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Thom’s Top Ten #g2e 2010 edition

This post is also appears at NuSum, it is written from a Canadian perspective eh.

Back in May I wrote about attending Gov 2.0 Expo, in that post I promised to share some of what I learned. In short, it was an intense three days, lots of great presentations, and more importantly dozens of interesting and insightful conversations. Here is my report.

1. Top quote

I thought this was a very mature statement.

” web 2.0 tools are not something we need to learn to use, but environments we need to learn to live in.” Jack Holt, Dept. of Defense

For other things I thought were cool at the time you can check out my twitter feed from the conference.

2. Thou shalt engage

There is a ton of civic and employee consultation going on south of the 49th parallel. It seemed like every second presentation was about some form of engagement, mostly using the tool made available by GSA to all agencies, a good example is GSA’s own consultation.

With all this activity going on I expect we will see some more lessons learned in the next few months at WebContent.gov, but two early conclusions appeared in my mind:

  1. A broad national conversation is difficult if not impossible and of limited value. There are simply too many voices. Maybe when semantic analysis improves it will be practical but for now focus is essential.
  2. Follow-up is critical. You need to know what you are planning on doing with the input, be transparent about your intentions and follow through. Be sincere and prepare for the unexpected. See this post from David Eaves for some perspective on what can happen.

David also had a wonderful keynote at the show about open data, baseball and government. You can watch it here.

For a Canadian perspective on engagement check out what the folks at Ottawa based Publivate are up to.

3. The big systems are coming

The early days of web 2.0 are rapidly coming to a close and I am seeing more and more big systems thinking entering the conversations. This is both good and bad. The good part is when the big systems are viewed as ecosystems with permeable barriers between components. The bad part is when those big systems encourage silos and are not designed to get better the more people use them. I am not sure if this is an observation from #g2e or just a recent reflection, but there you go – beware of big systems that encourage silos.

4. You can still do a lot with a little

The City of Manor, pop 5,800 showed us how creative partnerships with innovative thinking could accomplish some really interesting things. The image that sticks with me is the bar code stickers on the side of city trucks. Check out the presentation.

5. We have begun to move from rhetoric to results

I think it was Gwynne Kostin at the General Services Administration, Office of New Media and Citizen Engagement, who said this to me and I felt the same. Compared to previous conferences , there was not quite so much enthusiastic arm waving going on. The mood was a little more serious, a little more thoughtful. I think these are the signs of a movement that is maturing.

6. Culture change is the elephant in the room

This thing called culture frequently comes up as something that needs to change. We talk about it a bit and then conveniently move on to something else. What I almost never hear is the idea that culture is about people. For culture to change, people need to change.

Unfortunately that means you and I have to change.

I had breakfast with the amazing culture change artist Kitty Wooley (@kwooleyy) which led to a guest blog about how hard it can be to change, even when you want. You can read the post at the Senior Fellows and Friends blog .

As a former advertising guy, I am real interested in if, and how we can influence culture change.

7. Canada is seriously behind in some respects

I had the opportunity to chat a little with Senator Kate Lundy from Australia and learned about their Declaration of Open Government based on the three key principles of Informing, Engaging and Participating. Of course Obama has the Open Government Directive and I certainly heard the mantra of Transparency, Participation, Collaboration more than once.

I look forward to hearing something similar from our government….but I am not holding my breath.

8. But we might be ahead on the inside

Of the people I spoke with and certainly in the US and Australia there is nothing quite like the Canadian Government’s GCPEDIA. For the most part silos persist and efforts to improve internal collaboration are just beginning with initiatives like FedSpace generating a fair bit of discussion on govloop. Incidentally I had great chats with Emma Antunes who is on loan to FedSpace from NASA, and Mr. govloop himself, Steve Ressler.

9. We need a trusted GC url shortner

It seems like a small thing, but a trusted government URL shortened is essential for gov 2.0. The US version was launched at the show http://go.usa.gov/. I am pretty sure there is no official effort underway to do something similar in Canada, although I understand there is a page in GCPEDIA about it. If anyone has an update, please let me know.

Oh yes, it needs to come with metrics. Lots of metrics.

10. People will engage for their reasons, not yours

Kathy Sierra gave a great short keynote on Creating Passionate Citizens that I would recommend you watch. Who knew that pets were a gateway drug to passion? Video of Kathy’s talk at Gov 2.0 Expo.

There is lots of other video from the expo.

11. The more things change the more they stay the same

Web 2.0 technology is fun and amazing but when you get right down to it, social networks are about connecting people, and people connect (or not) depending on how well they communicate. There is noting new about that.

There is also nothing new about the power struggles going on all over the place. A disruption is underway and people are seeking advantage. What I think is different this time, is the potential for the “power of the masses” to be put to work on positive change. Millions of people can now come together at very little cost. I am excited about what can happen, and worried that it won’t.

I have to stop now, there is more, lots more but now its your turn.

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Scott Burns

Thom: Excellent list. I think number 5 matters the most… if we don’t show results, some of the best efforts to use new technology and new approaches will be be written off. I agree with Gwynne and with you that the shift to results has started, but there is a long way to go, and I think we’re only scratching the surface of how to put Web 2.0 to use to drive better outcomes / results across government.