Government 2.0 #FAIL

Guest Post by Brian Drake

Evolving a conversation we started back in September, I think are quickly arriving at a solution to the nagging feeling that we need to take the Intra-Government 2.0 movement to the next level.

The Goverati are a small group of committed individuals. It’s not new news that the conversation has become an echo chamber. As a result, I opened a dialogue with Steve Radick, Steve Lunceford, and Lena Trudeau at the very end of the Gov2.0 Summit about how we can get more people, enthusiasm, and get some tough issues on the table.

This is by no means a reflection on the quality of the Gov2.0 Summit or the Expo. Both events, for the first time, drew out some new faces and new questions. The one group we continue to not hear from are the detractors or skeptics of social software.

Deep and Complicated Issues Are Emerging

Larry Lessig wrote a spectacular piece for The New Republic entitled “Against Transparency.” Larry supplies a very cogent argument against the disclosure of too much data from Congressional members. He wraps together several threads and arguments that the government transparency movement advances and dissects the second and third order impacts. For instance, the dangers of drawing conclusions from data (like campaign donation amounts) in the absence of context may have the opposite effect desired. Another example, the richness of some data betrays how poor it actually is because it requires deep analysis to understand it. Lastly, my favorite argument from Larry is the increasingly prevalent phenomenon of the public’s short attention span. We have so many mandatory reports that Congress members need to complete, but very few people in the public at-large are (a) willing to go through it all and (b) no one has the patience to listen to why it matters.

Lessig’s perspective is entirely undervalued in the Government 2.0 community. We need to hear from more people with similar perspectives and ideas.

Voices in the Wilderness of Failure

In addition to the slim number of public, cogent arguments against Government 2.0, our own discussions about failures are truncated. I’m noticing our Government 2.0 conferences either trumpet the achievements of the few or recast a failure as a success.

We all learn something valuable from failed projects. I think, however, that the presence of politics changes the equation. Gene Krantz’s immortal quote, “Failure is not an option,” is the mantra of many Federal executives, Congressional overseers, and taxpayers. And budget dollars are getting more scarce.

As a result, few people in this political environment wish to speak-out about their failures or their agency’s/department’s failures. Yet again, we are robbed of a unique point of view that should be shared, but no one feels insulated/comfortable enough to share it.

Reaching the Unconverted

The problem, in summary, is that the richness and depth of our conversation around Gov2.0 needs to be enhanced. So, in early 2010, our small federation of planners will be hosting a workshop on The Shortfalls of Government 2.0. We want to draw together the informed detractors and advocates who have been hinting at strategies and solutions that are helpful to everyone. We seek a dialogue that informs each side and allows us to advance mission objectives.

The Environment

Intimate settings, NO ATTRIBUTION– In order to hear from those who are the most afraid of embarrassment or political blow-back, we are shrinking the size of each break-out and building it around close conversations. While the number of people coming may be quite large, we will have enough break-out sessions so the there is topical variety and small gatherings.

The Format

Round-Robin Break-outs– One of the chief complaints of participants is that they never get to see everything they wanted to see. We will be working against that problem by having repeating topical sessions. So if you didn’t catch the session on “The Security Vulnerabilities of Web 2.0 Technologies” at 10:00 . . . don’t worry . . . the same talk will be held at 12:00 and 3:00.

Less Talk At You– I find that I learn more by talking to others. In a departure from past conferences and more in line with the Government 2.0 BarCamp, we will be having a conversation-centric format. Facilitators will expect questions from participants. Participants should expect answers from facilitators (and participants).

The Speakers

Detractors and Strategists– We want a morning that is heavy with the dangers and issues around Government 2.0 implementations. This will be a combination of speaker keynotes, debates, and perspectives on the issues around social software. Buttressed against these sessions will be a cadre of strategic thinkers and battle-scarred veterans who can answer your questions and address each issue as it is raised.

What We Need

You. We need participants, presenters, and assistants to build the agenda. Our small planning committee have a few topics we want to address like: Smart Procurement Strategies, Policy, the Law, and the Difference, Detailed Case Examples (what worked, what didn’t), etc.


About the author: Brian Drake is a Manager and social software evangelist with large consulting firm. He advises government and commercial clients on a wide variety of collaboration solutions that span behavioral, technical, and organizational change dynamics. His client focus areas include strategy development, communications, change management, and Enterprise 2.0 solutions. He presently serves a U.S. Federal Government client on the Collaboration Consulting Team.

Originally published on Brian’s blog, The Green Dotted Line; views expressed on the Green Dotted Line are his and his alone.

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  • mixtmedia

    Ok Brian. You’ve got my interest. Let’s talk. I may be interested in helping/building this…

  • Brian Drake

    AH HA! Another fly enters the web . . .

    Totally awesome. I’ll add you to our “next steps” e-mail.

  • http://www.ClearedJobs.Net Kathleen – ClearedJobsNet

    Brian, yes the #fails have to come to light – the three issues that I have seen come to light are :1) security – but no one wants to talk about it 2) culture – how do we break and move the culture to “work” in the collaborative nature that is inherent in Gov 2.0 3) breaking the management/incentive system that does not accept or reward failure or risk taking. It is not the technology but the management and cultural norms that will cause the Gov 2.0 #fail