The article below is from the April 2010 issue of
T+D magazine. It has some intriguing info about the advances
social media is making in the public sector and some of its
implications for learning and development. I hope you enjoy
Connecting Government to Improve It
By Dean Smith
As the U.S. government steadily
loosens restrictions on social media, some agencies are already
benefitting from the next era of community and
While social networking tools are increasingly enabling
corporations to market and sell more effectively by getting closer
to their global customer base, government agencies have embraced
these technologies to share knowledge, drive informal learning, and
establish communities of practice.
Terms such as "eGov," "Gov2.0," and
"opengov" have entered the lexicon. While significant obstacles
remain, it's catching on.
"There is power in connecting people
in government," says Steve Ressler, founder of GovLoop, a social
networking site for government with more than 25,000 members, 4,000
blogs, and 1,500 discussions. "It's definitely a learning
A recent survey conducted by the
Human Capital Institute and Saba titled "Social Networking in
Government: Opportunities & Challenges" reports that 66 percent
of all government agencies currently use some form of social
networking- from blogs and wikis to instant messaging and
discussion boards to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
At the same time, 55 percent of all
government workers say that they're uncertain about the future use
of social networking tools, but still see them as an effective
means of real-time collaboration and have hopes for future
application of the technologies in the workplace.
"The public sector managers I have
worked with seem to have an intrigue-fear relationship with social
networking tools and practices," says Lisa Haneberg, author of
High-Impact Middle Management: Solutions for Today's Busy Public
Sector Managers. "They are intrigued with the potential in these
tools for relationship building, project management, and
collaboration. They fear the learning curve involved in becoming
efficient at using social networking and worry that it might end up
being a waste of time."
The case studies are piling up. The
CIA uses Facebook to attract college students to apply for
internships or jobs. As a way to share knowledge, build
collaboration, and improve employee engagement in contrast, the
Environmental Protection Agency created a Facebook network for
employees to achieve better talent management. County and municipal
governments are leading the way in leveraging digital options for
the dual aims of improving customer service and reducing costs: 31
percent of those surveyed have embraced social media as a means of
providing a more efficient customer feedback channel.
"The EPA and Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention are pretty far advanced," says Ressler.
"They need to be active to prevent misinformation."
The survey reports that social
networking tools within governmental agencies are used most
effectively for knowledge sharing and informal learning, as well as
development functions. The top three most likely uses of social
networking tools in government involve learning and development,
public relations and communications, and recruitment. Despite the
uptake of social media in government agencies, the government still
lags behind the private sector in the overall use of these tools.
The top three internal forces barring their widespread use are
security concerns, other priorities, and difficulty in building a
"Public sector leaders are learning
about how for-profit organizations are using social networking and
are interested in how these new technologies might help their teams
succeed. Their process involves two types of learning," said
Haneberg. "They need to get comfortable with the tools and then
translate how social networking will work in their often highly
regimented and regulated environment."
Dean Smith is director of
publications at ASTD