December 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm #174333
I am the incoming president of a professional association in Oklahoma designed for public employees in new-media communications and technology. Membership in this group is voluntary; most programs are free. Despite programs of consistently high quality and usefulness to people in our field, the past few years have seen a significant drop in member engagement. To my mind, a primary reason for the downturn is a state regulation that requires all electronic communications among state employees to be archived. This means we’re limited to emails (e.g. listserv) and cannot legally engage a resource like GovLoop or even LinkedIn, GooglePlus or Facebook to serve as a platform for the association. Several agencies block access to Facebook altogether and would likely do the same for GovLoop, if they perceived a threat.
Recently the State established a wiki community for employees, and our association quickly established a platform there. It’s better than nothing, however, it has many drawbacks from our perspective. First, it is expressly for state employees, but our association is open to employees and volunteers at all levels of government, higher education and the nonprofit sector. Second, the wiki lacks a lot of the intuitive functionality of the best social networks — its navigation is clumsy and passive (not unlike the common perception of government!). Third, the wiki has yet to be popularly embraced, even by state employees, who, seeking a path of least risk, tend to continue conducting business by phone and email. Finally, the wiki has a gatekeeper — one must request and be granted admittance by the state agency managing the wiki. This model runs in stark contrast to our association’s values of openness, easy access, public engagement, etc.
We are an organization of “new media” professionals, and yet the advancements in those media are fast leaving us behind. I’m wondering if any of you have encountered similar difficulties and, if so, how you have responded. Without some decisive, bold changes and leadership, I fear our association may be doomed for the dustbin, which would be a severe loss to a lot of folks who stand to benefit from our skill-building, networking and advocacy programs.
December 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm #174337
Hey Andy – I’d start by talking to members (phone & survey) about what they really need.
Focus on unique 1-2 value-add that your association can serve that others can’t. And what is the real pain that your members have? What is the #1 thing that members would miss if the association went to the dustbin?
I’ve talked to a bunch of associations and I think issue is rarely what is best platform (own website, Linkedin, govloop, wiki, etc). The tougher issue is what do people truly need & what unique value-add can you association provide
For example, an answer could be:
-Major issue is finding a support system to implement new media tech
-Solution – Only OK new media system can set up a peer support system – peer mentors matched and meet regularly with monthly or quarterly overall check-in
December 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm #174335
Thank you, Steve. We actually did survey members earlier this year and dug up a lot of useful data. I didn’t mean to make it seem as though our communication platform is our only big problem — we are now entering into a much needed phase of restructuring the organization top to bottom. I guess “the wiki dilemma” is a particular gripe of mine. Mostly, I’m curious as to whether public employees elsewhere run into similar challenges — organizing/collaborating in a Web 2.0 world while compelled to use old-school or unideal platforms — and best practices for making lemonade of those lemons.
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