What does Government 2.0 look like?

Mark Drapeau offers a visual breakdown of the Gov 2.0 components.

Gov 2.0 Expo 2010The most important thing I learned in grad school was very simple: “Draw the picture.” (Thanks Tony.) By that my advisor meant that it’s often hard or impossible to describe a complex system in words alone. And consequently, if you can’t draw a picture of what you’re trying to explain, you probably don’t understand it. Drawing pictures of complex systems also helps everyone understand where the knowledge gaps are, or where unsolved problems are buried, or where contradictions exist.

So, moving into the inaugural Gov 2.0 Expo week, as I reflect on where Government 2.0 is and where it’s headed, I thought I would draw a picture of it. To some people Gov 2.0 is about technology, to some it’s about culture change, to some it’s still about taking risks and doing experiments, to some it’s about policy, or collaboration, or openness. It’s about all of those things. How do they come together into a complex system?

So what does Government 2.0 “look like,” then? A few months ago I gave a few talks out of which I developed a short slide deck about the different components of Gov 2.0, which I’ve now posted publicly. Check out my What Does Government 2.0 Look Like slide deck here. In this post (after the jump), I expand briefly on each slide.

Government 2.0 is transformative

transformative.pngGov 2.0 is about changing the status quo of government in various ways. What are those ways? They include but are not necessarily limited to: innovation by government, transparency of its processes, collaboration among its members, and participation of citizens. In total, these would constitute a huge transformation of government, at any level.

These basic categories were formally established by the White House shortly after President Obama took office in a memo titled, “Transparency and Open Government.”

Government 2.0 is multi-leveled

multileveled.pngOne common source of confusion about Gov 2.0 is whether it’s primarily about fixing communication and collaboration within agencies, or between government, the stakeholders in it and the citizens it serves. The answer is of course all of them. None is in particular more important than any others, and in fact they are interlinking and counter-dependent on each others’ progress.

One could say, though, that the “lowest” level of Gov 2.0 is within-organization Gov 2.0, simply making government more efficient, responsive, etc. at the most basic level — with employees who often work in the same building. Then the next level up is helping similar employees at organizations work better with each other (the “interagency process” or what have you), where these organizations might be the FBI and the DOT, or the city of New York and the Department of Homeland Security, or two neighboring states on the Mexican border. Then finally, one level higher, you have the interaction of all of this with citizens.

Typically, a government employee, a stakeholder, or a citizen only cares about one of these levels, but at any given time an organization or group is regardless involved in all three.

Government 2.0 is tech-enabled

tech enabled.pngLet’s face it, a lot of Gov 2.0 is about technology, particularly new and emerging technologies including but not limited to social web platforms, mobile devices, and cloud computing, and how they can transform and empower government. As with levels of Gov 2.0, which technology is most important and how much that changes your role is highly dependent on where you sit.

Nevertheless, the holistic view of Gov 2.0 is that these are all important. A public affairs person or a citizen might see government presence on social networks as most important, whereas government scientists might see crowdsourcing on a dedicated website most important, and law enforcement may be focused on unified communications. Regardless, technology is empowering Gov 2.0 transformation of old jobs, and even creating emerging roles like “new media director” in some places as well.

Government 2.0 is iterative

iterative.pngGovernment 2.0 is certainly not static. The way in which Gov 2.0 transforms at all levels using technology is through an iterative process of (1) identifying problems to be solved, (2) conducting experiments, (3) determining if a solution was found, re-conducting experiments if necessary, and identifying new problems. This process never really ends.

Furthermore this picture shows that experiments not tied to problems are not really relevant. Employees uncomfortable with solving problems through a process of experimentation and trial and error, and not able to explain that to supervisors or peers, will have difficulty implementing Gov 2.0 practices.

Government 2.0 is mission-driven

mission driven.pngFor all the writing above about finding solutions to “problems” through experimentation and “failing forward fast,” these things are only useful if they’re tied to the mission of an organization.

Gov 2.0 at its core is about achieving missions. Sometimes using Twitter will not be appropriate. Sometimes it is. Sometimes blogging is helpful. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes your employees should work on wikis together; sometimes they shouldn’t. Everyone needs to learn about technologies and apply them appropriately to problems that apply to their missions. Don’t be confused about this.

Ultimately, this is a basic process. What’s your mission? What’s your general strategy for achieving it? How do current policies, rules, and laws (see next section) affect that strategy? Now, what tactics will you use to carry out your strategy? Mainly, the technologies and experiments happen with the tactics, not the strategy. Don’t be confused about that, either.

Government 2.0 is policy-based

policy based.pngUnlike more generalized topic matter like Enterprise 2.0, which applied to private businesses and other organizations, the narrower topic of Gov 2.0 is heavily influenced by all kinds of rules, regulations, policies, and laws at all levels of government and in all different kinds of organizations. In many ways these policies hinder transformation, and a big part of Gov 2.0 is dealing with this fact. Government employees I know are all-too-familiar with this.

Many policies have to do with “the public” — making sure they are treated equally, being sure to take into account disabilities and other situations, their privacy concerning personal information, and so forth. Others have to do with cybersecurity, open data standards, and other issues. This is complicated, and these policies are not necessarily interoperable (I use that term loosely here) with the accelerated pace of Web 2.0 and other technology evolutions in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. The value systems of companies like Facebook serving advertisers and game designers are not necessarily aligned with the value systems of governments serving citizens.

Thus while many technology companies and products (like Facebook) hold true value for governments and citizens, they all operate within an ecosystem of policies that affect the tactics that can be used in practice.

Government 2.0 is counterbalancing

counterbalancing.pngGovernment 2.0 does not exist in a government vacuum. (Well, maybe some of it does.) To the extent that it serves or interacts with citizens, those citizens serve an an operating environment for government. Environments can change. Citizen 2.0 is the idea that all the technologies and experiments and spirit of change and reform and participation are available to the common person as well as the government.

Thus, to some degree, citizens can decide how to make government more transparent, collaborative, and participatory on their own. They can scrape government websites for data, create open wikis, retweet government bulletins, and so forth. They can also use these tools to protest in various ways when the government is not transformative in the ways they want, when government doesn’t improve in the ways the public thinks it should. (Imagine a tech-savvy group like Code Pink protesting a perceived lack of TSA sophistication in airports by secretly capturing videos and posting them, etc.) Regardless of the exact form this takes, what citizens do with new technologies will affect what government does, and vice versa, creating a balance.

So: What does Government 2.0 look like?

When all of these components are combined visually, what does Government 2.0 look like? I think that the “workflow” looks something like this:

what gov 20 looks like complete.png

Everything begins and ends with your mission. Then, Gov 2.0 is about a transformation process involving innovation for transparency, collaboration, and/or participation related to your mission. This may involve one or more “levels” ranging from within-organization, to between-organization, to government-citizen interaction, but to some degree these all affect each other anyway.

Then, a strategy is formed around completing a mission better in the spirit of Gov 2.0, and this strategy is carried out within a complicated environment of government-specific and non-specific policies — rules, regulations, laws, and the like. That then determines which tactics can and cannot be used to carry out the strategy to improve a mission. These tactics will often involve using new and emerging technologies. The use of these technologies involves a trial-and-error process of identifying small problems, experimenting to solve them, and assessing possible solutions. This trial and error differs from tactic to tactic, even within a strategy or mission.

Next, a general assessment takes place of how well a suite of deployed tactics was able to meet the original strategy. However, this assessment occurs not only within the government offices but within an environment of citizens who are stakeholders in the whole operation. Their changing needs, attitudes, and use of technologies themselves can affect how well the tactics met the strategy, or even what the strategy is — creating a technological counterbalance of sorts between government and citizens. Finally, an assessment is made as to how Gov 2.0 may or may not have improved a mission.

I think that this workflow, to some degree, is happening for every single person in every government or government-related job that Gov 2.0 is affecting. What do you think?


It’s not too late to attend this week’s Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington DC. Workshops, parties, panel sessions, keynote speakers, and exhibitors will be showcased at the event.

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