Thousands of the nation’s bureaucrats are spending their free time on Twitter, YouTube and other social networking sites trying to make government better.
Employees of city, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security, have come together with the help of a new Web site called GovLoop.com to share their experiences and “best practices.”
The site was founded a year ago by Steve Ressler, 28, an information-technology specialist at the Department of Homeland Security. Already, more than 14,000 people have joined, creating nearly 500 subcommunities and more than 1,000 discussion forums. Brainstorming sessions online have produced ideas on everything from government transparency to interoffice communication.
Even the White House has taken note.
“Online brainstorming sessions are one of the many useful tools to help government be more transparent, participatory and collaborative,” said Macon Phillips, director of new media at the White House and a member of GovLoop.
Mr. Ressler came up with the idea after attending conferences in Washington while participating in a group called Young Government Leaders and being frustrated that attendance at the events was so limited.
“You’d have to get invited, and you have to have the time to be in that place on, say, a Tuesday night, and you’d have to be in D.C.,” Mr. Ressler said. “So I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to break across all those silos of government?’”
Mr. Ressler began with the basic notion that government could be more efficient if its employees learned from each other’s experiences. GovLoop gave them a place to meet.
Improving government is not a new idea. In the 1990s, Vice President Al Gore promoted “reinventing government” through an interagency task force focused on cutting costs and improving efficiency. President Reagan also attacked government waste and inefficiency with the creation of the Grace Commission in 1982.
However, with the Internet and social networking Web sites such as GovLoop, barriers are broken more easily and discussions happen a lot faster, Mr. Ressler said.
“Everyone [understands] that the Internet can be used to deliver public service, but the next step is to do something about it,” said Craig Newmark, creator of the Web site craigslist.org and a fan and user of GovLoop, to The Washington Times.
“I chat with people in a lot of different agencies, Web managers, San Francisco IT departments, New York state [chief information officers] and people across the country,” he said. “It’s a movement, a mundane, bottom-up, grass-roots movement.”
Already, GovLoop.com users have compiled a resource of information for communication strategies, government acquisitions and for people creating social media policies for their offices.
Subcommunities on particular government jobs enable users to connect with other people doing the same thing. Members post invitations to upcoming events, and at least one community has held an in-person conference to build on discussions from the Web, with nonlocals dialing in on Skype. The site also has become a resource for recent graduates seeking government jobs, with users connecting one another to job openings and contacts.View Entire Story
Jillian Badanes presents the day’s top news stories in the daily “Morning Briefing” video. Check out the latest “Morning Briefing” here. Jillian graduated from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs with a major in Journalism and Mass Communication and a minor in International Politics. She spent her early years in London, England and Connecticut before ...
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