New article “The social media innovation challenge in the public sector”, in: Information Polity

Albert Meijer, Frank Bannister and Marcel Thaens edited a special issue of “Information Polity” with the topic “ICT, Public Administration and Democracy in the Coming Decade”. They put together a tremendous group of international e-Government researchers and today the special issue was posted online. The articles included in the special issue include:

  1. ICT, Public Administration and Democracy in the Coming Decade, by Albert MeijerFrank Bannister and Marcel Thaens
  2. Forward to the past: Lessons for the future of e-government from the story so far, by Frank Bannister and Regina Connolly
  3. The Information Polity: Towards a two speed future? by John A. Taylor
  4. E-Government is dead: Long live Public Administration 2.0 by Miriam Lips
  5. Surveillance as X-ray by C. William R. Webster
  6. Towards a smart State? Inter-agency collaboration, information integration, and beyond by J. Ramon Gil-Garcia
  7. The social media innovation challenge in the public sector by Ines Mergel
  8. A good man but a bad wizard. About the limits and future of transparency of democratic governments by Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen
  9. The Do It Yourself State by Albert J. Meijer
  10. Five trends that matter: Challenges to 21st century electronic government by Hans Jochen Scholl
  11. Why does e-government looks as it does? looking beyond the explanatory emptiness of the e-government concept by Victor Bekkers
  12. Big questions of e-government research by Mete Yıldız

My own article focuses on the innovation challenges government agencies are facing when they are implementing social media:

Abstract: The use of social media applications has been widely accepted in the U.S. government. Many of the social media strategies and day-to-day tactics have also been adopted around the world as part of local Open Government Initiatives and the worldwide Open Government Partnership. Nevertheless, the acceptance and broader adoption of sophisticated tactics that go beyond information and education paradigm such as true engagement or networking strategies are still in its infancy. Rapid diffusion is challenged by informal bottom-up experimentation that meets institutional and organizational challenges hindering innovative tactics. Going forward governments and bureaucratic organizations are also facing the challenge to show the impact of their social media interactions. Each of these challenges is discussed in this article and extraordinary examples, that are not widely adopted yet, are provided to show how government organizations can potentially overcome these challenges.

Full reference: 

Mergel, I. (2012): The social media innovation challenge in the public sector, in: Information Polity,  Vol. 17, No. 3-4, pp. 281–292, DOI 10.3233/IP-2012-000281

Feel free to email me (ines_mergel (at) yahoo dot com) in case you can’t access a digital copy through your library!

IBM report: Using Wikis in Government: A Guide for Public Managers

IBM The Center for Business in Government has just published my first research report on “Using Wikis in Government: A Guide for Public Managers” in their Using Technology section. You can download a pdf version of the report here.

Here is a short description of the report from the IBM website:

Public leaders face the challenge of finding ways to bridge silos in their organizations. In this report, Dr. Mergel examines one tool that can help them do this—Wikis. Many of us are familiar with Wikipedia, which relies on thousands of active contributors who share their knowledge freely on a dazzling breadth of topics, with an accuracy rate rivaling that of traditional encyclopedias.

So how can government leaders spark similar outpourings of valuable knowledge – either among their employees or from the public? Dr. Mergel describes the managerial, cultural, behavioral, and technological issues that public managers face in starting and maintaining Wikis. She provides nine case studies of government organizations that launched Wikis. Each of the nine public sector organizations studied found Wikis to be valuable additions to their current workplace tools in reaching out to both employees and citizens.

Dr. Mergel doesn’t wear rose-tinted glasses, though. She observes that Wikis “are on the one hand relatively easy to create. On the other hand, maintaining collaboratively produced content while sustaining the quality and quantity of contributions over time is a formidable task for public managers.” She not only describes five challenges managers face, but also provides a checklist of best practices that public managers and Wiki administrators can use to improve chances for success.

This report is a “deep dive” into one online tool that can be used to engage employees and the public. A separate new report by the IBM Center, Using Online Tools to Engage – and be Engaged by – The Public, by Matt Leighninger, provides a broader context of the various online tools available today, showing how and when Wikis can play a role in broader engagement efforts.

We trust that this report will provide practical and concrete tips for federal managers in deciding if a Wiki makes sense for their organization, and how to best use this tool to improve collaboration within or between organizations and, where appropriate, with citizens.

Also, check out Matt Leighninger’s overview “Using Online Tools to Engage – and be Engaged by –The Public” on the IBM website.

The Future of Public Administration around the World: The Minnowbrook Perspective

Professors O’Leary, Kim and Van Slyke have just published “The Future of Public Administration around the World: The Minnowbrook Perspective” book.

My chapter in the book is titled: “The use of social media to dissolve knowledge silos in government”. I argue that public managers are facing the dilemma of ever increasing, changing and complex mandates to innovate with shrinking budgets. At the same time, they need to tap into existing knowledge so that they don’t reinvent the wheel on a daily basis in their search for innovation. Government itself is a large system of disconnected units, where it is impossible to know in which corner of the system similar problems have occurred and what the remedies are that were used to address the problem. Social media – and especially social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, but also niche networks, such as GovLoop or MuniGov2.0 – can help to build cross-sectional networking ties for public managers to access knowledge already available in (and outside of ) government. Moreover, there are a lot of interesting initiatives underway that help public managers to dissolve the existing bureaucratic knowledge silos that exist as a result of departmental structures (see for example Intellipedia or Diplopedia – and many more).

Email me if you would like to read a copy of the chapter.

Georgetown Press - Minnowbrook perspective

Analysis of social media policies & strategies in the public sector

I reviewed social media policies and strategies of public sector organizations that are freely available on the web or were distributed during the last two years on Twitter (see hashtag #gov20). Especially after GSA has published the Terms of Service Agreements with most major SNS, I have observed a major uptake in formal written statements outlining why, how and for what purposes agencies and departments are using new media. I included local, state and federal level public sector organizations in my analysis.

Even though it seems as if a legal framework was created by GSA’s Office of Citizen Services, I observe a wide range of different documents and statements as a result.

A handful of documents is labeled “Handbooks” (such as the Navy Command Social Media Handbook), Toolkit, Social Media Computing Guidelines, or Business Uses of Social Networking Services. These types of documents usually describe best practices and recommendation on how to use different tools such as Twitter or Facebook. They are usually very lengthy, true handbook-style documents.

In addition, 1-page policy-style memos come in the form of directives, “rules of engagement”, use policies or even “Social Media Law”.

Only one organization actually wrote a social media strategy document that looked at how the new channels fit into the existing communication strategy and how they can support the mission or public service delivery.

I have extracted the major themes that the public sector organization I analyzed covered and will post my preferred content of a social media policy/strategy document in the next post.

Congressman Mike Honda: Crowdsourcing approach

I am in the process of interviewing the most innovative congressional offices on their new media strategies and came across a truly groundbreaking approach for a political representative. Congressman Mike Honda, 15th district, CA (which includes Silicon Valley), and his new media director AJ Bhadelia, have initiated a crowdsourcing approach to redesign Honda’s congressional website. While there are a lot of details that I will report later, the first result of this process is up online: