Public Service 2.0 with a Few Caveats

A few weeks ago, the open government virtuoso David Hale slapped a #publicservice hashtag on a tweet and it got me thinking about the evolution of Public Service. A considerable amount of reflection led me to the following thoughts on what Public Service 2.0 means to me:

  1. 360 Degree Collaboration: Good ideas come from everywhere within an organization and being equally open to bottom-up ideas as to more traditional top-down mandates expands the universe of solutions. Public service in this new era focuses more on the merit of the given idea than the author.
  2. There is Always Room for Better: It is difficult for me to imagine any work with which I am involved where there is an absolute end point and where there is no more room for improvement. Continuous iterative improvement is the new norm where projects begin and evolve incredibly fast.
  3. Great Expectations: There should be no slack cut for government. We may be playing catch up in some areas but the goal is that the work we do is on par with or surpasses similar work done by any organization in any sector.

There are certainly many more facets with which Public Service 2.0 can (and has been) described but I also want to touch on a few of the hazards as well.

  1. High Tech can’t succeed without High Touch: We need to remember that the tools that we are using to achieve a more participatory and collaborative government are merely tools and that the core of what they are enabling is greater interaction and engagement with real people.
  2. Inclusiveness is not an Option: Every effort should be made to make sure that our efforts are as inclusive as possible. This is not just a question of doing the right thing or doing what is required by law but it is a fundamental recognition that only through embracing a diversity of opinion, perspective and experience will we reach our highest goals.
  3. The New is not the Enemy of the Old: It can be tempting to think that newer processes, tools and approaches are inherently superior to more entrenched systems. This is not always the case and it is essential that in the rush to move forward that it remains a priority to learn from and preserve those ideas and processes that have proven value. Sometimes leaving things as they are can really be the greatest good.

So, move forward but do so deliberately. And do so with humility, perspective and the full realization that, in the broadest sense possible, this is a team effort.

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