If you've ever belonged to an organization that relies on volunteers, you know one thing to be true:
It's always the same handful of folks who show up to pitch in and provide the energy to power your programs.
So I'm wondering: does this phenomena ring true for web- and mobile-based citizen engagement activities?
After all, the citizens we're trying to attract and entice into engaging with us on our Facebook pages, crowd-sourcing platforms and app contests are all essentially participating as volunteers.
And I've got to believe that you see many of the same people commenting on your blogs or posting Flickr photos week after week and month after month.
Now let's take this a step further - if you're in a town or city, I'd also venture to guess that the same citizens who get involved with activities and programs in person are precisely the people that you're seeing online. They're committed to community improvement and will be "there" to provide their input and insight wherever you set up tent to talk with them.
Of course, all of these thoughts beg one big question:
Are we really reaching new citizens by using social media and mobile technology or is it the same old folks who now have a new way to give feedback?
Are we okay with that...or should technology be enabling access for folks who aren't at the table already?
By the way, I am moderating a panel at Foresee's Digital Citizen Satisfaction Summit next Thursday, May 12 in Washington, DC where I'll be sharing these kinds of questions and your responses with key thought leaders, including:
- Gwynne Kostin, Director Mobile, GSA Office of Citizen Services & Innovative Technologies
- Sarah Hyder, Disaster Management Program Manager, FEMA Office of Public Affairs / Office of External Affairs
- Aaron Smith, Pew Research Center, Senior Research Specialist, Pew Internet and American Life Project
I hope you'll be able to join us next week. In the meantime, your thoughts here will drive our real-time conversation at the event - so thanks in advance for your participation.