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The GovLoop Niche

I think GovLoop could fill a niche right in-between the facebook level of government, and the City website. Let's take the City of Saint Paul as an example, since I live there:

Here is the City of Saint Paul website. Right on the home page, you see that the City of Saint Paul has a twitter account, and a facebook account. (No GovLoop account... yet!) Navigating to both, I see that the tweets are a combination of lower to mid level government involvement... I find out that the tree was lit in Rice Park, which is pretty lower level, and I find out that there was a snow emergency announced. This matters to me more if I don't want my car to get towed. Some are feeds from their Facebook page, some are tweeted directly.

Back on the City website...if you navigate through the "I Want To..." and click on "Find a Document" in the drowndown menu, you get to this page: a wealth of information about the kinds of things I'm going to call upper level citizen involvement. Right on this page there could be a GovLoop button, and some kind of call to discuss these documents on GovLoop. Document discussion on this level isn't the sort of thing their facebook page or their twitter feed are really set up to do. Those have a very light tone... new Butterfly exhibit, that sort of thing.

Okay, what if not only were there a link to govloop right by facebook and twitter, but one of the City's tweets was: "New document available on Emergency Management", or "New City Council Budget Review posted" and it linked to the document, and then there was the GovLoop button for people to click if they wanted to comment on it?

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Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Hi Amy - As you know (since you are such an active and amazing contributor to the conversation!), we are preparing a GovLoop button that can be placed on various websites as you suggest. I love that you are starting to dig in to some sites and imagining where we have our place among YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other collaborative sites. In many ways, GovLoop may be an even better location to foster such dialogue as we have more tools and spaces to host such conversations.

The bigger question behind your suggestion may be: are we ready for average citizens to join this conversation (which are likely the prime target audience for the feedback that you'd be seeking in the scenarios above)? For now, our members have been people in and around government - Federal, state and local government employees, non-profits and good government organizations, academics and private contractors that make government truly-multi-sector. While we are all citizens, the kind of dialogue you recommend would expand our current focus from a smaller niche to, well, everyone who's interested in what's happening with their government at all levels.

So you raise a great question and one that is timely for GovLoop members to address - I'm eager to hear the community's feedback!

Profile Photo Pam Broviak

I see where you are going and think it would be hugely beneficial for increasing engagement between govt and citizens. But with GovLoop's current structure, it would be difficult to implement.

Cities own, control, and maintain their own Websites. The city also "owns" an account or page on a site like Facebook or Twitter so the city controls its presence there on an account representing the city. GovLoop does not have the type of account creation, setup, and page management that would be required or needed by a city. Instead as Andy said, GovLoop is more of a "hang-out" and discussion site for people interested in or working in or for government.

For this idea to work, perhaps GovLoop would have to change its format to be a type of networking site like Facebook and add in all other kinds of functionality to be able to attract a large number of city accounts. However they would then be competing with huge companies like Facebook.

But then I wonder if city management would want their citizens to have to go to a 3rd party site to discuss local issues and documents. It would be easier and more relevant to have the city host a discussion page on its own site. Or have a local civic group host something like this. I notice citizens have a hard enough time keeping up with all the rules/changes in their own city. If it was all dumped to a remote site like GovLoop, people from all over would comment on it, not really understanding or knowing the local issues. And then their comments are not always as important to local officials as the comments of their own citizens.

Hopefully we will someday have what you describe - just not sure it will be on something like GovLoop or even one of the other sites. (Maybe a company like Microsoft or Google will create a govt app that facilitates these types of discussions with citizens!)

Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Quick note on Pam's thoughtful response (thank you, Pam) - the place on the site where we could do what is being suggested would be in the groups. Cities could set up a moderated group that provides a modicum of control over who participates in a conversation based on a person's profile.

Now what would be REALLY cool (and what we're set up to do) is if city employees from a particular municipality or region use a group to communicate with one another...for instance, to discuss and prepare documents before they are posted on their own sites for public comment.

It's a really good point that you make, Pam, in terms of cities probably wanting to facilitate conversations with citizens on their own sites...but could be interesting to foster conversations between government and citizens here...as happens on Facebook pages. Again, it's really up to the community and what maintains GovLoop as a safe space for government employees to collaborate and connect.

Profile Photo Pam Broviak

What we are discussing is a tool that enables engagement and collaboration between city staff and/or citizens. Lately, I have been trying to encourage programmers I talk with to try to develop tools like this for municipalities - in the end, it can be an online service or another piece of software. Certainly GovLoop could also develop this since they now are part of a company that provides services to govt. But either way there are a few things that need to be considered.

From what I know about local govt, the easiest and fastest way for this to be accepted is if the tool integrates well with what we are already using. This is why I thought Microsoft or Google were well poised to develop a suite of offerings. Trying to convince supervisors to try something new is always easiest if it is already bundled with existing software or is an add-on. IT also accepts tools better if they fit into what we already have.

The other issue is the requirements related to archiving records/correspondence and the FOIA rules which seem to be changing a lot lately. These tools would have to take all that into consideration.

Personally I would love to see someone offer something. We are going to try to create something in-house out of open source tools but it would be so much easier if it was a plug-in we just add to existing software like MSOffice.

Profile Photo Amy Bell

Andrew,

I'll bow to your wisdom about whether or not I should start a new discussion about this very topic. I think it's time to point out the emporer has no clothes about the reach of GovLoop. I dug up an old but popular discussion topic that cropped up after the sale of GovLoop about who uses it... I didn't have time to read the entire thing, but it seems like it's trying to be two things at once. I think as long as it continues to try to have its cake and eat it, too, it's going to do neither one as well as it could. Does this make any sense? I'm not trying to be cryptic, I'm trying to be repectful.