Open Gov Blog Challenge: Share your ideas to get more open gov ideas

My first answer to Andrea DiMaio’s Open Government Ideas Look All the Same: Are You Surprised? piece is a question:

Open Government Critiques Look All the Same: Are You Surprised?

I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Andrea or others actively engaged in critiquing the open government initiative and collaboration process. I’m just tired of not hearing concrete ideas from them on how to better engage citizens.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the problem isn’t necessarily the process, it’s the challenge of communicating government initiatives to a disinterested public. Rather than sitting on the sidelines or Saturday evening quarterbacking, government needs help from the private sector (and not on a bill-by-the-hour type of help).

Here’s my challenge to Andrea and other Gov 2.0/open government/public policy gurus and enthusiasts:

Come up with 3 ideas and blog about them. Title the post “My 3 ideas to get more open government ideas.” Tweet it to the #gov20 and #opengov Twitter streams (you can bet the appropriate people are paying attention).

Due date: Monday, March 1

Time to put great minds to good use. Use your enthusiasm and expertise to help government spread the word.

Looking forward to everyone’s ideas. Especially Andrea’s.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at

23 Responses

  1. Thanks Luke for commenting about my position. I do agree with you that critiques need to be constructive and I believe this is what I have tried to do in quite a few of my previous posts.
    First of all, I suggest that agencies remain “selfish” when it comes to determining the purpose of open government for them (see I have also suggested more than once that open government plans need to be well integrated with social media strategies (see Last but not least, I am holding a free webinar on Mar 1 about open government plans and I have written extensively for our clients about how to make open government become part of the normal course of businessn as opposed to an unusual request one needs to comply with.
    No offense taken, of course, but I rarely criticize for the sake of doing so.
    Thanks again for hosting my views

  2. Why is any criticism directed at Andrea? He is simply pointing out that by and large, citizens are disengaged from this “open ideas” process. They are not contributing ideas because no one is engaging them personally. It is not enough to set up a website and sit and wait. That input tends to be stale and those systems can be gamed. Bragging about “agency xxxx has 78 ideas!” is not a big deal in the first place, considering billions of people could in theory contribute, and people can contribute multiple times. With the gaming of the system Andrea points out, it is clear that even less people are engaged that it appears. Many more people care about American Idol than American Open Government. The blame there lies not with bloggers.

  3. Luke,

    I appreciate your points but after reading posts from both Mark and Andrea for awhile I think much of what you are asking has been covered by them already. Is it really that the ideas are not available or that it’s time for government agencies to get over the ‘novelty’ of open government and role their sleeves up for the real work to start?

    I imagine a cultural change is what we are looking for. Strategy is important, but without willpower or vision doesn’t mean much. (sorry, for the sound bites, sometimes passion is hard to nail in writing)

    Appreciate your input on this issue all the same and helping to ignite more discussion.

  4. I completely agree that government 2.0 and many other issues in the govenrment should be better marketed, Luke. And we can do it. We market the food pyramid, the marines, and preventing forest fires, and not smoking and many other things. So when the entire federal govrernment is “open for ideas” but you have to find out through Twitter or something, and there’s no commerical during Meet the press and the Olympics and the Super Bowl, there’s something missing.

  5. Are we still talking about the merits and demerits of the ideascale initiative, itself? Ok, I recognize the subtext: same people making the same ideas, same people talking about the ideas, same people voting on the ideas (perhaps often). Same people commenting on all of these blogs… I think we all recognize that aspects of open gov need to be brought into the mainstream and shown to be relevant to lay citizens. I just don’t get how that translates into a critique of what’s happening with ideascale. Lack of people giving a damn about government isn’t unique to open gov. (I agree with Richard Dreyfus that a failure to provide basic education in civics is cause for grave concern.) That doesn’t make the rest of us wrong for actively participating via whatever means we have available. It doesn’t make @jaorangemen wrong for posting the same idea over and over and asking all of his friends to vote it up. I can’t run a Super Bowl ad. I do think you make a good point in that regard, Mark. Who doesn’t have fond memories of Woodsy Owl and Smokey the Bear and the valuable lessons they taught us? You know what you have to do now, right, Luke? Open Gov mascot.

  6. Luke, I fully expect to see you in a bald eagle costume at the next barcamp! …whichever one that may be.

    Ideas forthcoming, but too many for the comments.

    Thank you, though for challenging Andrea’s post and stirring the conversation.

    Andrea, thanks for responding in kind.

  7. Can anyone share concrete evidence that @jaorangemen (or any of the other participants, for that matter) have been engaging in efforts to manipulate or game the system as has been alluded to on this thread? Cause I haven’t.

    What’s more likely is that the tool simply favors ideas that manage to hop on the leaderboard early on in the process.

    See my comment on Andrea’s blog:

  8. Hey all – I stumbled upon this article after reading the “get involved” article on the White House’s blog today and have been doing some extra research on Twitter and other blogs.

    I’ve been interested in this topic for a while both in college and just in my own mind, and was glad to find this community speaking about gov 2.0 ideas, open government, and how technology is affecting our democratic culture and foundation through knowledge and involvement.

    I browsed the ideascale site – very cool. I have to agree, though, there is little adoption. I only found it because I’m really a nerd when it comes to this stuff and actively seek it out. Where are all the other voices? I know these are all questions this community of writers have pondered already, but this article seems to show that it’s at a stalemate.

    From what I’m putting together from my own research and my disjointed journey through some of the twitter feeds, blogs, and other sites, is that there’s no adoption, so therefore it’s a failing system. The engine used to power the ideas seems solid and great for what we have right now. We just need some system users.

    Is the problem then simply a matter of marketing/outreach/promotion? It’s a big chunk of it, yes, but I don’t think it’s the underlying dilemma. To get people to participate, wouldn’t the facilitators want to illustrate some incentive to get involved? A fundamental tenet of modern outreach is to provide value in everything you do for your audience, and I don’t yet feel that these tools/channels have yet to show that value.

    Here’s my perspective from someone who just stumbled on all this today. I was asking these questions while reading the opengov stuff on the agency sites, while reading some blog entries, and this post:
    1) why would I participate?;
    2) would I be heard (probably)?;
    3) would it make a difference; and
    4) if not an opengov or gov 2.0 enthusiast, what value do I get from this by spending time from my day to share an idea and maybe argue with others? It’s not worth getting into anything with anyone, especially if you can just ignore it, or have more important things to do on the web. That’s if people even find it at all.

    I know I’ve gone way too long for a comment already (sorry guys), but here are my surface observations:
    1) Gov 2.0 efforts are disjointed, need to be more concerted? (communicating across many channels, even the agency 2.0 sites just recently got tied together);
    2) Gov 2.0 efforts are not promoted as well as they could be, and definitely not in the mainstream (the recovery act site had a good amount of promotion);
    3) There’s little value to participate, need to find purpose and incentive to get involved – participants may not even feel the “pat on the back” they would get from voting in an election by submitting ideas.

    The opengov sites from these agencies are a great first step, and I am excited to see where this will go. Involvement and sharing of ideas is a great way for government to restore trust and transparency.

    Thanks for the article and challenge and greetings to the author and all who contribute here. Glad to find this site and others – stumbling and participating is what the web’s all about, eh?

  9. As a communications consultant who has worked with the federal government for six years now, I’ve seen first hand the lack of resources that many of these public affairs offices are provided. A majority of government agencies have for many years, considered “no news” to be “good news.” If they weren’t in the media, if the public wasn’t emailing them asking questions, they assumed they were doing great. Public affairs became primarily reactive – proactive awareness building and public engagement were the first things to get cut when purse strings got tightened. Big companies have big marketing departments – how many government agencies have a “Marketing Department?” If they did create one, it’d get widely criticized as a waste of taxpayer dollars and/or a propaganda machine.

    Getting the public to care about Gov 2.0 or open gov is much too narrow-minded. We first need to get the government itself to understand the value in communicating and collaborating with the public. We need to show the public that the government cares what they have to say. We need to educate the public and make them understand that they are a key piece of government. We need more to add more resources to government communications departments and make marketing and proactive communications part of their mission. This isn’t a Gov 2.0 or Open Gov problem – this is government customer service, plain and simple. And our customers are all over the place – some use social media, some don’t.

  10. Jed

    I love Steve Radick’s comment on here: “Getting the public to care about Gov 2.0 or open gov is much too narrow-minded.”

    Absolutely! Saying we need to market better is a naive approach to solve the lack of civic engagement.

    I think we have a much greater opportunity to stoke engagement by training government communicators to be more engaging than by somehow conjuring demand for engagement from consumers.


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