A revolution is happening in government as the result of a new generation of government employees, the rise of Web 2.0 technologies, and the Obama Administrations focus on transparency, participation, and collaboration. Often called Gov 2.0, this next generation of government workers is marked by the principles of openness, transparency, and collaboration, as well as the idea that the voices of the many are smarter than the voice of one.

While this movement has been brewing for some time, Gov 2.0 swept the United States and Washington, D.C., in late 2008. Excitement about the governments use of Web 2.0 technology began when agencies saw how the Obama campaign used Web 2.0 technologiessuch as the social network myBarackObama, Facebook, and Twitterto bring together a community of millions of citizens toward a common goal. This excitement continued during the presidential transition period, when the various transition teams continued to use new media from YouTube videos and the Google Moderator Open for Questions sessions to a modern change.gov website.

Presidential Leadership

Use of Web 2.0 technologies continued as President Obama moved into his new role. One of President Obamas first acts in office was to issue a directive calling for a more transparent, collaborative, and participatory government. Leaders from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) solicited input to the memo from all federal employees through the OMB MAX wiki.

The first White House New Media team, headed by Macon Phillips from the Obama campaign team with help from government insiders such as Bev Godwin, has been working through new challenges based on rules created decades ago. The team has already launched the Ask the President contest, which received hundreds of thousands of suggestions from citizens. Additionally, new media directors are being put in place at major cabinet agencies.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has led a number of initiatives in the space. They have worked with Web 2.0 providers, such as YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace, to sign Terms of Service agreements allowing federal agencies to use these new tools. The Federal Web Manager Committee has formed the Social Media Subcouncil, co-chaired by Jeff Levy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Joyce Bounds of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to focus on sharing lessons learned via their blog, wiki, and webinars with Web 2.0 companies, including Facebook, YouTube, and OReilly Media.

Government agencies also have begun using social media tools for various events. For both the recent recall on peanut butter and the H1N1 virus, agencies such as HHS, CDC, and DHS used Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and widgets to ensure that government information reached the citizens where they interacted. There are many others examples including Hilary Clintons Digital Townhall of the Americas.

Grassroots Involvement

At the grassroots level, a group of knowledgeable insiders is forming, connecting, and spreading information across social networks, such as GovLoop and Twitter. The Government 2.0 Club, modeled after the popular Social Media Club, was launched in March 2009 and provides a further mechanism for branding events and sharing wisdom. They recently held the first Gov 2.0 Barcamp, where more than 500 members of the government community met and shared ideas on making Gov 2.0 happen. And nonprofit organizations, such as The Sunlight Foundation, are developing applications and hosting events in an effort to make government more transparent and ultimately more accountable to the public.

Silicon Valley has started paying attention to the trend and are moving into Washington, D.C. Tim OReilly (founder of OReilly Media and creator of the term Web 2.0) recently launched the Gov 2.0 Summit and has shifted focus on the importance of open government through a government as platform idea. Luminaries such as Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, have begun showing up at various government conferences and trying to connect the Geeks to Wonks.

GovLoop.com

One of the most successful examples of Government 2.0 is GovLoop.com, an online community created for and by government employees, that has brought together more than 16,500 members of the government community. Dubbed by some as a Facebook for Government, GovLoop brings together government employees from the United States and other nations to discuss ideas, share best practices, and create a community dedicated to the betterment of government.

In July 2009, GovLoop celebrated its one-year anniversary in style under the theme Summer of Gov, with parties in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, as well as a virtual party in Second Life. In San Francisco, GovLoop teamed with Gov 2.0 Club to host a gathering of more than 100 peopleranging from City of San Francisco officials, Yahoo!, and YouTube. In Second Life, GovLoop member Marie Crandell of Rocoza Designs designed a special GovLoop island, where GovLoop held a celebration that included speeches on the power of virtual worlds by such experts as Eric Hackathorn of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations (NOAAs) Virtual Worlds. In Washington, D.C., GovLoop coordinated with iStrategy Labs and the recent D.C. Apps for Community contest to host a gathering of more than 300 government innovators from Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security, AOL, the Washington, D.C., government, and MixedInk.

In only one year, GovLoop has begun to smash the ageold silos that existed between federal agencies by facilitating dialogue that has never existed before between state, local, and international government agencies. Members range from chief information officers, White House political appointees, and city managers to brilliant government innovators across all levels of U.S. government. Since its launch, GovLoop members have written more than 1,500 blogs, started 1,200 discussions, posted more than 450 events, shared more than 4,000 photos, and created more than 200 videos.

The creation of a new way for government to connect and solve problems has caught fire. GovLoop has been featured in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, MSNBC, and Government Executive, and has been awarded the Federal 100 Award, 2009 Bethesda AFCEA Government-Wide Initiatives Excellence Award, and the 2009 ACT Intergovernmental Solutions Award.

Most importantly, GovLoop members have started connecting in ways to improve government. The open, accelerated flow of information on GovLoop has led to the rapid replication of ideas and best practices across all levels of government, and has improved government operations and performance. Indeed, GovLoop members have already accomplished many notable feats.

  • Developed a burgeoning Acquisition 2.0 movement to employ innovative acquisition methods. Led by Mary Davie of GSA, this GovLoop group has had rich dialogue on reinventing acquisitions with parties ranging from DOD insiders, small company CEOs, and graduate school trainers (www.govloop.com/group/acquisition20).
  • Been the leading source of government input into the Obama Administrations Open Government Memo. GovLoop members provide a range of ideas to promote Gov 2.0, ranging from awards programs to collaborative governance structures (www.whitehouse.gov/open).
  • Established a repository of best practices on social media policies, government hiring, and government Twitter use. Rather than reinvent the wheel, government agencies are learning from other agencies that have already succeeded on these issues and developed lessons learned. Visit Best of GovLoop to find these and other discussions (www. govloop.com/page/best-ofgovloop).
  • Brought together international government leaders from across the globe, including Canada, United Kingdom, Brazil, and Australia, who are working on similar issues. An example of GovLoop groups includes Canadian Government 2.0 (www.govloop.com/group/canadiangovernment20).
  • Created the first-ever Tweetbook summarizing all the messages on Twitter at the Open Government and Innovations Conference into a concise e-book for readers worldwide. Led by GovLoop member Andy Krzmarzick, this e-book was created with the help of more than 10 GovLoop volunteers who came together in a week to summarize the knowledge shared via Twitter at the conference (www.opengovinnovations.com)
  • Launched a top-rated podcast Gov 2.0 Radio (gov20radio.com) that now has thousands of listeners worldwide and guests such as Tim OReilly and Craig Newmark.

Looking Forward

Personally, it has been amazing to watch the ecosystem of government develop at GovLoop. People who would have never met in real life are connecting and learning from each other. In the Acquisition 2.0 Gov-Loop group, some of the top participants include a GSA employee, DOD IT program manager, CEO of a social networking platform, and a graduate school trainer. Additionally, it has begun to bring government innovators together. When you see a green GovLoop Bureaucrats Need Not Apply lanyard in the hallway, you know a like-minded innovator is in your path.

The beauty of government is that we are all in it togetherand we are not competitors. If a federal, state, or local agency is working on a problem, another agency has probably already researched the problem and found a solution. With the power of sites such as Gov-Loop, employees can learn from each other rather than reinvent the wheel. In the end, they are learning and working together to create a faster, quicker, cheaper, and more effective government.

While the tipping point may have been reached, Gov 2.0 still has a long way to go. Early adopters and many government agencies are still just dipping their fingers into the space. With these new technologies and new generation of government employees, there is a huge cultural shift that must take place to move from a hierarchical-based structure to a networked approach in which good ideas rise and are implemented regardless of where they come from. However, it is clear that in solving government problems, we should leverage the wisdom of the millions of citizens, government employees, and their past experiences.