“Flash Mob” Insights on Open Government

This morning I attended a great session at the Open Government and Innovations Conference in Washington, DC, led my Amanda Eamich and Karen Malkin, both of the USDA. They broke out session participants into three groups based on the Open Gov pillars – collaboration, participation and transparency. As we split up, it felt a bit like a flash mob forming to learn the lived experience of the crowd. Here’s what my group on collaboration shared (hat tip to Josh Salmons for moderating and Brittany Thompson for being our group recorder):


  • Age- generational gap. Generation of boomers who find it hard to get involved with Sharepoint, yammer, twitter, etc.
  • Getting people to open up/ trust.
  • They look at it as an additional work. They see social media as “fun”, so how is that going to be
  • Mindset: information hoarding. If you know what I know, then I am no longer necessary. Protecting your turf. “Silos of excellence”.
  • People may want to collaborate, but they do not know the available tools because of a lack of promotion by the organization. Less than 40% of agencies use the Sharepoint licenses they have already bought, and they are responsible for
  • Not being able to implement or train the tools we have. No governance model to help educate.
  • While the agencies understand “transparency”, it should not be the end goal. In fact, it is supposed to help create efficiency and effectiveness; the end goal is not to simply “be transparent”.
  • Feeling of “aloneness”, some of us don’t know where to start
  • Lack of support and funding from the agencies. Social technology isn’t present anywhere in PDs. The agencies that do have success, the management is

What works:

  • Incentives HELP: Experiencing collaboration is when the “light bulb goes off”. Also, “who’s going to care what I have to say?”
  • Add value to the workflow, understand the value. There was a champion at the high-level who said “this is going to happen.”. There was a problem
  • Training, Brown Bag lunches, hand holding. Just because help content is not available
  • Project champion who takes the time to reward the people who are contributing.
  • Institutionalize the successes in social media; maybe they are tied to bonuses, gold stars, starbucks gift cards, etc.
  • Plagiarism is ok! Copy a function works
  • Take one tool at a time- don’t give too much information at once.
  • Incorporate a search strategy with your social media tool
  • Appoint “community leaders”, superstars who are actively involved and can grow a specific group. They provide the hand holding that is necessary.
  • Find a problem and start small. Still, you should also look at the big picture- where does your company/organization want to go with these social media tools?

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