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Category: JeffAshcroft

Start Building a Culture of Content Creation & Sharing


For the past several years social media has been a buzzword swamp with public service and digital leaders chasing one shiny object after another like dogs chasing their tails. Social Listening, Digital Marketing, all types of Engagement, Advocacy and Social Marketing to name but a few.

More recently joining W2P pioneers in the chase have been other public sector leaders lured by the promise of a brave new world empowered by social media enabled government and collaboration. Or maybe it’s just their fear of losing control and/or being left behind.

As sustainable social applications begin to crawl their way out of the swamp of social media disillusionment, platforms facilitating the creation and sharing of content across social channels may be poised to lead the way.

Interestingly enough utilizing a unified platform for operationalizing two of the above words, Advocacy and Engagement may just hold the key to unlocking greater value from content creation and social sharing.

Both Advocacy and Engagement have one thing in common that’s critical for any true social success and that’s PEOPLE!

Businesses, brands and governments today are aiming to truly engage people to become advocates and these people can be citizens, stakeholders, influencers and of course even public service employees.

Co-ordinating, encouraging and facilitating a culture of creation and social sharing of all forms of content by these four groups has the potential to generate a multiplier effect and a renaissance in the combined development and sharing of ideas.

A technology platform to support these efforts is a key prerequisite building block, but ultimately much more will be required for governments to succeed. True cultural change embraced by most employees and many citizens & relevant stakeholders and influencers in the country will require leading both a ‘Top Down’ and ‘Bottom Up’ approach, as well as adopting both ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Outside In’ methods for facilitating distributed creation and flows of content and ideas.

Like any successful organizational development or change initiative, internal efforts need to be embraced, lead and supported by government,  public service leaders and frontline public service employees. Active leadership from the highest levels in government and the public service is critical to demonstrate commitment and lead by example, ‘Walking the Talk’ through the creation and sharing of content. For the shift to a culture of content creation and sharing to take root the ‘Bottom Up’ groundswell of content creation and social sharing must be facilitated, encouraged and your people rewarded for these efforts. The ultimate goal is for these aligned ‘Bottom Up’ and ‘Top Down’ initiatives to meet in the middle cementing this as a permanent part of public service culture moving forward.

Likewise ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Outside In’ bi-directional content creation and sharing initiatives can cultivate a similar resulting flow and synergy between governments, the public service, citizens, stakeholders and potential influencers. Again rewards and recognition for those committed to active participation in content creation and sharing should be a key consideration in your planning.

Very few individual initiatives can effectively address so many goals, in this case simultaneously addressing Citizen, Stakeholder, Influencer and Public Service Employee Engagement while at the same time harnessing joint content and creation to energize your efforts. The power of creating a culture of content by synchronizing and synergizing the voices of Employees, Citizens, Stakeholders and Influencers as true advocates and ambassadors together writing new chapters as they tell the story of a country, jointly creating and advancing national purpose and culture.

Jeff Ashcroft

Image: 123RF

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Could a New Pallet Be the Starting Point for More Sustainable Supply Chains?

A bold statement perhaps, but one borne out of long standing frustration with the slow if not stagnant forward movement towards implementing more sustainable supply chains.

In 1985 I established my first retail store cardboard recycling initiative which not only was good for the environment, but was also a financially lucrative initiative saving the Hudson’s Bay Company $100’s of thousands of dollars annually at that time.

However as more companies came on board such programs, the savings component disappearred; as in the case of cardboard, widespread recycling drove the amount recyclers would pay into the ground due to the resulting oversupply of cardboard.

Fortunately when it comes to the potential for new sustainability initiatives such as lighter composite pallets versus wood pallets and the associated carbon credits, we are only in the early days of such programs and the ability to both monetize both potential savings opportunities while at the same time reducing your company’s carbon footprint is now.

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Does Canada Need a Chief Logistics Officer?

A few years back the Government of Canada introduced the role of Chief Technology Officer or CTO, which ultimately resulted in the formation of Shared Services Canada.

Since that time progress has been made on the elimination of redundancy and IT standardization across the government which process continues to roll out.

IT services, applications and servers are of course a very significant cost to the government and ultimately the people of Canada. Likewise, logistics the physical handling, storage and transportation of any materiels or related services needed for the Government of Canada to serve citizens costs 10’s if not 100’s of millions of dollars annually.

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Is it Time for the Widespread Adoption of Composite Pallets in Canada?

Millions of pallets are built and used in the supply chains of Canada every year and so any innovation around these pallets can have a significantly positive and far reaching impact on overall logistics and supply chain performance.

The introduction of composite pallets is just such an innovation and in my humble opinion they are poised to be a major catalyst for supply chain improvements in logistics cost, service and supply chain sustainability.

As I began to research the use of composite pallets getting specific information on them, such as current levels of use and other details, was actually difficult. This was due to the fact that in all studies I’ve found to date, they are lumped into the category of plastic pallets even though they are different in some very important ways.

Let’s start by more specifically defining both Plastic and Composite pallets, followed by a quick comparison on some key characteristics.

Plastic pallets refer to pallets made of a thermoplastic polymer, the method of manufacture varies depending on the style and loading requirements, typical processes used include thermoforming, injection molding, and blow molding. The type of the material used is dependent on the manufacturing process and the majority of plastic pallets for the transportation and warehousing of goods are made of non-renewably sourced polyethylene or polypropylene resins.

Composite pallets are made of a reinforced thermosetting polymer (also known as FRP) and are a combination of various elements formed to create a single material. Composites can range in makeup and complexity, from high cost carbon fibre to lower cost bulk molded compound use in electrical applications. The oil or wetting percentage of these composites is very low compared with fossil fuel derived feed stocks for plastic pallets which are 100% tied to the price for a barrel of oil. With pallet materials in general, its about the cost to weight ratio, and this is where composites win hands down over wood, metals, and plastics. The preferred method to manufacture FRP is compression molding. The resins used for a composite pallet can be sourced from either non-renewable petroleum or renewable bio-derived feed-stocks.


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Should the Government of the Future Function as a Social Business?

GovSocBusSeems just about everyone is trying to decide what government needs to be in its’ next iteration and what parts social media in all of it’s flavours can play in that future state.

Here in Canada initiatives like Blueprint 2020 appropriately hashtagged as #GC2020 are underway tweeting through @BlueprintGC2020

In parallel, looking specifically at social media, the first step was release of the Treasury Board Guidelines unveiled by Minister Tony Clement at our PSengage 2011 event. And today initiatives like the Deputy Minister Committee on Social Media and Policy Development which you can follow @DM_SMPD are beginning to formally plan and move forward.

At the grassroots level informal groups such as #w2p have been working (and playing) hard for years to establish the initial bottom up groundswell among public servants as a key driver for the coming transition. Even the design and customer experience community has been part of this rising wave since 2010 with UXCampOttawa aka @UXCampOttawa and hashtagged as #uxott.

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The Merits of Leading from the Middle

One of the true advantages I have seen developing within organizations, which utilize Social Media as a true enabler and game changing method of hypercommunications for their people, is the emergence of the leadership philosophy of “Leading from the Middle”.

Through all actors within and around the entity, both internal and external, working in a connected fashion, the organization and it’s leaders benefit from the eyes, ears and thoughts of all of those involved. The below video from Cisco explains the concept, ramifications and benefits of this emerging technology facilitated leadership approach.

To be clear, “Leading from the Middle” is not in any sense abdicating leadership authority or responsibility, as in any case, the final decisions and outcomes are still made by and reflect upon the leader or leadership team.

However, instead of those who choose to just lead from the front or the top in relative isolation, those who choose to lead from the middle harness the combined benefit of all organizational insights, information, knowledge and collective intelligence available to assist in making better, perhaps even the best, decisions possible.

One of the most interesting historical examples of the need and benefits of exercising a more delegated and distributed leadership style was in the case of Henry Ford.

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Hamish Nicklin on Thinking Digital First

Recently Hamish Nicklin of Google presented at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. The presentation was requested in order to explain these tools and more importantly how they could be useful in the world of Foreign Affairs and Service.

One of his main themes is rather than creating something and then figuring out how do we make this digital, instead think digital first and you may come up with an entirely different process and approach. Extending this thought further, because of the growing ubiquity of phones and now smartphones we should begin by thinking mobile digital first!

It’s a rather long video but I think quite useful in getting the point home that because of the combination of digital, social and mobile, the digital genie is now fully out of the bottle and being integrated today as just one more part of our everyday environment and society. And by thinking first of mobile and digital when developing processes and projects we will be much more likely to deliver better solutions and services to those we serve.

Please share this post with your colleagues and do comment below and even share your own ideas on other valuable uses across all aspects of public service.

Jeff Ashcroft

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Event Review: GW’s Gov 2.0 Startup Lab

George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs hosted the Gov 2.0 Startup Lab on Friday, November 19, 2010. The free event was built around stimulating innovation and ideas around Gov 2.0, described by organizer Peter Corbett of iStrategyLabs as “a new methodology for governance and civic engagement based on transparency, open data, and citizen-driven innovation.”

After Corbett’s opening remarks came two Ignite-style presentations on competitions aimed at increasing development for open data:

The World Bank’s Gail Davenport discussed the Apps for Development competition, which challenges the public to create new software applications to help solve some of the world’s most pressing issues, as defined by the Millennium Development Goals.

John Rollins presented The George Washington University Business Plan Competition, that will award students a total of $50,000 in cash prizes. The competition is open to business plans of all types, though part of the stated goal of Gov 2.0 Startup Lab was to inspire business plans around citizen engagement goals. Link to full post on GovWin site.

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Video Highlights from 2nd Annual Adobe Government Assembly

Government employees and contractors gathered for the second annual Adobe Government Assembly on November 3rd to discuss the challenges and opportunities of implementing new technologies for open government. The theme for the event was Engage America and attended by roughly 450 people.

Please find below a listing and links to all of the other presentation videos from this event.

  • Morning Keynote – Shantanu Narayen, Adobe.
  • Blue Ribbon Panel – Alan Cohn, DHS; Tom Davis, Deloitte; Craig Kaucher, DoD; Gwynne Kostin, GSA.
  • Mobile Devices – Kevin Brownstein, McAfee; Andy Blumenthal, ATF; John Landwehr, Adobe. (spotty audio due to equipment issues)
  • Cloud – Thomson Nguy, Amazon; Avi Bender, U.S. Census Bureau; Mitch Nelson, Adobe; Marion Royal, Data.Gov.
  • Maximizing Your Web Presence – Loni Kao Stark, Adobe; Selene Dalecky, GPO; Ronnie Levine, DOI; Steven Webster, Adobe; Andrew Wilson, HHS.
  • Social Media – Bobby Caudill, Adobe; Wayne Moses Burke, Open Forum Foundation; Megan Kenny, DHS; Kay Morrison, EPA.
  • Afternoon Keynote & Awards – Barry Leffew, Adobe; David Plouffe, Author, The Audacity to Win, and Campaign Manager, Obama for President, 2008

Hope you find all of these interesting especially those focused on the web presence, social media, mobile and cloud aspects of Gov 2.0 deployment and citizen engagement.

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