Debates continue to swirl around the ‘ownership’ of social media. In government, we tend to equate ownership with resources (human and financial) but not necessarily with the appropriate insight, expertise or authority.

The ‘ownership’ of the execution of social media activities is quite simple – it involves horizontal collaboration based on the issue at hand, not which group you are a part of or to whom you report.

This became more clear to me during a social media pilot about online issues management and corrective blogging. Stakeholders working on the pilot (policy, communications, advocacy, media relations and web communications) emerged from their respective offices to participate. Who ‘owned’ it? We all did. From planning, training and online responding, we all played a part.

I recently spoke about the methodology and outcomes of this pilot at a Social Media for Government event in Ottawa. The speakers represented all levels of government and spoke on a variety of issues which provided diversity and balance in both experience and insight.

What wasn’t balanced was the audience. “How many of you are communicators or work in that field?” All but one hand shot into the air.

“How many of you are policy or program officers?” Tucked against the side wall was a lone hand reaching above the crowd.

Meet Gordon. Gordon was a policy officer working on a key file for his department. As someone from the “business side,” Gordon felt it was important for him to learn about possible uses and applications of social media.

I called on, or made reference to Gordon numerous times throughout my presentation and have continued to do so since. I was thrilled to have a policy officer in the room for it is the policy (file, service etc.) that our social media efforts support. We need to have regular contact with the people who are closest to the heart of an issue and its messages, challenges and audience in order to best know how social media might help.

Social media for, or in government needs to be about more than ownership and include discussions amongst more than communicators.

What’s your next step? Find your Gordon!

Onward.

M.

Disclosure: Gordon confided in me after my presentation that he actually wore two hats – policy and communications! If only we could all be so lucky Gordon ;)

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With  Gov2.0 LA days away where open gov, cloud computing, gov2gov collaboration and more will be discussed, I find myself increasingly, and ironically speaking and championing more and more Web 1.0. 

Yes, it would seem that despite my Gov 2.0 attachments and engagements I am a Web 1.0 champion.   Now, to profess, it is the 2.0 world that has my heart but my mind continues to play tricks and reminds me that the 1.0 foundation, albeit less ‘sexy’ now, is one that has often been left unfinished.

In 1999, the Government of Canada launched its “Government On-line” (GOL) initiative supported by over $800 million over a six-year period.  The intention was to create a:

…service improvement initiative that will provide citizens and businesses with on-line access to the most commonly used Government of Canada information and transactional services via the Internet and in the official language of their choice.”

This is Web 1.0 in its simplest of  iterations.   I was a working in government web communications at this time.  There were no experts, and if there were, finding them was no easy task.  It was every person (for web teams were a rarity) for him or herself.  Funding was in place; portals were developed; Common Look and Feel for government websites was born.

Canada was regarded as a leader in government online communications, accessibility, and web services.  Those of us in government departments working in web communications were also grappling with how to use these new tools to communicate with our citizens.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  

Where were we?  Over 6 years ago we were provided with clear, simple guidelines and checklists to guide Web evaluation, performance and client satisfaction among other things.  Business planning, UX, public opinion research, analytics and evaluation, translation frameworks, CMS workflow, editorial planning and strategies – have we properly laid and nurtured these foundations?   I believe many of us toiling away in the 2.0 world in government are experiencing frustrations not solely because of the new tools and associated fears, but because many of us are trying to build on a shaky, unfinished foundational layer.

Regardless of what is new, old, hot, traditional or proven, we cannot forge ahead without ensuring our starting point and the path behind us remain clear and maintained.  I’m an avid user, fan and champion of the web 2.0 tools and, more importantly, the vast potential they possess to be game-changers in how we govern, communicate, influence and effect change.  

Resource, maintain, and improve upon 1.0….this foundation is vital to the 2.0, 3.0 and citizen engagement movements. 

And, if you’re not feeling my pain, then pass along the elixir!

Onward

M.

Well, the end of the year is here which always brings about a time for reflection.  I expect many focus on their home and personal life.  But how many of you take the time to look at your career and work environment in the government and look at the changes you hope to bring about in the new year?
A colleague of mine has written a very timely and truthful piece about the collective wear and tear those of us working in the government web world are experiencing.  In particular:

“In an environment defined by tapered resource growth and increased demand for expertise we risk stretching our champions too far.”

I share those thoughts and agree with the challenges that risk poses.  I am battle tested and at times, battle weary.  Being a champion means being an ardent defender of your activities; to continually fight for what you know is right, or needed; and to lift those around us up, even if we ourselves feel down.

If we are in this for rewards, many are sure to exit early, become disenchanted or end up as casualties.  With tongue in cheek I often say I’m a glutton for punishment for sticking with the government web scene as long as I have.  The truth is, I love the challenge and the possibilities.   It takes people willing to be those champions and to share those burdens who will help us all emerge relatively unscathed.

As one who appreciates my chats with Nick (above mentioned author,)  his insights and commitment, and as one who has also felt at times that I’m being pulled and stretched, I offer up a year-end suggestion to all who have been toiling away in our government web world – it’s  holiday  time!

Power chord

Fatigue should not give way to frustration.  We are online longer, chatting more often, and constantlythinking and exploring.  It’s time to preflect on the many successes and advances of the past year;  re-evaluate;  re-examine and recharge!

To my Canadian government colleagues – doesn’t it seem fitting for us to look forward to 2010 as our year as the champions?

Onward,

Martha