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Getting Big Things Done in Government

The eagerly anticipated new book from Bill Eggers (director for Deloitte Research) and co-author John O’Leary Getting Big Things Done in Government(Research Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School) titled “If We Could Put a Man on the Moon…Getting Big Things Done in Govt,” is being launched in a 2-hour event tomorrow at the Grand Hyatt, DC.

Bill and John worked together with a team of more than 70 graduate students to examine 75 major public initiatives – both great successes and monumental failures.  They looked for patterns and sought to ID universal characteristics of large public undertakings and found that nearly all public sector initiatives follow a predictable path and face a set of common challenges.  From this they were able to ID a series of “traps” that define most failures and point to why some signature government initiatives succeed where others fail. The result is basically a guide to making government work better.

Register for this event:

Getting Big Things Done in Government
Book launch: Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 from 6p – 8p
Bloggers roundtable 4:30p – 5:30p
Register at

Additional Resources:

Andrew Krzmarzick, over at GovLoop, interviewed Mr. Eggers to gain more insight on the inspiration for the book and target audience.  Here the interview here.

And be sure to RSVP for tomorrow’s event on GovLoop.

More about the book, including press coverage, reviews and a great chapter-by-chapter guide.

Find the book at Harvard Business Publishing.

Hear a podcast interview with Eggers.

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Potomac Forum Gov 2.0 Roundup

Potomac Forum on C-SPAN

Last week (Aug. 26-27,2009) the Potomac Forum held a symposium on social networking tools and new media in the government.  Many great Gov 2.0 project were showcased here including many projects on the White House’s Open Government Innovations Gallery.  Highlights include presentations on OMB’s Max Wiki, Diplopedia from the Dept. of State, NASA’s Spacebook, and the TSA Idea Factory.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend.  Luckily, there was some great coverage around the web on this event (including video!).  I’ve pulled together some great resources here for anyone else who was unable to attend or just wants a recap.

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Government IT Dashboard Debuts

Tuesday at the Personal Democracy Forum conference in New York, Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips announced the launch of the new government IT Dashboard (beta of course) to provide an online window into the details of Federal information technology investments and provides citizens with the ability to track the progress of investments over time.

Filled with news, statistics, and charts, the dashboard reveals IT spending across all the major federal agencies. Select any agency, and you can see its budget and spending pattern. For example, according to the site, the Department of Defense chews up the most tax dollars, with a 2009 IT budget of $33 billion.

An interactive data feed page lets you filter specific types of data by IT project, category, and department to see a spending snapshot and then export the data as a CSV file or RSS feed. While there is a thick smog of government-ease within this feature, the ability to export the data and create even more usable mashups is very promising.

I am very excited about the new Dashboard, however, I think the Whitehouse should take a step back from creating fancy new websites to evaluate and improve (or decommission) similar sites already out there. Late last year, the Visualization to Understand Expenditures in Information Technology (VUE-IT) site was debuted by the Whitehouse which basically gives the same info that the IT Dashboard has suddenly made “more transparent”.

The goal of VUE-IT is to improve the understanding of the annual Federal Government Information Technology investments made through the President’s Budget (sound familiar?). VUE-IT organizes IT investments by agency and bureau, as well as by the Federal Enterprise Architecture’s (FEA) service groupings; Service to Citizens, Support Delivery of Services to Citizens, Management of Government Resources, and Service Types and Components.  While VUE-IT doesn’t have all the pretty pie charts and visualizations as the new Dashboard, it kinda makes more sense.

Hopefully both VUE-IT and the new IT Dashboard will contribute to the accountability that we’ve all been looking for in agencies to create a substantial change to how IT programs are developed and managed before they start spending the money.

Related Articles:

New dashboard shows where federal IT tax dollars go

Whitehouse Preparing 2.0

Launching in Beta – A Look at PdF ’09, Day 2

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Web Site Helps Coordinate National United We Serve Initiative

The United We Serve summer service initiative began yesterday and runs through the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11th. The United We Serve Web site will help volunteers find projects in their communities and exchange stories about projects that make a difference in their communities.

[Read More on GovTech]

New York State Launches Web 2.0 Initiatives

On June 5, the New York State Office for Technology announced Empire 2.0, a strategy to encourage state agencies to use “Web 2.0, new media, and social collaborative tools and technologies” to improve communication and services, and facilitate transparency and openness in government.New York State Tech Talk

The Office for Technology is leading the way. Since May it has launched its own Facebook and Twitter accounts, a wiki for developing IT policy and strategy, and crowdsourcing Web page that collects pubic comments and ideas for future projects.

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Starting your own Facebook- Lessons Learned from NASA's Spacebook Project

NASA is building a social network for Goddard Space Flight Center, codenamed “Spacebook”.

Spacebook Prototype

Spacebook Prototype

Spacebook is an enhanced Intranet designed around user profiles, forums, groups, and social tagging. The goal of the project is to use social media to help NASA be more competitive and innovative, encourage collaboration and information sharing, and take better advantage of the information & resources they already have. Emma Antunes (@eantunes), Project Manager for Spacebook, recently gave a great webinar to share how she approached this project, got the buy-in from users, contractors, and management, and other invaluable lessons she learned in getting this implemented.

I’ve capture my takeaways from her presentation on implementing an internal social network and listed them below.

  • Get buy-in from the suits.  You need a champion in a senior management office to sponsor the project.  Get them excited about what you’re doing.  This allows you to engage them to remove any roadblocks and they can give the bossy stink eye when needed.
  • Approach it like any other technical project; Design first, technology second.  Focus on solving a business problem.  Don’t just jump into new media because it’s what the cool kids are doing.
  • Be proactive.  Get your legal support, privacy office, security group, and accessibility team involved at the jump off.  Miss the boat on one of these areas and your project could get shut down faster than the revised Facebook Terms of Service.
  • Use exisiting resources where you can.  This increases management buy-in because you’re not asking for additional funding right of the bat.  Try to re-prioritize existing developer staff and take advantage of internal hosting, existing contracts, and open-source software.
  • Take the perspective of the employee to really understand what user needs are.  What’s going on?  What’s in it for me? How can I participate?  How do I get answers to my questions?
  • Don’t expect people to change their processes unless you give them a big incentive.  If you build it they won’t come, if you make their job easier, they will.  The new process must be easier than the old one.
  • Get web developers out of the content game.  They don’t want to do it and you don’t want to have to ask them for updates.  And honestly, they cost too much money anyway.  Let the people in charge of the material manage it.
  • No content should exist without an owner.  Integrate and complement content that you already have.  Don’t just replicate it in a new forum that requires additional maintenance.
  • Don’t give someone another inbox they won’t check, a new username and password to enter, make them request a new account, or fill-in information that you already know.
  • Engage early adopters and group owners and get commitment from them to post content regularly.
  • Even if your audience is a bunch of twenty-somethings, you still need to train them.  We may like technology but, we hate extra work.  Show me how I can use your product to make my job easier.

Related Reads:

The Facebook Phenomenon – How Government is Getting Into The Act,  on Socialfeds.

Up, Up, and Away! Five Tips for Launching an Internal Network, by Zack Miller (@zgovernment) on Govloop.

Kiss of Death for Social Networking Projects: “What is your Business Case?”, by Brock Webb on Govloop.

The Elements of Social Architecture, by Christina Wodtke on A List Apart.

The Facebook Phenomenon – How Government is Getting Into The Act

Let’s face it, Facebook is huge.  More than 150 million people around the world are now actively using Facebook and almost half of them are using Facebook every day. This includes people in every continent—even Antarctica.  Now many government agencies are deploying their own version of this popular social networking site to share  information and connect with niche communities.

ExchangesConnect is a social network administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, US Department of State.  The site is geared toward people interested or participating in international exchange and learning more about other cultures.  Have you participated in a exchangesconnectstudy abroad or student exchange program?  Or know someone who has?  Imagine being able to connect to those people after returning home.  ExchangesConnect aims to help you do that and much more.  Recently launched in October 2008, ExchangesConnect already has more than 7600 members and over 60 active groups.

This spring NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will debut an internal social network for its employees.  The site will mimic Facebook and feature individuals’ profiles, expertise and personal interests, said Linda Cureton, chief information officer at Goddard.  Spacebook seems to be NASA’s latest foray into social networking after their massive success with the @MarsPhoenix account on Twitter.

A-Space (A is for analyst), dubbed the “social network for spies”, was reportedly launched in September of 2008 as a social network for the intelligence community.  The effort is spearheaded by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI, a post created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, to coordinate foreign and domestic security.  A-Space was developed specifically for prominent intelligence organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA) with a total of 16 intelligence agencies participating.  The site aims to give spies a chance to interact with their peers and share data like they never have been able to before.  A-Space even made Time Magazines list of Best Inventions of 2008.  Naturally, the A-Space network will not be open to members of the public and only intelligence employees with the prerequisite level of security clearance will be granted official access.

And of course, you can’t talk about government social networking without mentioning Govloop.  It may not be federal agency run but is aimed at federal employees.  Govloop was launched by federal employee Steve Ressler in his spare time with the goal of connecting the government community.  It’s proving to be a great way for government employees at the local, govloopstate, and federal levels to collaborate, share ideas, and ask for advice and assistance.  Govloop now boasts more than 6000 members, 800 blogs, 300 groups, 250 discussions, 2000 photos.  Are you on Govloop?  I am.

The US isn’t the only place government is getting in to the social networking game.  In late 2008 Transport For London (TfL) – the government owned company running the public transportation system in London – launched a social networking site called Together For London. The purpose is to gather ideas from customers about how to make London a better place. Registered users can create an avatar (called “Little Londoner”), start and participate in discussions, and even set up a campaign.

P.S. I wonder if the Dept. of State employees can even access ExchangesConnect since it is built using Ning, which is blocked by many government agencies.  Hmmm…..

Related Read:

Start your own Facebook- Lessons Learned from NASA’s Spacebook Project