Back in 2010, a chance conversation between Amelia Loye (@Emotivate) and myself (@DavidJEade) resulted in the formation of a new community of innovators within government ecosystem in South East Queensland.
gov2qld (@gov2qld) was driven by a desire to see individuals from across mutliple agencies come together to share ideas and experiences on how they were using the growing breed of online tools to deliver better outcomes to their clients through more efficient working and more effective communication.But the challenge was how to create, nurture and grow such a community without funding and from a starting point of just twelve interested individuals.
It was obvious that if we were to be promoting the use of online tools to build community then we needed to do so ourselves.
We chose LinkedIn as our online platform not because it has the best tools for enabling the conversation (it doesn’t), but rather it was the one professional platform where most of the target market for gov2qld already existed. Asking people to click on a link in LinkedIn to join a group was a thousand times easier than persuading these same people to sign up for yet another collaboration platform.
However, we also learned early on that to sustain an online community almost requires some form of face to face interaction. The face to face meetings build trust, and the online community continues the conversation.
But there is another key to maintaining the momentum of online communities – that of focus. In some ways, that is a lesson we are still learning. “Government 2.0” is a broad church with differing subject areas of interest to different people. Maintaining that interest while still cross fertilising ideas across the group as a whole is a challenge.
My role was to facilitate the formal and informal conversations within the group. Identifying topic areas of interest, challenges individuals faced worthy of group discussion or the dissemination of successes or lessons learned to the group as a whole through meetups and online posts.
But it was more than that. It was about building relationships with individuals in the group to help facilitate private introductions to others who could offer help and advice – either general in nature or in preparing a business case for the provision of a certain technology for a given business challenge.
In doing so I have built an amazing network of fabulous innovators and influencers across all levels of government in Queensland and beyond.
gov2qld now boats some 1,300 members in the online community. More importantly it has spawned recommendation documents, helped shape major policy initiatives and introduced countless people to others in other agencies that are able to offer advice and support.
It was the primary organiser of the GovCampQLD 2012 un-conference which attracted more than 150 people to a full day session at The Edge. A chance for people with different interest areas to meet together in the same location, but break out to focus on their particular passion, whilst still cross fertilising ideas to the group as a whole.
The future of gov2qld is uncertain. But it’s legacy is, hopefully, strong.