If you’ve been a member of one of Andrea Schneider’s groups, you know why Andrea hosts some of the most fascinating conversations on GovLoop. The titles alone may entice you to join:
Of course, Andrea has some experience with group moderation as she has hosted a social network for dog lovers in Portland for the last couple years…and she has some innovative ideas for leveraging social media to improve the Federal grants process. You’ll learn about all of that and more in her Member of the Week interview below.
1. What’s your background? Where are you from? Where are you now? Why there?
I was born in NYC, and moved to Palo Alto, CA when my Dad was recruited to work in the early days of Silicon Valley. I have a graduate degree in Political Science, in social and political change, and attended UC Berkeley. I have spent most of my career in the public sector and never held a position with a job description. Each position was new and a ‘start-up”, in different sectors, including education, health, criminal justice and the non-profit sectors. Some notable snapshots of my professional career are: I created the Santa Clara County Prevention Office, was Principal Investigator on a $3M HHS Community Partnership Grant, which piloted action research on collaborative models, planning for results and evaluation. As a Fellow in the US Justice Department/COPS Office, I evaluated all the innovative Advancing Community Policing Grants across the United States and published a book about the results. I testified as an expert witness to the US Congress on prevention, risk and protective factors, served HHS as an Expert Panelist to review a very large training and technical assistance programs, received grants for a National Evaluation Conference and another to explore social marketing in the public sector.
2. What’s your connection to the public sector?
I have served in local, state and federal positions. I am a strong advocate for innovation in government, spending the dollar once and tackling issues collaboratively and accountably. I think we have funded many program initiatives, in different agencies, over and over again without building a strong sustainable effect over time. I am also a strong advocate of leveraging limited resources, building capacity and capability and working together with the different sectors.
3. Any cool projects you are working on right now?
I am involved with social media, collaboration, social enterprise. I am a resource to multiple sectors in qualitative evaluation, project analysis, collaborative models. I am very interested in the implementation of the Open Government Directive and linking it with private and non-profit efforts to accomplish similar things. I feel we are in the middle of a massive convergence in thinking, interests and shifts in our common paradigms. I worry there will be a breakdown, in the OGD, on the operational side of the equation.
4. You have a vision for social media and grantmaking…can you tell me more about it?
Sure. I have been involved in all aspects of grants and grant making. I am promoting using social networking as a tool in grant management. I know this isn’t a sexy topic, but it’s important, because if it works, it will save us a great deal of money and time. I also believe it would increase our outcomes and results. To do it, I would create closed social networks to manage geography, relationship building, evaluation, training and technical assistance.
I would link social network participation to needed resources to insure the successes of each grantee. I would definitely link grantees to each other as peer resources and ask the network members to help each other throughout the life of the grant. Doing this will help us spot emerging best practices faster, as well as potential problems.
The Grant Managers would become the “community manager” for each grant initiative network. The social network will give the granting agency a birds eye view of what is happening in each community, would enable the entire network to create relationships and workshops, prior to ever coming to Washington for a conference, and would leverage limited government resources more wisely. I am not advocating using social networks for any financial or private information, reporting or data collection in specific grants.
I’d like to see a strong demonstration project to evaluate this idea. If this idea works, as I think it will, it catalyzes President Obama’s OGD in practical, efficient and transparent ways, sooner than later, at low cost. It also gives the public a way to see some of what he is talking about in action.
5. You are the Community Manager for another social network for dog lovers. How did that get started?
I live in a dog-crazy Portland and love dogs. I have a golden retriever named Ellie. I wanted to explore using social networking technology as a community building tool. I was introduced to Ning early in their development, as a company and felt they had a good idea, which could have broad application. A lot of my deeper understanding of the usefulness of social media comes from my hands on experience running the pdxdog.com network. When I combine it with my professional background, it’s a powerful combination right now.
6. Your discussion groups are among the most active on GovLoop. What’s your secret to growing members quickly and moving the conversation from an initial flicker to a blazing fire?
I love these groups. I never know if what I’m thinking about will hit a nerve with anyone else and I’m glad it does. I tend to focus on topics which are practical, honest and useful, subjects I’m genuinely interested in discussing. I am very curious about what other people know or think about these topics. I often feel I take a lot of chances with these groups and myself by putting my ideas out for discussion. Sometimes it’s a little scary. I think a lot of people are wondering how to move from talking to action. I’m writing from my
head and heart, which hopefully feels authentic and real to people. I think there is a collective intelligence emerging and people want to share and build knowledge and relationships with
each other. I know that’s what motivates me to get involved.
7. Like many Americans, you are currently between employment opportunities. What would be your ideal job?
I imagine myself as part of a highly effective, multi-sector, multi-disciplinary team helping people, groups and communities be successful. Simple and complex all at once. This is a great time to be bold, think beyond the usual boundaries and broadly use a range of skills. I’d like to evaluate programs for usefulness and effectiveness in building capacity and sustainability, breaking down unnecessary barriers for the public. I want to work where the success of the end user is my success. I want to strengthen results by using what we know, in an applied, action focused way. I’d like to work with people who see the benefit in asking hard questions, are comfortable taking some risks with new ideas and evaluating for best practices which can be used in by others.
8. Anything else you’d like to mention that I haven’t covered?
You have asked me great questions. I want to encourage people to ask, “how would this really work?” “Who benefits by this…?” I want to encourage people to see evaluation and accountability methods, as a tool for continuous improvement, not a grading system. To look for redundancy and for collaborative opportunities.