Category Archives: Government 2.0

Guide to Facebook Pages for Government Organisations

My partner in crime at Learning Pool, Breda Doherty, has written an awesome guide to using Facebook pages. She introduces it below – do have a read and then download the guide!

Facebook is now used as an everyday means of communication and information source for most people, well if you agree that over 500Million active users worldwide is a fair summary of most people… The fact that the Social Networking site has continued to grow and develop since its launch in 2004 shows that it’s not likely to join lapsed Social Networking sites in the sky such as Bebo or My-Space who simply haven’t been able to compete with Facebook’s constant innovative ways to keep people talking on their platform. Whilst friends use Facebook’s Personal Profiles; bands, businesses and those with a cause to promote often use Facebook Pages to market themselves to its millions of users.

What is a Facebook Page?

A Facebook Page is a public profile that enables groups like this to share their organisation with Facebook users. It is similar in layout and functionality to a personal Facebook profile but Facebook Pages have been created with the intention that it will be used for brand promotion and discussion between those with something to sell or promote and those Facebook users interested in showing their support of these.

Facebook Users show their support for Facebook Pages through Liking their page and adding the pages they like to their own personal Facebook profile, which in turn will be seen by friends who visit their profiles

The reason all these groups  use Facebook pages is because  it’s free, easy to use and offers the opportunity to connect with large numbers of people. If Facebook didn’t work, people would simply stop using it.

Facebook Pages and Government Organisations

Government Organisations are slowly seeing the benefits offered by Facebook Pages with effective use of this seen in the page maintained by Coventry City Council. However many are still unsure of how it can fit in with their wider communication strategies and are fearful that those staff assigned to maintain their Facebook Pages will take advantage of this and spend the time chatting to friends rather than the community members the organisation is eager to engage with. There is also the same fear which many Government Organisations have about Twitter in that with one status up-date on Facebook or one Tweet on Twitter the organisation will be called into irrefutable dispute!

Facebook: A Quick Guide for People in and Around Government

To try and rely some of the worries mentioned above and which we’ve heard about first-hand through our Learning Community, Learning Pool decided to create Facebook: A Quick Guide for People In and Around Government.  The guide provides a quick overview of how to set-up a Facebook Page, useful things to bear in mind as a Government Organisation when doing so and to highlight some of the legitimate ways in which Facebook, despite being labelled as a Social Networking site can be effectively used as an engagement site between Government Organisations and the public they are finding it increasingly difficult to connect with.

The Facebook Guide complements the Twitter Guide for Government written by Dave earlier this year and also looks at how the two can be used in conjunction. Download our Facebook Guide for free here.

Update on the Knowledge Hub

Knowledge Hub

I spent an enjoyable afternoon at the advisory group for the Knowledge Hub (KHub) last Tuesday (sorry for the delay in writing this up…). Steve Dale chaired the day which featured a number of updates about the project, in terms of procurement and project management; technology platform and supplier; and communications and engagement.

Remember – the Knowledge Hub is the next generation of the Communities of Practice. Think of it as CoPs with an open API, plus some extra functionality.

The Knowledge Hub is going to be built by an outfit called PFIKS – who I must admit I had never heard of before. Their approach is heavily open source based and apparently they have about 80% of the Knowledge Hub requirements already working within their platform.

I’ve come away with a load of thoughts about this, most of which I have managed to summarise below.

1. Open platform

One of the strongest improvements that the Knowledge Hub will bring as compared to the current Communities of Practice platform is the fact that is will be open. This means that developers will be able to make use of APIs to use Knowledge Hub content and data to power other services and sites.

One compelling example is that of intranets – a suggestion was made that it would be possible to embed Knowledge Hub content in a council intranet – without the user knowing where the information came from originally. Later in this post I’ll talk about the engagement challenges on this project, but perhaps creative use of the API will enable some of these issues to be sidestepped.

Another aspect of this is the Knowledge Hub app store. I’m not quite sure whether this will be available within the first release, but it should come along pretty soon afterwards – it’s something Steve Dale seems pretty excited about. Developers will be able to create apps which make use of content and data stored within the Knowledge Hub to do cool stuff. I’m guessing it will be a two way thing, so content etc externally stored can be pulled into the Knowledge Hub and mashed up with other content.

It’s certainly something for Learning Pool, and I guess other suppliers to local gov, to consider – how can our tools and content interact with the Knowledge Hub?

2. Open source

The open source approach is to integrate various components into a stable, cohesive platform. This appears to be based on the Liferay publishing platform, with others bits added in to provide extra functionality – such as DimDim, for example, for online meetings and webinars; and Flowplayer for embedding video.

On the backend, the open source technology being used includes the Apache Solr search platform which is then extended with Nutch; and Carrot2, which clusters collections of documents – such as the results of a search query – into thematic categories. I think it is fair to say that the search bit of the KHub should be awesome.

What is also cool is that PFIKS publish their code to integrate all this stuff as open source as well – so not only are they using open source, they are also contributing back into the community. This is good.

Open Source, as I have written earlier, is not as simple a thing to understand as it might first appear. There are numerous complications around licensing and business models that have to be considered before a project commences. It certainly isn’t the case that by using open source tools that you can just rely on the community to do stuff for you for free – which seems a common misunderstanding.

Still, from the early exchanges, it appears that PFIKS get open source and are taking an active involvement in the developer communities that contribute to their platform. Hopefully the Knowledge Hub will end up as being a great example of collaboration between government, a supplier, and the open source community.

3. Data

One of the original purposes of the Knowledge Hub was that it would be a tool to help local authorities share their data. This was a couple of years ago, when Steve first started talking about the project, when data.gov.uk didn’t exist and the thought of publishing all purchases over £500 would have been anathema.

It would appear that the data side of things is taking a bit of a back seat at the moment, with the revamp of the communities taking centre stage. My understanding up until this point was that the Knowledge Hub would act as a repository for local government data to be stored and published. It would appear from some of the responses at the meeting that isn’t going to be the case now.

This is, in many ways, probably a good thing, as authorities like Lincoln, Warwickshire and Lichfield (amongst others) are proving that publishing data isn’t actually that hard.

However, all those authorities are those with really talented, and data-savvy people working on their web and ICT stuff. Are all councils that lucky? Perhaps not.

Hadley Beeman’s proposed project seems to be one that pretty much does what I thought the Knowledge Hub might do, and so again, maybe a good reason for the KHub not to do it.

When a question was asked about data hosting on KHub, the response was that it could be possible on a time-limited basis. In other words (I think), you could upload some data, mash it up with something else on the KHub, then pull it out again. Does that make sense? I thought it did, but now I have typed it up it seems kind of stupid. I must have got it wrong.

4. Engagement

You could count the number of people who actually came from real local authorities on one hand at the meeting, which for an advisory group is slightly worrying – not least because this was the big ‘reveal’ when we found out what the solution was going to be and who the supplier was. Actually – maybe that’s not of huge interest to the sector?

Anyway, it’s fair to say that there hasn’t been a huge level of interest from the user side of things throughout this project. Again, maybe that’s fair enough – perhaps in this age of austerity, folk at the coal face need to be concentrating on less abstract things. But now the KHub is becoming a reality I think it will become increasingly important to get people from the sector involved in what is going on to ensure it meets their needs and suits the way they work. By the sound of the work around the ‘knowledge ecology’ that Ingrid is working on, plenty of effort is going to be put in this direction.

It will also be vital for the Knowledge Hub to have some high quality content to attract people into the site when it first launches, to encourage engagement across the sector.

For all the talk of open APIs and the Knowledge Hub being a platform as much as a website, it still figures that for it to work, people need to actually take a look at it now and again. To drag eyeballs in, there needs to be some great content sat there waiting for people to find and be delighted by.

Much of this could be achieved by the transfer of the vast majority of the existing content on the Communities of Practice. There’s an absolute tonne of great content on there, and because of the way the CoPs are designed, quite a lot of it is locked away in communities that a lot of people don’t have access to. By transferring all the content across and making it more findable, the whole platform will be refreshed.

5. Fragmentation

The issue of fragmentation occurred to me as the day went on, and in many ways it touches on all of the points above. For while the Knowledge Hub both pulls in content from elsewhere and makes its own content available for other sites, there are still going to be outposts here and there which just don’t talk a language the KHub understands or indeed any language at all.

It’ll be great for dorks like me to automatically ping my stuff into Knowledge Hub, whether posts from this blog, or my Delicious bookmarks, shared Google Reader items, or videos I like. But those sites which publish stuff without

One striking example of this are the Knowledge Forums on the LG Improvement and Development website, which have continued despite the existence of the functionally richer Communities of Practice. My instinct would always to have been to close these forums and port them to the CoPs to both reduce the fragmentation of content and the confusion to potential users.

What about the content and resources on the rest of the LG Improvement and Development website – will that continue to exist outside of the rest of the platform, or will it be brought inside the KHub?

There are plenty of other examples of good content existing in formats which can’t easily be resused in the KHub, and for it to be the window on local government improvement, it’s going to need to drag this stuff in. Maybe a technology like ScraperWiki could help?

Reflecting on Local by Social

I wrote up quite a bit of what was said at the Local by Social event yesterday, but didn’t add much in the way of comment or analysis. This post makes up for that. I’ll try and sum up what the themes were for me which really stood out.

First of all, of course, great work FutureGov and IDeA!

Local by Social

Me, Steve Bridger and Lloyd Davis, by Paul Clarke

1. We probably are moving on from talking about social media

I did think just how far things have moved on in the last few years. I remember conversations had with Steve Dale back in 2006 when it seemed like nobody else in local government was remotely interested. Now it seems like most authorities are at least aware of the developments in the web and how citizens are using it – and are starting to think how they might engage with it.

I think that ‘social media’ as being seen as a distinct element of activity is starting to disappear, with some bits heading into comms, other bits into web teams and so on. Our project with Central Bedfordshire, Let’s Talk Central, was delivered through the consultation team, for example.

In other words, using social media tools is becoming less of a thing, and more just a set of skills for delivering tasks and activity, which is almost certainly the right thing to do.

However, it still seems to be that comms and marketing folk are those most often attracted to events like this, which is a shame as service managers and policy types need to be a part of this conversation too.

2. Rethinking relationships

Much of the discussion at Local by Social was not about using social media but what was made possible by social media – which is a healthy way of looking at things. Much of this is focused on relationships – between government and governed, service designers and users, between individuals living in an area.

If anything local government should be looking to foster relationships and take an active part whenever it can. Reinventing relationships too, where necessary – giving people power to organise stuff for themselves where they want to, only stepping in when needed.

Another relationship to be rethought is between government and supplier, of course. All the presentations from social innovators were from small organisations which may not fit in too well with existing procurement systems and whatnot. To tap into these great ideas and enthusiastic people, process might need to give way.

3. Focus on outcomes

Following on from this, councils must think strategically about what it is they are trying to achieve rather than what is being done and who is doing it. It may well be that patchworks of service delivery models are required – some areas may have residents who can organise themselves, others may not.

It looks like a lot of the discussion around efficiency savings in local government is focusing on reducing staff numbers, restructuring and cutting services. In other words, doing the same things, only cheaper. This means councils could fall into the trap of doing the wrong things righter as opposed to taking the opportunity to really rethink who delivers what and how.

4. Be bold

Another key message from the day was that this is exactly the time for local government to throw off its shackles, rethink approaches to risk, and embrace innovative ways of working. I guess this comes down to attitude – is innovation a costly luxury, or a vital part of meeting demand in a time of cost cuts?

For a forward thinking person, the latter is obviously preferable, but is it likely to be the route taken by most local government managers? I’m not sure. But those that do will find themselves getting ahead of the rest.

Of course, who actually does the innovation is an interesting question. As I have mentioned above, the council’s role in this innovation might just be to pass the work onto someone who can actually do the innovating…

5. Don’t be boring

More and more I’m drawn back to what I posted about 18 months ago – that government should get away from the idea that for something to be useful it has to be very serious and dare I say it, boring. The greatest example of this at Local by Social was from Do the Green Thing, a wonderful campaign about getting people engaged in being a bit more environmentally aware. Take their videos for example, simple, funny and memorable:

Again, this is exactly what Let’s Talk Central is about – we don’t want to force people to read huge documents, or fill in surveys with hundreds of questions, or make them send emails into black holes from which they never get a response. We wanted to get people to talk about what they are interested in, using a medium they are comfortable with, in the space where they like to go.

Communications from councils are too boring. Consultation with councils is too boring. Decision making processes in councils are too boring. Selling to councils is too boring. I’m not talking dumbing down, I’m talking making things attractive to people, to encourage them to get involved.

For me, this is the most important thing to fix, and it’s probably the easiest of them all as well.

Further coverage of Local by Social:

Social CRM

An interesting development is the way social (in other words, anything ‘2.0’) technology is influencing traditional corporate IT. Despite not having an IT background myself, I find this stuff fascinating.

CRM (Customer relationship management) systems are no different, and an awful lot of talking, writing and developing is going on around the idea of ‘social CRM’.

The Altimeter Group have published a report including several case studies about social CRM, which is rather a good, thought-provoking read. Jeremiah Owyang, in his blog post announcing the report, says:

We know that customers are using these social technologies to share their voices, and companies are having a very difficult time to keep up.

I think the same could probably be said of citizens and governments.

From the report’s exeutive summary:

Social CRM does not replace existing CRM efforts – instead it adds more value. In fact, Social CRM augments social networking to serve as a new channel within existing end-to-end CRM processes and investments. Social CRM enhances the relationship aspect of CRM and builds on improving the relationships with more meaningful interactions. As the ‘Godfather of CRM’, Paul Greenberg notes, “We’ve moved from the transaction to the interaction with customers, though we haven’t eliminated the transaction – or the data associated with it… Social CRM focuses on engaging the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s (i.e. Social CRM is) the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

The report is embedded below. If you can’t see it for whatever reason, you can download it here: Social CRM report from Altimeter.

Meeting with Microsoft

Microsoft public sector uk

I had a very interesting hour today, chatting with James Brown and Dave Coplin at Microsoft. James works with the public sector all over the world, while Dave concentrates his effort on the UK. Dave also came along to last weekend’s govcamp – good man!

We had a great discussion about the state of public sector IT and the big issues, like open data, innovation and collaboration in government.

No one once claimed that Windows 7 was their idea.

I think it’s important that big vendors like Microsoft – and Google, IBM, SAP and others – are involved in these discussions. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • These guys know a lot of stuff, and they aren’t afraid to share it
  • Like it or not, a lot of public sector organisations buy their IT from bigco. If we – by which I mean the community of people interested in open and effective government – want real change to happen, these guys need to be involved in the conversations
  • Further, for long term technology enabled change to be sustainable within the huge – and not so huge – organisations that make up the public sector, the big boys have to be involved
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the issues we are all talking about are platform neutral. It’s in everyone’s interest that government becomes more innovative and collaborative, whether you are a civil servant, a one man govweb revolution, or a multinational supplier

Both James and Dave are keen to be a part of the conversation and the discussion around open government and the use of technology in organisations to drive improvement and efficiency. Dave even volunteered to write something for this blog in the near future – and now I’ve written it here, it looks like he’ll have to.

Is government a knowledge business?

Enterprise 2.0 is a label Andrew McAfee coined to describe the use of collaborative tools within large organisations, focused on the benefits this offers to non-technical managers rather than technology-for-technology’s sake enthusiasts. In other words: blog, wikis, forums, and social networks are nice, but what does it mean for a service manager? As always Wikipedia is your friend.

McAfee’s book, helpfully titled Enterprise 2.0, is a great read. I’m halfway through it myself.

This ties into what will be a key theme for me in 2010 – that the interesting bits around social software is not the software but the implications of it: sharing, openness, transparency, collaboration, co-creation.

Dennis Howlett posted a while back that enterprise 2.0 is a crock:

Like it or not, large enterprises – the big name brands – have to work in structures and hierarchies that most E2.0 mavens ridicule but can’t come up with alternatives that make any sort of corporate sense. Therein lies the Big Lie. Enterprise 2.0 pre-supposes that you can upend hierarchies for the benefit of all. Yet none of that thinking has a credible use case you can generalize back to business types – except: knowledge based businesses such as legal, accounting, architects etc. Even then – where are the use cases? I’d like to know. In the meantime, don’t be surprised by the ‘fail’ lists that Mike Krigsman will undoubtedly trot out – that’s easy.

It’s an interesting point Howlett makes, that greater collaboration and knowledge sharing through social technology works well in ‘knowledge based businesses’ but that the business case is harder to make otherwise.

How does this fit with government and public services? It’s a complicated one because there are clear examples of where greater collaboration and information sharing would have benefits, but also there are services provided by government which have to follow strict procedure, and to circumvent that would lead to disaster.

I see a clear opportunity to blend technology to produce systems that produce real value to staff working in public services: the intranet, eLearning, collaboration tools like Huddle, communication platforms such as Yammer and more traditional forums, knowledge sharing systems such as wikis. Carl hints at this in his recent post:

the intranet is now just part of what many people are referring to as Enterprise 2.0

The focus on the use of interactive web technology has been on external citizen engagement up til now. But many of the real wins might be behind the firewall.

Is there a conversation already going on about this? If not, let’s start one. I’m tagging this post – and any other relevant ones here on DavePress – as entgov. Feel free to do the same, or if someone comes up with something better, let’s use that.

Update: John Suffolk, UK government CIO, has posted this:

So if the customer/citizen becomes the CIO what does the CIO become… time for a new TLA; How about CCO, the Chief Collaboration Officer? In our world of ever decreasing time to launch our products and services and our increasing reliance on global supply chains and a multi supplier (IT and business service) world, increasingly our roles demand substantial collaboration to get the job done.

Importance of mobile

Mobile platforms are going to be ever-increasingly important to government, not least in terms of communicating and consulting with citizens – especially in terms of engaging with the disadvantaged who are more likely to have a mobile phone than a web-connected computer.

But there is another side of this too, which is the role that mobile will play within organisations. As Oliver Marks writes on his Collaboration 2.0 blog:

The danger in this recessionary era is ironically choice: many employees have to resort to their personal mobile phones and unofficial (and often illegal) use of web ‘Software as a Service’ applications, storing sensitive company data outside the company, simply in order to get their job done. The challenges of putting together workflows which leverage the power of the new technologies is far more about motivating people to use processes mapped to appropriate technologies than the actual technology tools.

We are in a period of unprecedented change, while also fighting our way out of a deep financial markets induced recession. Companies who focus on leveraging their most precious asset – their people – and empowering them with the workflow, guidance and tools to innovate and work perceptively and productively will emerge as a more sophisticated next business generation. Those who don’t are likely to choke to death on costly fragmentation and lack of focus.

In other words, if organisations don’t embrace new ways of working and empower staff to use new technologies to work together better, the ever increasing sophistication of mobile platforms will mean staff can get on with in themselves. Not only will this mean organisations won’t make the most of this opportunity, there will be risks created by staff doing their own thing.

Whither government 2.0?

Government 2.0 seems to be a well established meme in many parts of the world, but doesn’t seem to have taken root at all in the UK.

I can understand why people might think that is a Good Thing – Will and Stefan make the case on Twitter during a quick chat about the issue.

But I can see why having a label like this would be useful – there are so many disparate elements going on around change and the public sector, whether transformational government, Smarter Government, Power of Information, eGovernment, eDemocracy, open data, hyperlocal, CRM and VRM, transparency, openness… wouldn’t it be better to have a bakset to put all this stuff in?

By having a common tag to describe all this stuff, and bring it together, couldn’t we make more out of less? Reduce duplication? Make some useful connections?

Gov 2.0 Taskforce report published

The final report from Australia’s Government 2.0 Taskforce has been published. I’ve not had the chance to read it yet, but the summary points sound sane enough:

  • Government 2.0 or the use of the new collaborative tools and approaches of Web 2.0 offers an unprecedented opportunity to achieve more open, accountable, responsive and efficient government.
  • Though it involves new technology, Government 2.0 is really about a new approach to organising and governing. It will draw people into a closer and more collaborative relationship with their government. Australia has an opportunity to resume its leadership in seizing these opportunities and capturing the resulting social and economic benefits.
  • Leadership, and policy and governance changes are needed to shift public sector culture and practice to make government information more accessible and usable, make government more consultative, participatory and transparent, build a culture of online innovation within Government, and to promote collaboration across agencies.
  • Government pervades some of the most important aspects of our lives.  Government 2.0 can harness the wealth of local and expert knowledge, ideas and enthusiasm of Australians to improve schools, hospitals, workplaces, to enrich our democracy and to improve its own policies, regulation and service delivery.
  • Government 2.0 is a key means for renewing the public sector; offering new tools for public servants to engage and respond to the community; empower the enthusiastic, share ideas and further develop their expertise through networks of knowledge with fellow professionals and others. Together, public servants and interested communities can work to address complex policy and service delivery challenges.
  • Information collected by or for the public sector — is a national resource which should be managed for public purposes. That means that we should reverse the current presumption that it is secret unless there are good reasons for release and presume instead that it should be freely available for anyone to use and transform unless there are compelling privacy, confidentially or security considerations.
  • Government 2.0 will not be easy for it directly challenges some aspects of established policy and practice within government. Yet the changes to culture, practice and policy we envisage will ultimately advance the traditions of modern democratic government. Hence, there is a requirement for co-ordinated leadership, policy and culture change.
  • Government 2.0 is central to the delivery of government reforms like promoting innovation; and making our public service the world’s best.