Tag Archive | "citizens"

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What If Government Were On-The-Record 24/7?


This post was originally published on Huffington Post tech on December 21, 2009.

Recently, I wrote a post about Government 2.0 predictions for 2010-12, and one of them was that government would “always be on-the-record.”

By that I meant that the combination of (1) the proliferation of tech-savvy citizens with mobile camera/video devices, (2) the prevalence of wi-fi or other Web connections, (3) the massive number of people using social networks like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, and (4) the great interest that people have right now in a number of controversial issues like our current wars, health care, and climate change that people could and probably would start documenting everything that government officials do and say, where they go, who they meet with, for how long, what their staffers eat for lunch and with whom, and so on.

And you don’t need to be a professional journalist to do this, or even to do it well. An entire site along the lines of Gawker.com could be started around this, in fact. GovernmentGawker.com, anyone?

Well, I was doing some research to look at planes versus trains to get home for the holidays (in light of the recent blizzard that’s affected transport in the DC-NY-Boston corridor), and I came across a fantastic video that essentially puts the Amtrak Acela First Class service on the record for the trip between New York and Boston (7 min edited clip). Check it out.

Now, imagine if someone did the same thing, but wanted to document a day in the life of Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), currently in the middle of heated debate about health care legislation. It’s not hard.

You check the general schedules of his committees and such beforehand, research powerful, under-the-radar staff and other relevant people on the Washington Post’s WhoRunsGov.com, go through simple security at the Capitol (far easier than an airport), find Nelson’s office in the Hart building, camp out in his waiting area, maybe ask the person at the front desk some questions, find some press in the hallways and ask some questions (maybe visit the Russell rotunda, where the television crews do their spots), stalk the cafeteria (there’s a great coffee shop called Cups in the basement) and listen for people saying “Nelson,” go back to his office and see him leaving to walk down the hall to a committee hearing, take photos of the staff with him on your Samsung ST-1000 with wi-fi and geo-tagging and upload the pics to Bing Maps and Facebook, go to the sub-committee hearing and tape it from a Flip in your coat pocket while you tweet live notes, upload your Flip video to YouTube while you follow Nelson to his next meeting, and so forth.

(Note: This post has nothing in particular to do with Sen. Nelson or health care, it’s just an example “ripped from the headlines” – I’ve even met and chatted with him when he spoke about energy at the Defense Department, he’s a nice person.)

You can surely imagine at this point many variations on this for political appointees you don’t like, lobbyists you’re interested in, principal deputy assistant secretaries that make important decisions but don’t necessarily travel in armored vehicles with bodyguards, various members of the press who might be meeting with sources at Capitol Hill bars, etc. Trust me, this isn’t hard. If you live in Washington, DC, you probably realize how very easy this is, in fact, when combined with some good traditional news sources like the Post, Times, The Hill, and Politico. (If you live in Washington, DC, you also know that it’s incredibly common to know where various officials live, eat, and so forth – I used to live about two blocks from Senator Obama’s pad.)

But why would someone want to create an “ambient stream” of Senator Nelson or anyone else’s life? (Besides it being fascinating in a lowbrow, Gossip Girl kind of way, of course.) Well, most people wouldn’t. But so what? It’s just like Wikipedia – only about 1% of people who use Wikipedia actively edit it; about 9% do sometimes, and 90% just read it. Twitter is not unlike that either – only about 10% of users contribute 90% of the tweets.

So what if 1% of U.S. citizens started doing this? Roughly there are 300 million people in the U.S., say half of them are adults, so we have 1% of 150 million as 1.5 million. Now, if everyone just did this at the state, local, or federal level one day a year, and generated one “amateur journalism piece” from that day, that’s about 4,100 videos/blog posts/tweet sets generated PER DAY. That’s a lot of government on-the-record.

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Does Government Create Incredible Experiences Or Avoid Bad Outcomes?


This morning, marketing blogger Seth Godin asked the question, “How much of time, staffing and money does your organization spend on creating incredible experiences (vs. avoiding bad outcomes)?” This really hit home to me as someone who spends time thinking about how marketing broadly defined fits into government missions.

Under the framework of what we call Government 2.0, I’ve written a bit lately about how government can use social networking and new marketing to tell citizens and other stakeholders about the great things they’re doing. I think that proactively putting out compelling content is a great tactic, and how small, innovative, engaging events can create very memorable brand experiences. I’ve also been publicly critical of the lame Facebook Fan pages that Federal government agencies have, among other “lame” aspects of Gov 2.0 – From my vantage point, a lot of effort seems to go into avoiding bad outcomes, rather than creating incredible experiences.

There are good reasons for some of the “avoiding downsides” stuff, but where are the limits? No one ever seems to know how to answer that question for me. People tell me to praise them because, well, at least they have a Facebook Fan page – it’s new media! But at what date am I allowed to criticize you because you never took the slightest risk with it? To quote Godin:

“Here’s a rule that’s so inevitable that it’s almost a law: As an organization grows and succeeds, it sows the seeds of its own demise by getting boring. With more to lose and more people to lose it, meetings and policies become more about avoiding risk than providing joy.”

I avoid meetings like the plague (unless they’re at happy hour), but I know a lot of people who have to attend lots of them as part of their jobs in Washington, DC. So I ask, particularly to those who are interested in “change” and Gov 2.0 and participatory government and all these other related topics: How often is the topic of your meetings about creating an incredible citizen experience?

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Amtrak Irresponsibility at Washington DC’s Union Station


Today, I’m taking a train to Williamsburg, VA from Washington, DC to attend a conference. Train #99, in fact, which was scheduled to depart Union Station at 5pm. In fact, it didn’t. As I type this we’re late, and still not moving.

Oh, I’m not writing about how an Amtrak regional train was late; I’ve been experiencing that pleasure since about 1993. What was interesting to observe was the way computer technology interacted with the actual train being late.

You see, a few weeks ago, someon installed new screens around Union Station that give gates and updated information about trains You know, “On Time,” “Boarding,” and so forth. They’re nice screens. You can find summary boards around the train station, and individual boards near the gates. They’re coordinated, and most likely run by some central software.

Sounds great, right? Well, anyone who’s taken trains knows that the big board says “On Time” until the second they switch it to something like “30 min late” (how can they not see that coming?). This doesn’t really happen with the Acela trains, but for the longer, slower regionals, they’re often off by a few minutes at least.

As we were running a few minutes late to board train #99 to Newport News, VA, the automatic screen at the gate (where I was standing at the front of the line) switched from “On Time” to “Boarding.”. Except we weren’t boarding at all. The attendant said it would be just a few minutes, and the door was shut with a fabric rope in from of that.

The attendant went in the back with his walkie talkie to check on something and we quietly stood by the gate, about a hundred of us. Jumbled. You know how these train lines go.

Suddenly, we hear a shriek. A middle-aged woman is running at us, yelling a bit about how her train is boarding, hurdling over people and their bags. “Where’s the train to Newport News?! My train is boarding!!” Before anyone could say two words to her, she quickly glanced at the sign that said “Boarding,” tore off the fabric barrier, barged through the door, and started running towards the escalator to the train.

Now, she bumped into the Amtrak attendant quickly, and he calmed her down and walked her back to us, and we all boarded a few minutes later. But what if this had happened on (say) October 15th, 2001? Would we have not taken this more seriously? Everyone was totally complacent today.

More importantly, this is a good example of how updated technology not only can be merely a cosmetic improvement (I don’t recall people asking for help reading the boards, or wandering aimlessly looking for gate E, before the new signs.) but also can be harmful when used improperly. In this case, Amtrak personnel clearly knew we were not boarding, yet the signs said we were.

In the minds of people these days, virtual boarding is as good as the truth, and we saw this with the middle-aged woman, who ran by a hundred people waiting to board because a digital display convinced her that her train was boarding. (We all must have been waiting for something else, maybe Balloon Boy?) This is a similar problem to the “celebrity death hoax” phenomena whereby Kanye West or a similar high-profile person is declared “RIP” by an enterprising Twitter user – and the information spreads like wildfire. Being dead on Twitter is now equivalent to actually being dead, unless you literally “resurrect” yourself via a YouTube video (Zach Braff) or a late-night TV appearance (Jeff Goldblum). How can we blame this pleasant woman for thinking she was going to miss her train?

So, I don’t know if Amtrak, Union Station, or some third party is working these signs, and I don’t care (It is a good question for a local journalist, though.). What I do know is that whomever is running this system doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing, or even worse, does know what they’re doing but is too lazt to give a shit. After all, it’s just a Sunday afternoon; football’s on…what could possibly happen?

Amtrak is not totally immune from blame. Even if they’re not working the software running the signs, they have employees standing right next to them. Is checking the signs for accuracy in anybody’s job description? Today’s incident could have been prevented in a number of ways. It was very minor, but it serves as an example of what happens when half-assed technology is involuntarily injected into our daily lives by people we don’t know, who don’t care about us.

Boarding 10 minutes late may not seem like a lot, but to that woman it was. If we don’t have standards about making digital information match reality, where does that logically leave society? Working bathrooms declared closed? Incorrect pricing on lattes? Misleading highway directions during an emergency?

What I want to know is: Who’s going to be in charge of coordinating the digital and the real as our country moves toward a more technocratic future?

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Public Diplomacy 2.0


Tero Ojanperä wants to rule the world. Well, perhaps the September cover of geeky Fast Company magazine goes a little too far with that pronouncement. But despite all the media buzz about Apple’s iPhone and the fact that nearly everyone in Washington has a Blackberry attached to their thumbs, those two devices combined account for only three percent of the global phone market. Nokia, on the other hand – the company that Tero Ojanperä  is the Executive Vice President of Entertainment and Communities for – owns nearly 40%. If he who controls the medium controls the message, Nokia might very well control the future of mobile text, video, music, and other things you want to have on-the-go. And this in turn may affect international diplomacy.

But such global ambitions do not happen without good public relations and influencer outreach. Fast Company describes Ojanperä as a Warhol-meets-Bond-villain businessman wooing music industry executives at a fashionable Tribeca hotel. But this kind of public-outreach-meets-global-domination is certainly not unique to corporations. In fact, governments and empires havehad the lead on that score for centuries as they fight for and strive to maintain influence in the world, and Finland is no exception. Thanks to a new “sister city” marriage of Washington and Helsinki, a program called Invitation to Helsinki brought some District influencers to meet counterparts and exchange knowledge. With backing from Finland’s U.S. Ambassador, this brainchild of the Finnish Embassy’s cultural counselor Pekka Hako blossomed into a collection of relationships that may last far beyond the week-long trip that people like Government 2.0 Club co-founder Peter Corbett, Georgetown student body president Patrick Dowd, and political communications expert Blake Zeff took.

Read more about Diplomacy 2.0 in my full-length article at Washington Life magazine.

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Government Ambassadors For Citizen Engagement


This post was originally published on O’Reilly Radar on October 13, 2009.

To the average person, government is represented by an anonymous person on the other end of the phone, a pile of mandatory paperwork, and perhaps at best a friendly neighborhood postal carrier. If you ask the average American not living inside the Beltway to name a single individual who works in the federal government, how would they reply? My guess is that the broad majority of them couldn’t give you the first and last name of a federal government employee; In reality they would find it much easier to name their local pharmacist, garage owner, or supermarket manager. And from the perspective of the government, this is a shame. How might emerging social technologies help to bridge that gap, in combination with a modification in thinking about government public relations?

The ideal end state when a citizen is asked to name a government employee would be that a person working in a micro-niche of interest to them – finance, farming, foot-and-mouth disease – immediately comes to mind. Unfortunately though, interesting and talented people working at Treasury, USDA, NIH and other places are not well-known to the public, despite the great effects their work has on everyday life in America. Why is this? Partly, it is a vestige from the days when communications were controlled by professionally trained public relations staff and mainstream journalism teams. This was understandable – equipment was expensive, channels were few, and citizens trusted authenticated, official sources for their information. But this media structure that worked well for 40 years is now outdated.

In the Web 2.0 world, every individual is empowered to be not only a consumer of information, but a producer of it. Writing is searchable, discoverable, sharable, usable, and yes, even alterable. The proverbial “pajama mafia” of bloggers has morphed into a powerful society class of listeners, questioners, writers, editors, publishers, and distributors. And in some outlying examples from the federal government, such as the TSA’s blog, we see this same power being harnessed by individual employees (with their agency’s approval, naturally) – Individuals from the TSA not only blog, but interact with citizens who comment on the articles. But this form of government-citizen interaction is, honestly, a primitive version of how social technologies can empower citizen engagement with government.

The modern citizen is not a vessel waiting to receive press releases and government website updates. Even a sophisticated government website like the White House’s new blog can only expect to attract a subset of citizens a subset of the time. Why? Simply, there are simply too many avenues of information flowing towards these people formerly known as a captive audience. No matter how compelling your government information, they are not waiting to hear from you about it. Nor are they necessarily waiting to hear from the New York Times, MSNBC, or any other mainstream organization.

How to reach the modern citizen? It is more productive to imagine them, in the parlance of “new marketing,” as networks of individuals having conversations with each other – during dinner with their families, at the proverbial water cooler, and on popular social media sites. Increasingly, people’s online and offline social networks are an important and powerful force in their lives. Trusted people within communities of interest have become filters for the multimedia vying for citizens’ attention. So to answer the question, you have to hunt down the places they’re already talking about the topic you work on.

Acknowledging that citizens have (sub)consciously formed networks of conversations that filter the information available to them, what’s next? Logically, the government would like to be a part of those conversations. But bureaucracies can’t have conversations with people – only people who work within bureaucracies can. Government employees who wish for better public relations need to find people talking about a topic of interest, listen to what they’re saying, participate in the conversation, and then start new topics of conversation. But this is not as easy as it may seem.

A poll of government employees about whether or not part of their job was “marketing and sales” would probably reveal a lot of negative responses. But when every person can be a writer, publisher, and distributor, is anyone immune from some marketing and sales responsibility in their job? Granted, the government has certain rules about what you can write about your job, and not everyone would like to participate. But some government employees already publish blogs using WordPress, belong to social networks like Facebook, and share real-time information on Twitter. How best to use them?

There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. The existing human capital in government employees already engaging an audience with social technologies should be harnessed, not punished. Such engaged persons may very well be more in touch with grassroots conversations than the public affairs office of an agency, which can tend more towards unidirectional information flow. They may also be trusted members of a community of interest, generous with help and information. It’s hard to think of a good reason to not use such pre-adapted social engagement to the government’s advantage.

Whether you’re talking about the White House, a Marine in dress uniform, or the image of NASA’s space shuttle lifting off, micro-niches within the federal government have brands, which in turn have reputations. Who’s defending them? It may now be the case that a formal public affairs office is not enough. Conversations among citizens occur at such a high velocity that a bureaucracy cannot respond nimbly enough. But empowered individuals can. Government “social ambassadors” should be fully accessible, transparent, authentic, and collaborative leaders that inspire people to cooperate and engage with their government and with each other for the sake of common concerns. As part of their missions, government brand ambassadors should conduct community-based research to better understand the grassroots interests of the average person, which are sometimes misunderstood or overlooked. Listening to online conversations is the new snap poll.

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Cheezburger Network as a Model for Citizen Engagement?


I was fortunate enough to attend a talk series at Google DC earlier today featuring Ben Huh, the CEO of Cheezburger Networks. These are the folks responsible for fun, engaging, user-generated content sites like FAILblog, LOLcatz, GraphJam, ThereIFixedIt, and ThisIsPhotoBomb.com – good stuff. They get over 11 million viewers a month, and have more people vote on an average LOLcat than people that vote in a typical Congressional election.

The government and other large organizations, who typically are not great at engaging their citizens and customers, might want to take this stuff more seriously. Their motto, to “make people happy for five minutes a day” isn’t a bad one. Wouldn’t you like to work for an agency that had that motto?

Someone actually asked Ben a question about the topic of Government 2.0, being in DC as we were. What is the role of concepts like these websites contain in a participatory government? Paraphrasing greatly, to build big, fun communities that can accomplish something, the government must make it very simple to get involved. They have to “narrow the number of variables involved in the decision process,” Ben said. Then, people who want to get more involved can take a second and a third step in a process if they want. I think the key takeaway for getting busy people involved in something within five minutes is: “low barrier to entry.”  Does your government website meet that standard?

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The President’s Peace Prize Problem


The same week that Saturday Night Live skewers President Barack Obama for accomplishing absolutely nothing, he has won the Nobel Peace Prize? Spin this: President Obama was 11 days into his presidency when nominations closed for the Peace Prize.  What exactly was he nominated for? Forget Jimmy Carter waiting over two decades for his – One could argue that George W. Bush should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize, since he literally may have done more for world peace by leaving office than Obama did by entering it.

I like President Obama, and I suppose I’m proud that the U.S. President won the Nobel Peace Prize.  But I don’t think I’m going to go to parties at the Swedish Embassy for a while.  In the meantime, I’m sure Kanye West plans to disrupt Obama ’s Nobel ceremony, saying that the award should have gone to Beyonce.

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OPEN LETTER TO UC ALUMNI & FRIENDS


At the corner of 13th and Franklin Streets in downtown Oakland, a worn bronze plaque hangs on the wall of a two-story parking garage. Easy to miss, state Historical Marker No. 45 identifies the spot where, 140 years ago, a California miracle began. Here the University of California spent its infancy, occupying a two-story Victorian that had housed one of the state’s first colleges. In 1873 the university – after graduating an original class of 12 – migrated to Berkeley and began its rise as a land-grant college dedicated to teaching agriculture, mining and the mechanical arts.

The enterprise, of course, has endured, and then some. Under the stewardship of some great leaders, and with the support of alumni like you and, for that matter, all of California, the University has grown from its humble origins to the point where it now stretches all across the state, from Merced to Santa Barbara, Riverside to San Francisco, Irvine to Santa Cruz, San Diego to Davis, Los Angeles to Berkeley – 10 campuses, five medical centers, three national laboratories, 225,000 students, 55 Nobel Prizes and 1.6 million alumni.

It is to that great army of alumni, along with other friends and beneficiaries of the University of California, that we write today, and we do so with a sense of great urgency – to ask you to become engaged as never before in building legislative and financial support for this great institution.

This is a time of peril for the University we all love.

The UC model – providing universal access to a top-notch, low-cost education and research of the highest caliber – continues to be studied around the globe among those who would emulate its success. And yet, this model has been increasingly abandoned at home by the state government responsible for its core funding.

In the past 20 years, the amount of money allotted to the University through the state budget has fallen dramatically: General Fund support for a UC student stood at $15,860 in 1990. If current budget projections hold, it will drop this year to $7,680.

Moreover, it now appears likely the UC system, in this current fiscal crisis, will be ordered by Sacramento to absorb yet another $800-plus million in additional cuts. Its 2009-10 core budget will be reduced by an estimated 20 percent. This will bring the amount of state investment in the University down to $2.4 billion – exactly where it was in real dollars a decade ago.

In the same time frame, by the way, funding for state prisons has more than doubled, from $5 to $11 billion. It’s been reported that, based on current spending trends, California’s prison budget soon will overtake that of the state’s universities and community colleges.

And so, our work is cut out for us. As one Chairman of the Board of Regents steps down and another takes over, we are asking you, as stewards of UC, to step up and help arrest this slide of support, as quickly as possible. It’s often said that it takes 40 years to build up a great university, but only a few to tear one down.

Elected officials in Sacramento who control our core budget must be asked to re-examine their priorities when it comes to future higher education funding. They also need to understand that a fiscal crisis is precisely the wrong time to be putting the pinch on education. Consider what Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote in a recent column:

“… The country that uses this crisis to make its population smarter and more innovative – and endows its people with more tools and basic research to invent new goods and services – is the one that will not just survive but thrive down the road. We might be able to stimulate our way back to stability, but we can only invent our way back to prosperity. We need everyone at every level to get smarter.”

The core money UC receives from taxpayers, via Sacramento, goes to the nuts and bolts of higher education, everything from paying professors to lighting laboratories. But it also establishes the institutional foundation needed to attract the research grants and endowments that enhance the mission and burnish the University’s international status.

Over time it’s been money well-spent. Of the more than 4,000 higher education institutions in the nation, only 60 research universities, public and private, have been judged worthy of membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities. The UC has six members. No other state system has more than one.

In turn, the University has given back to California, not only by educating generations of high-achieving Californians, but also through its triumphs of research. From better ways to grow tomatoes to the birth of biotech, from viticulture to cancer treatments, UC campuses have been incubators of countless scientific and product breakthroughs that add quality to California life and invigorate its economy. For 15 years in a row, UC has developed more patents than any other university in the country.

This is what’s put at risk as state support shrinks. In the end, there are two choices: excellence or mediocrity. While a mediocre UC might cost less in the short term, over time it will enforce on society its own ledger of taxes. Top professors and researchers will begin to drift away, taking with them the best students. Pools of grant money will recede. The engines of invention will sputter.

To those who complain the university has been bloated, wasteful, we say this is a new day. In the last few years, we have seen the institution reform itself. Under a new administration, it is setting new standards for transparency and leadership. We’ve worked hard to maintain strong bond ratings, cut spending in the Office of the President by $60 million, and taken additional cost-cutting measures at the campus level. But there is only so much that can be cut. We are no longer chopping at fat and muscle. With the new cuts, as proposed, we soon will be slicing into bone.

And so, there is much at stake and the threat is real. Now is the time for alumni and other supporters and beneficiaries of the University to spread the word that UC excellence must be preserved and nurtured. Please, do whatever you can. Take time to write a letter or an e-mail to your political representatives. Or lend whatever support possible to the UC system or to your preferred campus.

The message – not in just this current crisis, but into the future as well – must be clear: A just-good-enough University of California would not be good enough at all. Mediocrity is not an option. It’s time to start fighting back for the UC.

Richard C. Blum, Immediate Past Chair, UC Board of Regents
Russell S. Gould, Chair, UC Board of Regents
Sherry Lansing, Vice Chair, UC Board of Regents
Mark G. Yudof, President, University of California

Mark Drapeau is a 2003 graduate of UC-Irvine (Ph.D., Biological Sciences).

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Where’s the Greatest Government Generation?


Last week I attended a dinner hosted in Washington, DC by the terrific group ACT/IAC about the topic of Government 2.0 and innovation.  One thing that occured to us during the formal discussion period was that during World War II and the early days of the Cold War afterwards, there was simply less bureaucracy, and things like getting a government job just took less time.

When we talk about attracting the Millennial generation into the government workforce, and when we talk about innovating to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, we’re often thinking about futuristic digital technology.  But we rarely look back.  In the 40s, 50s, and 60s there was a great deal of innovation taking place – the federal government was scaled up, the Pentagon was built in a matter of months, the OSS and CIA were created (and were relatively effective), and so on.

It’s hard to imagine doing that so quickly today.  Just think about the U.S. government’s official job portal, USAJobs.  I don’t know anyone who’s had a pleasureable experience with USAJobs (whether they got the job or not).  It can be so offputting, some people just give up.  That’s not a great message to send about how urgently we need smart young people in government.  Where’s the concierge to guide you to a job that suits your unique skill set?

This “fierce urgency of not right now” is something I have written about for a while.  One idea we had at the dinner was to gather people from “The Greatest Generation” who have been working in and around government for 40 years together in a forum where they can teach us how to innovate by looking backward to what they did then.  Tom Brokaw could moderate, even.

I think that if a lot of government leaders and managers took some time out from their day-to-day work and listened to and conversed with these veterans, everyone would learn a lot.  And we may get some fresh old ideas about how to make Government 2.0 happen with some urgency.  Simplify, get back to basics, decide what’s truly important, make a plan, and innovate.

Update 9:46am – Chris Matthews was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program this morning (right after I wrote this) talking about health care and how America needs to “get it done.”  Normally I would be on the side of asking more questions, making value judgements, looking at costs and tradeoffs, and so forth.  But maybe I’ve become caught up in this too.  It’s not always great to rush into things, but Matthews’ point (which he was getting hammered on by the host) was simply: Do you want universal health care in America or not? If you do, we have to get it done.  I have to respect the blunt argument given the above.

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GovLoop Wins Awards from AFCEA and ACT


For some time now, social network GovLoop – essentially a niche “Facebook” for government employees, contractors, and people interested in the intersection of emerging technology with governance and politics – has been growing strong since its founding in June 2008.  Now, with over 12,500 members connecting, GovLoop has received awards from two influential Washington, DC organizations: the AFCEA (Bethesda Chapter) Social Media Award, and the ACT Intergovernmental Solutions Award.

AFCEA, a national group committed to information exchange on the topics of defense, security, and intelligence, recognized GovLoop’s founder, Streve Ressler, at a luncheon in the Willard Intercontinental Hotel near the White House on May 27.   Recalling the Obama Administration themes of open, transparent, participatory, and collaborative government, upon receiving the award Ressler commented, “I accept this award on behalf of all my fellow GovLoop members.  It’s the participation that makes GovLoop an open government success.”

To win an ACT Intergovernmental Solutions Award, organizations must foster collaborative programs and measureable results, and GovLoop fits that description well.  ACT, a non-profit that promotes government use of efficient information technology for public service, gives 25 of these awards per year to federal, state, local agencies and other groups and individuals.  Martha Dorris, the current President of ACT, noted, “We’re very proud to showcase the best of the best, not only to reinforce government’s role as an innovator, but to provide a platform where these agencies can share their ideas for the ultimate benefit of our citizens.”

I personally have used GovLoop for some time now and have found it useful for a number of reasons.  For one, it serves as a filter for finding tech-savvy people with an interest in government.  Two, it easily enables blogging and commenting behind a firewall, so while it is relatively accessible, the entire world cannot easily find it and people can speak more freely than they might on a private blog or on a service like Twitter.

Finally, it is probably the best tool available at present for connecting federal government employees around the country with each other, across units and agencies, and also connecting feds with state and local government employees and contractors.   For events like the upcoming (September) Government 2.0 Expo Showcase, which invites talks about government-meets-technology from any level of government, these connections, and sometimes collaborations, are becoming increasingly critical to realizing the visions of the president and many other political leaders around the country.



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