Posts Tagged ‘government’

Re-imagining Government and Citizenship in the Age of Participation

I’m thrilled to be part of the organizing group for the upcoming ChangeCamp event, taking place Saturday May 16 from 8:30-5pm at Ottawa City Hall.  A lot of hard work has gone into the planning of the event from an excellent group of volunteers, and it’ll be great to see the fruits of our labour coming to life.

ChangeCampOttawa-logoChangeCamp is an unconference, meaning that the event provides the framework for discussions – the theme, face-to-face venue, logistical support, gathering participants, and rich online media tools & environment – but the actual content of the event is defined and created by the participants themselves.  So there are no pre-prepared powerpoint presentations, key note speakers, or diatribes from an ‘expert’ to a passive audience.

ChangeCamp is participatory at it’s core.  The event depends upon participants’ active engagement in discussions; people taking the initiative to propose and lead discussions; and for a group of people to self-organize around topics and conversations that most interest them.  The event framework helps to provide some order to this seeming state of anarchy, by providing pre-defined meeting areas for each of the discussions; and an agenda wall for people to share their ideas, and assign a meeting space and time to discuss their topic of choice.

Unconference photo by jdlasica

Discussion topic leaders have the sole responsibility of showing up at the time/space to kickstart the discussion; and ensuring that someone facilitates the discussion, and captures and shares the content (it doesn’t have to be the person who proposed the topic).

Bumble Bee ManThis format is intended to encourage people to come together around specific topics of interest, and to allow people to free-flow around the conference between various conversations and topics to share ideas between groups for a cross-pollination effect.

Participation is key, but it’s not only about the event-day participation among people at the event.  In this Age of Participation the online discussions and interactions are equally as important.  The event participants have been interacting online using a Pathable online community space, and of course through Twitter with the #cco09 hashtag, and the organizers have utilized Google Groups and a wiki space.

The event day will see an explosion in online content, through regular tweets, live blogging, Flickr photos, YouTube videos, and the extensive use of the community wiki to capture notes.  There is also a FriendFeed stream of content, and a NetVibes page to aggregate the different online content.  Hopefully this will help people unable to attend the live event to follow along; and help the event extend beyond this single day to continue the conversations, and drive people to act upon some of the ideas generated at ChangeCamp.

It’s great to bring together this group of like-minded individuals for some interesting discussions; but I’m hoping the real value will be in actions following the event that will improve the way governments and citizens interact.

munigovlogoA few weeks ago I heard about a group of municipal government employees meeting on a regular basis in Second Life.  The group is called MuniGov, and from the description on their website was formed as a coalition of local/municipal governments focused on exploring the use and principles of Web 2.0 in an effort to improve citizen services and communication via technology.”

I thought cool, this is exactly the kind of folks I’d like to connect with to talk about some of the work that I’m involved with on a daily basis.  So I checked out the MuniGov website – a lot of great info about different technologies and how some cities are using them; some good reference materials about web 2.0 & government use of social media; a primer to using Second Life; and the latest tweets from the MuniGov twitter feed.

The group is also organizing “the first virtual conference on Web 2.0 for government, by government”.  The event will take place in Second Life on Friday April 10th from 1pm to 4pm EST, and will include a series of presentations about various web 2.0 initiatives at the municipal government level.  The group has been meeting on Wed evenings to discuss plans for the conference, and I’ve been wanted to attend for some time now, but always seem to have something else happening on Wed nights.

Last night I finally made it to my first MuniGov Second Life meeting:


It was pretty cool, seeing a bunch of cartoonish avatars sitting around a table of “uniquely styled” chairs on a virtual island.  The meeting convener, Bill Greeves IT Director at Roanoke County, aka Greever Wemyss appeared as a wolf, and let out the occasional howl.  Otherwise the meeting was very much like a real-world meeting, except that all the attendees were there from the virtual convenience of their own locales – whether Ottawa, Nanaimo BC, Roanoke County, LaSalle Illinois or any other place around the world.  I think most of the other participants were from the U.S., and incidentally most of the MuniGov members seem to be US or Canada based.

I think the meeting demonstrated an excellent use of virtual communities to bring together like-minded and intentioned people.  Although the meeting was longer than I had expected, I think it was no longer than a face-to-face or teleconference meeting would have been; and it was more powerful in some respects.  (Most) participants were able to chat with voice – some (myself included) did not use voice chat but instead participated using live text chatting; and there was the occassional direct (private) text messages flying around.  So a number of simultaneous conversations could be ongoing without disrupting the meeting.  One of the participants had worked on some logo concepts for the conference, and was able to display them to everyone in-world, and get immediate feedback from the participants.

I’m looking forward to future meetings and discussions with the MuniGov group in SL, and especially looking forward to the virtual conference on April 10.  Maybe I’ll “see” you there?!?

ChangeCamp Toronto

Posted: January 26, 2009 in web 2.0
Tags: , , ,

changecamp I had the pleasure of attending ChangeCamp in Toronto over the weekend, and it was an excellent experience.

The event actually came together really quickly – I heard that the organizers started pulling it all together in mid-December – and the end result was incredible. I actually learned about ChangeCamp only a few days before the event through Twitter, and made a quick decision to attend. The (un)conference was very well organized, with some obvious good sponsorship backing to provide the event with an excellent venue (the MaRS collaboration centre), an abundance of support staff, resources, and materials to make everything happen very smoothly. They even had some good food and drinks free of charge.

So what was ChangeCamp? ChangeCamp is a free participatory web-enabled face-to-face event that brings together citizens, technologists, designers, academics, policy wonks, political players, change-makers and government employees to answer one question: How do we re-imagine government and citizenship in the age of participation?

The turnout was impressive, with about 100 people in attendance. They used an open space conference approach – basically the agenda is created in the morning by those in attendance. Anyone can suggest a specific topic (related to the general theme of the conference), and select a time and location to discuss the topic (from a pre-defined grid of timeslots with about two dozen table locations for each time). Once all the times are filled, the event begins, and people self-select the topics of most interest to them to attend. Participants can wander between groups, with the intent that ideas will flow between groups.

All of these sessions were captured using a wiki as the primary central archive, and lots of folks also snapping photos, shooting video, and capturing audio clips. The end result being a large organic collection of discussions, ideas, concepts and action plans.

I found that time was a bit limited to reach the action-plan stage, but there was certainly a lot of great ideas being shared, and tons of enthusiasm to see the ideas turn into actions.

I led a discussion on “how cities can use social media to help manage crisis situations”, from which I took two main points: (1) establish City social media channels for “regular business”, build a strong following and get known in the community so that can be converted to emergency channels during a crisis and reach a significant number of people (including mainstream media); (2) in a crisis have a plan with an elevated, staged approach for using various social media channels to inform & engage people, for example, using twitter for the initial quick reaction, with a blog/audio cast to followup, and a videocast later.

Another key point to raise is the incredible attendance at the event from City of Toronto staff members. There was about a dozen staff members there, including the CIO and the Communications Director for TTC. They are clearly on board with social media, although from my discussions I’d say they are at about the same place as we are in terms of getting their ideas in place.

So it was well worth the journey to Toronto; and I hope to participate in other events like this in the coming days… next one is the Third Tuesday Meetup in Ottawa on Monday Feburary 2nd.

barack-social-mediaWith Barack Obama’s incredible campaign success, I thought I’d kick off this blog by looking at how they used social media so successfully – esp as it’s the first US presidential campaign to make such widespread use of the Internet.  To begin with they have a pretty impressive website http://www.barackobama.comwith very clear and rich information, and easy to use navigation.  The site includes videos, photos, a blog, and embeds content from social media channels.
The use of social media was pretty extensive, including:
  • Twitter – Obama is the most followed twitter account (with 117,025 followers vs 71,000 for the 2nd most followed)
  • YouTube – over 1600 videos
  • Over 50,000 photos on Flickr
  • Facebook pages, MySpace pages, LinkedIn, Meetup, FriendFeed
All of this is very impressive, especially the sheer volume of content and connections.  But, I think the driving force that brough it all together was the “MyBO” community platform created by – a personalized space for campaign coordinators to collaborate with supporters.  It is a truely empowering collaboration site that helped people to take ownership of campaign activities – something I feel made a big difference in the success of the site.
MyBO allows people to:
  1. Create their own profiles, with personal details, including why they support Obama.
  2. Create and join groups (over 20,000 different groups) to connect with local people, or others with a shared interest (single mothers, air traffic controllers, etc).
  3. Easily contact voters – a feature that automatically finds local potential supporters to contact, based on your address; creates a printout of address/call list with names, script for conversation, and a map of where they live; report back feature for campaign office to track results.  Very impressive way to easily coordinate volunteer campaign supporters with a minimal amount of effort needed from the volunteer (they can do it from the comfort of their own home).
  4. Setup a personal blog to share their own comments and views (not many sites allow visitors to setup their own blog & publish their own content).
  5. Post or view campaign events – the locations, details, help needed, etc for local community campaigns or rallys
  6. Personal fundraising page – the ability to setup and customize a personal page; send personal invites to people (with a default but customizable message); track how much support you have brought into the campaign; automatic aggregation of all personal pages for the campaign HQ.
myboThese impressive collection of tools made it easy for people to connect with and collaborate with other supporters; and for the campaign coordinators to not only drive and steer the efforts of others, but to empower people to take action on their own.  The site also provides an excellent crossover between online and offline activities – using tools to organize and drive campaign efforts for phone campaigns; in-person meetings and rallys; postering; door-to-door campaigns, etc.  The site also focuses people’s efforts at mobilizing volunteers to get out there and talk to people who are not already supporters (instead of making a space for existing supporters to talk amongst themselves without reaching out to others).  MyBO provides the groundwork messages, values, and ideas of the campaign, and helps people integrate them into their own message, and empowers people to spread the ideas as their own message.  One final feature – donation matching – created a connection between first time donators and new donators, promoting dialogue between established and new supports to discuss why each of them donated, their beliefs, values, etc – a way to further solidify support for Obama.MyBO proved to be very successful:
  • Over 1 Million people created a user account
  • Over 75,000 campaign events were organized or promoted through MyBO
  • Donation efforts helped raise over $250 Million
A final thought… social media/web 2.0 is not just about making it easier to connect people to each other, it’s about empowerment – to create, to take ownership, to have control.