Today is a big day in my life and I'm really excited to share it with you - the GovLoop Community. Mr. GovLoop himself (aka Steve Ressler) has asked me to join his team as the GovLoop Community Manager!
So what does that mean? It means I've resigned from the Graduate School and will dedicate myself full-time to making GovLoop THE place where people in and around government can connect and achieve new levels of awesomeness (that's in my contract, by the way - to use this word at least once in every conversation) beginning today. Think of me as your friendly steward to GovLoop awesomeness - hear at your beck and call working with you to make government better.
Specifically, Steve's asked me to take the lead in growing and engaging members, listening to and learning about your needs and honoring and highlighting the great work you do every day. As a former priest wanna-be, I see myself as a cross between a pastor and an evangelist for GovLoop, someone whose role is to serve the public servants. I want to make your life easier by linking you to information and people with the answers to your questions and solutions to your challenges.
Why am I so excited about this new role? Well, it seems that I have always stood on the periphery of the public sector. My first encounter with public service was in high school as a Research Apprentice for a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Iowa State University to analyze genetically modified grasses.The job was tedious: cutting samples from small plots of alfalfa, separating leaves from the stems and monitoring beakers with slimy green concoctions where the scientists performed their tests. The cool part was the cow with the cork in its side where they would extract digested material for analysis...ask me more about that at another time. While I did not decide to become an ag researcher, that apprenticeship left a deep and positive impression regarding people in government - they were smart and absolutely committed to their work. By the way, be sure to check out the "What was your first government job?" discussion here on GovLoop. 😉
Fast forward five years: after graduating from college, my first real job was in Washington, DC, at a non-profit organization that relied heavily on funding from the Department of Health and Human Services. I was a proposal writer - a skill set that has allowed me to work with numerous non-profits, school districts, local health departments and good government organizations over the past decade to win support from agencies like Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor and state and local funding sources. Most recently, I worked for the Graduate School (formerly Graduate School, USDA), whose mission is to "develop people and to make government more efficient and effective." It has been an honor to be an employee and an educator at the institution, developing courses in social media, generational diversity and telework - three issues that are sure to shape the landscape of the public sector for years to come.
Of course, it was through this activity at the Graduate School that I learned about Young Government Leaders (YGL) and GovLoop - both founded by Steve. I met Ressler in Baltimore at a Public Manager/American Society of Public Administration event. We had a couple drinks and shared our visions for what could become of both YGL and GovLoop. At Steve's prompting, I became a member of the Executive Board of YGL and jumped right in as a blogger and frequent contributor to discussions and groups on GovLoop. Of course, the best part of both communities was that I met literally hundreds of incredible people - all smart and committed to government awesomeness.
Over time, Steve and I continued to brainstorm about ways to improve the experience for GovLoop members. We talked about a day when the community would have tens of thousands of members and people in and around government would be connecting with one another to share best practices and build better solutions for citizens. Well, that day has occurred faster than any of us would have imagined, eh? GovLoop grew to 10,000 members in a year and 20,000 members four months later. At this rate, the community could easily grow to another 100,000 members by the end of next year. While we could sustain the growth and support the community organically as we have to date, it seems that something special is happening here, something that requires greater attention in order for it to become an even more valuable resource.
Imagine blog posts and discussion forums with an average of 30-40 comments, scores of groups at 500+ members and projects, reports and events flowing from the conversations (as has happened with the Acquisition group - see this event and the Better Buy Project as "Exhibit A."). Imagine live chat functions in the groups so that government employees have a place to turn in real-time to get the answers they need for questions that arise on the job. Imagine conversations between legislators on the Hill and the career public servants that implement policy in the early stages of development. Imagine public servants from 15-20 nations engaged in a moderated discussion about diplomacy or foreign aid or another issue that we have in common.
GovLoop has the potential to truly be the "Facebook for Government" that enables us to solve 50-100 real government problems a day and have conversations that go beyond talk to become policy recommendations and projects that innovate and improve services for citizens. After spending A LOT of time on GovLoop over the last 15 months, I am more convinced than ever that WE - the public servants and the people who work alongside them - are sparking a profound shift in the way government responds to the needs of the citizens.
It has been an honor to work alongside you to date. This opportunity to serve as the GovLoop Community Manager - and that is how I see my role, as serving you, the public servants - seems like a chance to jump from the periphery of the public sector into the center of the community, enabling you to do your jobs more efficiently and effectively. I can't wait to get started: to learn and listen, to honor and highlight, and to educate and encourage you in performing your important work.
So let's do it: let's achieve more government awesomeness together. Don't hesitate to let me know how I can help you to ensure that GovLoop is an invaluable resource. Toward that end, please keep contributing to the discussion forums HERE and HERE where people are sharing ideas to improve our community.
Here to serve,