Leveraging social business strategies in public policy

I am always asking people what they are doing with Social Business Strategies and Daniel Bevarly, Director for Online Strategies for The Collins Center for Public Policy, reached out to share some interesting information with me.

The Collins Center is a not-for-profit public policy think tank in Florida. As they note on their web site, “The Collins Center, named in honor of Governor LeRoy Collins (served 1955 – 1961), was established in 1988 as a statewide nonprofit organization to seek out creative, non-partisan solutions to Florida’s toughest issues”. They focus on educating policy makers and the public on the issues being discussed at the state level. The Center describes their mission in even simpler terms with Educate, Facilitate, and Influence being their key goals.

A great example of their efforts deal with the upcoming amendments to the Florida constitution. The Collins Center has created a site to educate people on the amendments, to facilitate discussions, and to influence public policy to the degree that their education process will offer citizens and policy makers the information they need to make an informed decision. If you review the site you can see the following being used:

  • Education and Collaboration. The section that has been setup to View and Debate the amendments provide viewers with the facts and allows them to create a dialog to further their understanding and share their viewpoints. A use of forum software is all that is needed and all that is being used.
  • Surveys. A survey is in place to gauge current thinking around the amendments, informing people on both sides about where people are leaning.
  • The use of videos to supplement the written word. The written word is powerful,videos, done well, will always add value.

Gauging success is difficult of course. However, by understanding the number of people involved in the discussion it is possible to determine how much education was provided to lawmakers and voters.

Another project we can learn from is the Coalition for Smart Justice, focused on restorative justice techniques. In 2009 an in-person conference took place with about 400 people in attendance. This was complimented with post-conference forums where nearly 20% of the original attendees continue to discuss the issues. There will be another in-person conference soon where everyone will come back together, better prepared than in 2009, to make progress on the issues. This post event collaboration is key for extending the value of conferences beyond the in-person event alone.

Is the Collins Center doing much with the popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter? Not much is being done today. The current solutions: forums, surveys, blogs; are adding the value needed. Today’s social business does not need leverage social networks to be successful. They need to focus on the goals. The strategies and tactics that help them meet these goals ultimately guide the tools that must be used.


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Daniel Bevarly

John – I enjoyed the interview and discussion. As for the “popular social networks” like Twitter and Facebook, we have established @CollinsCenter Twitter account. Our primary use at this time is to draw traffic to the web site by tweeting about programs and initiatives along with links. I expect to be conducting some online tweetchats using hashtags around some project areas with SMEs to engage participants. As for Facebook, the organization has had a Facebook page for some time, but it’s been dormant. I came on board in March and am planning to address it and a strategy in the near future. i want to take some time and get my arms around it. Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks again for your time and interest. I’m always open to new ideas and challenges that improve my abilities to provide a better product to my stakeholders. Dan