Public engagement with unglamorous government work

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Jeff S 8 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #171626

    Ami Wazlawik

    There are plenty of government employees at the state, local, and federal level doing essential but unglamorous work. From sewer operations to animal control and beyond, these folks work hard to provide services that we often take for granted.

    What can agencies and employees engaged in unglamorous work do to make the public more aware of the essential services that they provide?

    What public engagement ideas or strategies have worked in your agency/field?

  • #171642

    Jeff S

    As a former egg inspector we have demonstrated how to candle eggs at school demonstrations and state fairs. We gather lower grade eggs and certain types of loss eggs to show the differences and allow the consumers to candle the eggs themselves. This also allowed us to engage consumers and discuss what we do and how to decode the information on egg carton labels. If your in an unglamorous job and have an aspect of your job you can easily take to a fair or student career day it can really explain what you do and help consumers to understand what their tax dollars do.

  • #171640

    Mark Hammer

    MOST of what “government” does is unglamorous. To my mind, this is a principle cause of public resentment about taxes and government performance. There is so much unglamorous work that needs to be done behind the scenes. People tend to misperceive many of the services supplied as being simple or consisting only of the end steps that are visible to them. That’s the perennial problem with making things look easy and seamless: people tend to think they ARE easy.

    But your point is well-taken. There is work that is unglamorous because it is drudgery paperwork, or 58 steps removed from some valued outcome, and then there is work that elicits an “Ewwww!”, or “I’m glad *I* don’t have to do that” reaction from citizens.

    I miss Adam-12. There is a glut of crime procedural shows these days. You’d think that 2/3 of police forces walk around with their weapons drawn or else work in artistically-lit crime labs, conducting tests with expensive exotic equipment, and solving cases in days. Nobody fills out or files paperwork, or generates regional crime stats or looks at them for community or regional policing policy revision/assessment. Nobody deals with HR, staff training and development, and maintaining capacity. Nobody goes to homes to deal with domestic violence, or loud squabbles, or has to deal with motorists concerned over what the fender bender will do to the resale value of ther vehicle, or any of the myriad of things that public protection services HAVE to do daily.

  • #171638

    Joshua Millsapps

    I’m not sure what the right answer is, but I know you are right on point. I tweeted last week about the amzing job Arlington County does with trash pickup and was surprised by the response I got from the tweet. It was kind of like folks all of a sudden realized how much these guys are taken for granted. I think this gets to a more core issue which is that most people myself included only recognize people when things go wrong. Maybe we need to have a day set aside for “those whose contributions otherwise would go unnoticed.”

  • #171636

    I feel pretty informed about this storm heading toward the East Coast…and it’s probably a bunch of people doing the unglamorous work of analyzing data, predicting paths, calling local government officials, etc.

    Then there are the emergency response teams on the ready who are loading trucks with sand and ambulances with medical supplies that might just save someone’s life.

    There are cops patrolling streets to make sure citizens have heeded warnings, driving round and round neighborhoods, and up and down blocks and allies to urge folks to save their own lives.

    And there were likely hundreds of unglamorous moments months and months before this moment of need, all in preparation for this opportune time to apply those specialized skills.

    I’m wondering on this string if folks can share how they tell these stories…

  • #171634

    Ami Wazlawik

    You make a good point, Mark. So much of what government does IS unglamorous, but the public’s perception of what certain government employees do on a daily basis is often inaccurate. There are those jobs that are outwardly unglamorous, such as the examples listed in the post above, but, as Andy notes in his example, a lot more unglamorous work that gets done behind the scenes as well.

  • #171632

    Okay – this might be “glamorous:”

    What I like about the Coast Guard is that they regularly share this kind of content across the web.

  • #171630

    My job doing leasing work is not inherently glamorous but without it agencies would not have anywhere to do their unglamorous work.

    For me, just telling people about what I do and why it is important gets the idea out there that a lot of government work may not seem essential or glamorous from the outside but in realty it is necessary. My family has been particularly resistant to accepting this but by simply talking about my day-to-day they get past their irritation that the government wastes tax payer dollars. Small scale? Yes, but if all government employees did this the message would spread relatively quickly.

  • #171628

    My whole project is unglamorous! (see this snippet about Hesse’s glasperlenspielglorious, but not glamorous!)

    In context of #AttentionEconomy I think of 80/20 as pointing to the fact that, most of the time, most people are just surfing. Maybe in relation to something they’re interested in, but still … pretty superficial/trivial. What I’m aiming at is something that connects with the 20% who are substantially more engage. (Think of a Tea Party member wrangling FEMA and federal gov’t services … that’s engagement!)

    It seems to me that the blur that’s so common on the web (think of search results in google … close enough, if not precise … 80/20 in action) has very real consequences: the effort to find precisely what I want quickly enough dissuades me from even trying. And yet in heh in 20% of situations, 20% of users will maintain their propensity and continue drilling down.
    That’s my target group. I’m hoping buzz at the time of launch will trigger something catalytic.

    p.s. when I started on this my intention was to devise an effective system for citizen participation / discourse. that eventually became a “discourse-based decision support system”.

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