Web 2.0 in Gov’t: don’t ask/don’t tell?

Joking around with a client today, we acknowledged that in many ways, the approach to social media in government has been a “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy – launch something under the radar without official approvals or face obstacles and roadblocks that deter all but the most determined.

We also acknowledged that things are starting to change, at least in this particular case. But the resilience and patience required to keep up the good fight is no small matter. When someone without a pioneering or rebel spirit is told “sorry, we can’t do that here” takes no for an answer, a spark is snuffed out and innovation is stalled. The hit to morale is palpable.

I’m optimistic it’s just a matter of time. In the meantime, my heart goes out to folks who don’t have the support they need to experiment, take risks and just do it. If you find yourself without the buy-in or resources you need to embrace Web 2.0 to support your mission, here are some things you can do for now:

1. Get out and network with folks who are making headway – GovLoop is a great place for that, along with any number of low-cost events

2. Follow Web 2.0 innovators, thought leaders and evangelists on Twitter

3. Keep up and get involved at WebContent.gov – these folks are in-the-know and their events are cost-effective

4. Prepare to make your case: collect good case studies/existing relevant examples, consider ways your mission would benefit from social media strategies, craft a simple elevator speech you can use when the time is right or when an unexpected opportunity arises

5. Identify a small way you could start (e.g., an internal blog or wiki for a division or project) – something where the stakes aren’t too high, but that will get your organization’s feet wet

6. Use social media tools yourself. I’m surprised by the number of people I run into who say they want to use social media in government, but aren’t doing so themselves. At a minimum, consider it an experiment and see what happens.

7. If you can drag a naysayer with you to a SM for Gov’t conference or workshop, it’s a great way to let others do the convincing for you. Stay away from vendor-heavy events and stick with agendas laden with real case studies. ALI does a nice job, but they’re pricey. See #3 above.

8. Find other like-minded people in your organization and hatch a plan; brainstorm who you could approach to help champion an easy pilot and invite them into the conversation. Low-key, polite persistence + a compelling “biz case” for fit to mission should get their attention long enough to get the ball rolling.

What else would you add to this list??




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Adriel Hampton

Thanks, Kelly! Twitter can be a bit confusing for people when they start. They often follow people from their e-mail address book who aren’t necessarily active on the site. Here is a list of Gov 2.0-type folks I find interesting: http://tinyurl.com/bxaeav – if you start out by following them, you’ll see the value of the site.

Denise Hill

Thanks, Kelly. I have printed your list. Thinking of posting it in the hallways (just kidding (maybe :)). Trying some of the things on your list may help to push a wet noodle I have.

Kelly O'Brien

Denise, actually, your idea to post some ideas in your hallways is a good one. You could also send select folks a link to the list or print it out and stuff mailboxes. Have seen this done effectively, as long as you don’t spam. Am not beneath guerrilla marketing to get some buzz going. I’d target “low hanging fruit” first (e.g., like-minded folks who might join you in creating a ground-swell of support). Give them a call-to-action (e.g., schedule an informal lunch meeting to discuss further).

Mary Davie

I happen to be one of the govvies who caused a bit of a stir in the agency when I started a facebook page (a closed group) for my workgroup. The result was that it helped bring attention to the agency of the need to figure out how we are going to play in the social networking public space. Speaking to our CIOs’ offices I found out there was a great deal of support for collaboration tools and discovered that we had a tool that I would be able to pilot that should bring us similar functionality to fb if not some additional functionality. There are of course security concerns and privacy concerns and terms of use issues with platforms like fb but I know many agencies have worked through some of those such as the Navy and the government as a whole is working on the terms of use agreements. So, my short answer is for folks to check to see what might already be in use or available for use in your agency, and talk with your CIO.

Terrence (Terry) Hill PHR

Some great ideas. Of course, I work for an agency that blocks all social media at work, such as GovLoop, Twitter, Facebook, and others. Only the pioneers who are also teleworking can access great discussions like this one. I am often frustrated by management’s resistance to 2.0 applications.

I find it helpful to point out current initiatives from other agencies or I point to what the President is doing with his new Whitehouse.gov, MiddleClass, and Recovery.gov websites as examples of what we need to do. I also point out new initiatives like Secretary Clinton’s new Secretary’s Sounding Board initiative. I think that we are reaching the tipping point for 2.0 applications. We just have to follow the President’s lead and build on others’ accomplishments in this area.

Andrew Wilson

Great list and great comments. I always find it useful to reach out beyond the gov’t only circle to see what other people are doing. One of the best ways is to find and participate in local groups that are engaged in these arenas. A good one that springs to mind is Social Media Club DC. Although there are gov’t folk at these events, private industry, media and non-profits are well represented and, for me, these events serve as great (free) forum to share ideas, experiences and perspective.

Joe Boutte

Great analogy. I also like the “just do it” approach.

The items I would add:

# Show how you can leverage innovation to make your organization more agile.

# Create learning opportunities to show how collaboration is improved and what are the impacts for the agency.

# Engage people outside the organization in addressing the challenges within the organization.

# Create energy and support by extending the boundaries of the organization.

# Host meetings or unconferences to promote Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0

Kelly O'Brien

Terrific additions to the list…thanks everyone, and keep ’em coming. Better yet, spread the word and use them.