On building a local Government 2.0 Community of Practice

It was an idea spawned from a conversation between Amelia (@Emotivate) and I (@DavidJEade) lamenting the lack of community for people in our State keen to share ideas, experiences and tools relating to this emerging trend known as government 2.0. A month later, 12 changes makers from agencies and service providers within the Queensland government ecosystem came together, and so the ‘Government 2.0 in Queensland‘ (@gov2qld) community of practice was born.

Edit: As of May 2014, the gov2qld community is now three and a half years old and now has some 1,300 members!

The community has grown from its roots as an online LinkedIn group to a monthly meetup event which sees up to 100 people meet to workshop topical issues such as that of social media in disaster management.

(Check out the videos of that event here).

Gov 2.0 QLD Workshop image

image (and T-Shirts!) courtesy of The Reading Room

Government 2.0 is a relatively new term used to describe a new philosophy for how government and it’s citizens can interact online for the ultimate benefit of society. Birthed in the cultural and technological changes of Web 2.0, from where it gets its name, Government 2.0 focuses on greater openness in the processes and decisions of government; on the necessary part that citizens and the private sector must play in order to support the business of government, and the tools and technologies that allow both to happen in an efficient and effective manner.

Around the world communities of interest have grown around various projects and activities that fall under this umbrella term; primarily in the UK, Canada and more recently the USA. In Australia, the State of Victoria has done some wonderful work in not only implementing some of these ideas and approaches, but also in encouraging the community of practice around them. At a federal level in Canberra the Government 2.0 Google Group has been going for a while to provide an online meeting point and various events take place on an almost monthly basis.

gov2qld tshirtBut there was no real Government 2.0 community of practice in Queensland despite the State Government being the first to enact legislation for Right to Information reforms, a move followed by almost every other State and, this year, Federally. There were also many projects underway within Government agencies and at a Local Government level.

With many implementing these initiatives and innovative change in discrete locations across Government, Amelia and I wanted to create a place for those involved to share learnings and help the practice flourish. Amelia had seen similar communities working in Canada, where she was involved in a number of key gov2 initiatives. I was eager to share stories of online engagement activities and technology and learn what related activities were happening locally.

And so @gov2qld was born. Manidis Roberts and Objective kindly agreed to sponsor the first get together. Since then, other organisations have helped us run events, including The Reading Room and Mammoth Media. And now our community have a place to learn, to question, to share, to brainstorm, to think big and to have a few drinks and some fun in the process.

Gov2qld is a fabulous group of creative and passionate individuals, and in many ways, exemplifies some of the key aspects of Government 2.0 – openness, collaboration across agency boundaries and community engagement. We tend not to have presentations on subjects from ‘experts’ (like many of the Gov 2.0 Conferences and Events) but rather create spaces for workshops and panel discussions allowing people to discuss, question and better apply learning to their own context.

Philosophy

Our monthly meetings run according to one key philosophy …

Not ‘let me tell you what I can do for you‘ but rather ‘tell me, how can I help you?‘.

It’s a philosophy of sharing and being open to new ideas; of not assuming that what worked for ‘us’ is the only answer for ‘you’; and of not simply providing vendors of products or services with a platform to sell (although of course, vendors, service providers, consultants, citizens and public servants all form part of the community that is served by Government 2.0 and are thus all welcome).

And it’s a philosophy that seems to work.

But it’s also, I believe, the combination of an online community with a regular, monthly, get together that is the real reason for it’s success.

We enjoy our meetings. Meetings happen after hours and while we workshop are mostly informal. Everyone who attends does so in their own time and is there because they want to be. We’ve all been involved in creating a sense of community and our relationships are built on trust and a shared enthusiasm for what we do. The online part of it simply allows those conversations started and relationships formed to blossom (and of course to allow those unable to be at the events to be part of the conversation).

Our monthly meetings follow a similar pattern,

  • Networking drinks and nibbles
  • Government 2.0 News – from around our State, our Country and the wider worldwide community
  • Government 2.0 Surgery – a chance to bring pressing projects, ideas and questions to the group
  • Government 2.0 Intensive Care – a chance to workshop a specific issue or project within the group as a whole or in a number of small groups

So far, we have discussed and debated topics ranging from  ‘techniques to promote online engagements’, ‘Managing Engagement more Efficiently‘ through to ‘social media monitoring’ and, of course, ‘social media in disaster management‘. In the future we will look at topics like ‘engaging young people’, ‘managing the cultural change of Government 2.0 initiatives’, ‘combining online and traditional engagement’, ‘the benefits and opportunities of Open Data’, ‘the importance of geo-spacial data and mashups’.

Emergency 2.0 WIki logoThe group has also spawned the Emergency 2.0 Wiki project, led by the amazing @EileenCulleton, and supported by a number of us in the group.

Our members range from Engagement Specialists, to Communications and Marketing people, CIOs and Policy Officers, academics and service providers and even a few interested citizens. Departments represented cover the breadth of State government in Queensland as well as many local councils and some federal agencies. Our online group includes Government 2.0 advocates and practitioners from around the country and indeed from around the globe. Whilst unable to meet with us face-to-face, these online members provide a rich source of input to our community.

But the key thing is that everyone attends, not because they have to, but because they have a keen desire to see a difference in the way their Agencies and Authorities work and, ultimately, in the outcomes they are able to provide to their communities.

It’s a fabulous group of creative and passionate individuals, and in many ways, exemplifies some of the key aspects of Government 2.0 – openness, collaboration across agency boundaries and community engagement. We tend not to have presentations on subjects from ‘experts’ (like many of the Gov 2.0 Conferences and Events) but rather create spaces for workshops and panel discussions allowing people to discuss, question and better apply learning to their own context.

Gov 2.0 QLD Workshop image

image courtesy of The Reading Room

I’ll leave the final word to one of our members,

“This is the only opportunity I have to hear about what my peers in other government agencies are doing.”

I think that says it all!

If you’re interested in seeing what we’re about or joining the group, please feel free to either contact me, join the LinkedIn Group here or come to our next event which tend to be on the second Thursday of the month (details will be posted on LinkedIn and OzLoop).

It’s free. It’s fun. And you’re welcome!

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