Lately, there has been a site called Pinterest that has skyrocketed in popularity. The basic concept behind Pinterest is an online pinboard; a virtual space for sharing images from all over the web based on specific themes. It’s a way to discover new ideas and get inspired. People use it for home remodeling, wedding planning, arts and crafts, cooking recipes, and any other theme that allows creativity, innovation, and fun.
Is this something that government can use to engage their citizens? I think there are some agencies that could benefit from sharing ideas for very specific themes. Too many times I come across government photosharing sites and see things like buildings, agency heads accepting awards, historical landmarks, or office parties. Unfortunately, most citizens don’t find that particularly interesting. But what if we had a site that allowed us to share content worth a thousand words to reach a specific target, such as…
Designing new buildings: wouldn’t it be great if citizens had a chance to suggest ideas for the design of new buildings? There are so many innovative architectural designs all over the web. Why not let the citizens share some of their favorites with you.
Being more green: There are so many ways to be more green at the office without having to spend a lot of money. Ways to create heat, enhance natural lighting, simple redesigns to increase space, creative ways to reuse waste, etc.
Redesigning websites: Many agencies are looking to refresh their official website. Get fresh ideas from the community on what they like to see. After all, they’re the ones that have to use it.
Decorating public spaces: Share ideas for decorating parks, making improvements, or finding new ways for celebrations like holidays and parades
Integrating art from schools: Kids make the most inspiration and endearing art. Why not find ways to creatively showcase them in our public buildings?
Designing new marketing materials: How often does government spend on pamphlets, posters, and flyers that look unattractive and boring? Get design ideas that would make a stronger impression on your audience
Granted, Pinterest has its limitations, since it wasn’t designed for organizations to solicit ideas from others as much as it is to show off what you find on your own. But there is a collaboration feature that government could turn on to invite others to create content. Or just instruct citizens to mention you when they come across something related to your pinboard.
Either way, it’s a great way to be inspired, discover new ideas, and build relationships.
Keep in mind that as government, we have to be extra careful with areas such as accessibility, record retention, terms of service, and others. Make sure your agency is covered in these areas before you get started.
Overall, I think there are many public agencies that can use Pinterest as a powerful business tool. Yes, there will be some that sigh at the notion of jumping on yet another social networking site (“last year you told us to get on this site; what a big waste of time that turned out to be”). Chances are, many agencies will try and get little to no response. But if you have a business reason to try it out, why not give it a shot?