for those who would make a difference

Month: September 2011

Weaving a tapestry of ideas and people

As many of you know I am helping to put together a networking and learning event as part of the @PSLeader initiative started by Jeff Ashcroft, Jeff is the same guy that got me into doing the #GovChat series of twitter chats, it all started with a comment on a blog post here.

Anyway, when I was part of the Public Service I was involved in the first Collaborative Management day and was excited about it, basically I think the whole #w2p #goc3 thing is awesome. Sadly, now that I am Private Sector I can’t participate in the same way, so that got me to thinking and…

…a while ago, a group of us in the shadow public service were chatting and felt that it might be a good idea to create an event that builds on the #goc3 momentum for collaborative management.  Of course if we were going to do something it had to have value over and above what an internal conference could provide. The logic we came up with goes something like this:

Continue Reading

Avatars as the First Manifestation of Geo-politically Unconstrained Global Citizens

istock photoAbstract: Developing the appropriate behaviors and competencies to integrate into society is a crucial test for any concept of citizenship1. Virtual society today is a connected community of global citizens thriving across multiple platforms and social networks. People are dispersed geographically, culturally and politically and are unconstrained by whom they interact with and why they interact. In virtual worlds, the borders are fluid and physically unconstrained. The personal surrogate encoded as an avatar can move about freely and participate in dynamic, multiple states at the same time. The avatar is valued more for his performance, skill and abilities in the context of the virtual world, rather than by his race, pay grade or political affiliation.

Continue Reading

46 countries commit to the international Open Government Partnership

The Open Government Partnership is “a global effort to make governments better“, led by Brazil and the USA.

The concept was announced a few months ago and countries have been rapidly signing up to the commitments required to demonstrate their willingness to take action to improve transparency and accountability in government.

As their website states,

Participating countries in the Open Government Partnership pledge to deliver country action plans that elaborate concrete commitments on open government. In each country, these commitments are developed through a multi-stakeholder process, with the active engagement of citizens and civil society.

Continue Reading

GoC’s Shared Services Represents Only Part of the Solution

The Government of Canada announced an initiative to centralize services across the government, to develop consistency across departments, and most importantly cut costs by reducing redundant systems and contracts.

On paper, it makes sense. To improve efficiency and lower costs by consolidating services centrally and reducing contracts. Solid argument, seems very reasonable.

In 2006 Tokyo’s Department of Recreation launched their “Swimming Pool shared services” initiative resulting greater efficiencies and lower costs for pool administrators by combining the pools (and their staff) together and reducing pool hours. “Pooling resources” is always the right solution.

Sadly and unsurprisingly, in practice, there is no direct correlation between simply centralising services and realising cost benefits. Despite many attempts before to centralise services, the result hasn’t always been savings in cost, but instead the opposite.

Continue Reading

The Rise and Fall of Public Sector Youth Groups

I’ve spent a lot of time around departmental youth groups since joining the public service; I’ve launched them, provided informal advice to chairs, and spoken at national conferences. My general observation is that public sector youth groups are forged out of a deep sense of frustration that plagues many new public servants. It is a frustration born out of over-promising during intake, under-delivering after the hire is made, and otherwise muddling through the logistical details of the on-boarding process (e.g. office space, ID badge, computer login credentials that often aren’t ready; managers with no time or materials to brief you with; and no clear articulation of duties in relation to mandate). Back in 2008, I interviewed a new hire who put it thusly:

“Despite coming in really pumped from the recruitment process, the first week on the job was very slow. My manager was away and the rest of the team generally kept to themselves. I spent the first week eating lunch alone.”

To be fair, I doubt everyone’s experience is terrible, however I would say that my own initial experience and many of the stories others have shared with me of theirs confirms the sentiment of the text cited above.

Continue Reading

Launching the Open Technology Foundation with Dr Terry Cutler

On Wednesday the 14th September, we launched the Open Technology Foundation with the organisation’s new Chair, Dr Terry Cutler.

The Open Technology Foundation has been a couple of years in the making, and is an initiative about supporting the use of open technologies, methods and standards across governments. They have participation at federal and state level in Australia, as well as interest from governments overseas.

I think the OTF could be a really useful resource for Australian Governments at a federal, state and local level, not only with their use of ICT, but for the sort of cross-jurisdictional collaboration that will be vital in implementing the Gov 2.0 and open government agenda.

Continue Reading

Leadership Evolves Because People Change

Leadership evolves because people change, but the principles remain the same, early in my career I was taught 10 basic principles of leadership.. while the words have changed over the years to reflect contemporary language and changing culture.. but these still hold true.

  • Know your job
  • Know your strengths and limitations always seek self-improvement
  • Lead by example and be consistent
  • Make sure your team knows your intent and then lead them to the goal
  • Know your people and take care of them before yourself
  • Develop the leadership potential in your people
  • Make sound and timely decisions
  • Train your people as a team and challenge them to their fullest potential
  • Keep your people informed, provide clear vision and make your orders understood

We practiced Social Networking in a way back then, in the form of “O” groups, gathering everyone into a circle, passing on the days directions, accepting feedback and re-explaining the mission until everyone understood the intent and goal. Leadership then, as now was about people and communication and that is why I’m a SM advocate, it too is about people and communication. No matter where you are or who you are with, if you practiced these simple tenets you will be the leader… online or face to face it’s that simple (and that hard).

Continue Reading

Musings of a GCPEDIAC: What makes a great sysop?

It’s been a great year for GCPEDIA so far. I only wish I had more time to engage with it personally.  As you can see from the lapse between this post and my previous writings about my favourite wiki (or indeed, any blogging at all), I’ve been busy.

But the wiki has chugged along just fine without me. More users every month and increasingly more complex documents are making the Recent Changes log fly by faster than ever… so much so that I felt compelled to add a bit of code to the wiki to highlight the sysop names in the activity log, just to make sure that there were enough staff online to help the users. (For the record: no problems there.).

One of my very favourite collaborators, Jesse Good, returned to the fold back in January after finishing school, and promptly turned the wiki on its side with his simultaneous injections of content, culture, and fun.  Meanwhile, another of my long-time favourite users, Catharine Au, was finally goaded into accepting a position as a sysop after humbly refusing it before, much to my disappointment.

Continue Reading

“Social Production” as a Market Strategy

“Social production” is defined as the result of “the coordinated creative energy of large numbers of people (usually with the aid of the Internet) into large, meaningful projects, mostly without traditional hierarchical organization.” (

Given that definition, can social production build stronger market economies?  Will we create compelling financial incentives and rewards with more social cooperation?

“Social production” was cognitively described by Yochai Benkler in the Wealth of Networks. We often think of market and social production as mutually exclusive.  We mentally pit financial outcomes against egalitarian “free” outcomes. A good example is the open source versus traditional software licensing debates currently playing out in the Gov 2.0 movement in Washington D.C.

Continue Reading

Improving Engagement by Understanding People

I’ve been studying and/or working in government and technology (“gov20) since 2007. My original interest in the field was around improving the efficiency and effectiveness of governance. The idea was that if we had better data and information about our work, engaged with the people our policies were designed to impact, and used the best technologies to manage the process, that we could create better government. I still carry this fundamental believe, and over the last few years have had the privilege of working on a variety of different technology and engagement projects with nonprofits and government institutions as well as studying how the best practices in the field from an academic perspective.

Much of the work to date has focused on pushing the use of technology to further engagement, improve the delivery of services and information, and help organizations meet their goals and missions.

In my experience, it is important to think about several layers when designing gov/tech/engagement projects:

Continue Reading