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Where 'Government 2.0' is making an impact, and what still needs to be done

Latest analysis of government social networking urges 'design thinking' to build collaboration, versus top-down command-and -control thinking.
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Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

Can the social networking wave that is emerging help bring about more responsive government organizations?

A new report out of Grant Thornton and FreeBalance says the potential is there, for a number of reasons. “Social networking provides governments with a new paradigm: knowledge release rather than knowledge control. This Government 2.0 approach can harness government knowledge to improve results.” (PDF white paper available from FreeBalance.)

Government 2.0 — enabled through social networking tools — provides benefits such as reduced cost of engagement through more productive tools and processes, simplified knowledge creation and retention though usable applications, easier knowledge sharing, and enhanced information discovery through transparency and data mashups. It all sounds like good mom-and-apple-pie stuff, but is it actually being put to use?

The Grant Thornton report says yes, and cites some examples:

  • Citizens’ Health Care Working Group (CHCWG):  Under the direction of Health and Human Services, CHCWG commissioned by Congress to enlist citizens to provide input to review health care system. Grant Thorton reports that a collaborative solution was “up and running in less than one month.”  The greater participation decreased the sost-per-participant by 97%, from $250 per in-person engagement to $7.50 per person online.
  • Inter-Agency Collaboration Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment (DAPA): The Department of Defense (DoD) tapped global military leaders for help in identifying areas for cost savings. The solution was put together in 72 hours, and was managed by a single DoD employee.
  • South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD):  “Online collaboration enabled agencies from multiple jurisdictions to work together and engage citizens during the project development process.”
  • Project Public Outreach National Public Safety (NPS): The task force turned to crowdsourcing to develop a design for the memorial to the passengers and crew of Flight 93. More than 1,000 ideas were submitted, Grant Thornton reports.
  • Project Public Outreach Atlanta Beltline: Planners for a 22-mile rail loop system engaged more than 10,000 citizens online to invite their participation.  Their comments were published and addressed within six weeks of the start of the outreach.

To help government better take advantage of social networking technologies, Grant Thornton suggests that government organizations better incorporate “design thinking” (Government 2.0 mindset) as a supplement to “management thinking” (Government 1.0 mindset).

“Design thinking” uses a collaborative and iterative style of working that builds up ideas – the best ideas surfacing from a pool of many.” The consultancy also recommends that government managers embrace "viral" change, versus the more static, top-down command-and-control decrees.  "Change Management in the Web 2.0 era is more peer-to-peer, viral – change is pulled by participating constituents, employees, customers.”

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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