business, but lead collaborations by example. Large businesses should not have to be mandated to have small business plans, but maybe should be mandated to have an Open Government Plan...And the measurement of how well we are moving in this direction Andrea, and this is my opinion, is whether Agencies are provided funding by the White House or by Congress to market, brand and develop the OGD initiative. Its demoralizing at times to learn how overwhelmed government workers are in trying to accomplish so much without sufficient staff or resources. On the private side, it is hurtful to hear about and talk to companies across the country who are financially and morally depleted because banks fail to lend and further dampen the spirits of those who are supposed to be the engine of our economy-small business. I'll stop for now. Open to talk to you anytime.

Thanks for inviting me to the microphone.