A better question than “what’s the business case for Gov2.0?”

Posted: October 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Civic engagement, Government, Social networking, Technology | Tags: | 2 Comments »

Don’t ask “how do I make the business case for Gov2.0?”; tell us about your agency’s relationships, and the case will become obvious.

Imagine that you’re a savvy Federal staffer in US Defense Military Health System Program. You’re excited by what the US Patent Office accomplished with its Peer to Patent program, eager to copy the success of Twestival 2008 which used Twitter to kick off events in 200 cities across the globe and raise $250,000 for water charities, and inspired by OSTP’s open government initiatives. So on Govloop, or on your blog, you pose the question: “what’s the business case for Gov2.0 (or social media or Web2.0 or Twitter)?”

and … crickets – a kiss of death for the conversation. You may get some well-meaning feedback from others who have confronted the same challenge, but the thread runs out pretty quickly. It seems that no on can help you.

What happened? You’ve focused your readers towards technology (Twitter? Youtube? Maybe a wiki?) and generalities (“communication is good”; “crowdsourcing rocks!”), and away from the relationships, mission, history, and other specifics of your organization that would give you and your readers the raw materials to create the business case.

Worse, we’ve all become distracted from your unique role in this conversation: you know the agency’s goals, its current challenges, what keeps senior management awake at night, what appropriations they’re looking forward to, and what headlines they’re dreading. You know that, or ought to. The rest of us don’t.

So, consider, instead, this conversation opener:

I work for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. As you may remember, one of my boss’s predecessors was featured in the Washington Post’s 2007 expose of poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and we’re still working to rebuild trust with injured soldiers and their families. We’re also trying to strengthen our relationships with medical researchers. And, by the way, we run TRICARE, the military’s HMO, and we’re working hard to keep the program affordable, with low deductibles and co-pays. What Web2.0 tools would be useful to us and how should we measure results?***

Imagine the roaring conversation this would inspire:

  • Your readers from the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will be typing their suggestions before they’ve finished reading your post.
  • Someone might point you in the direction of OrganizedWisdom — an aggregator of health expertise — and suggest that you to explore how you can engage your customers in becoming guides to military health issues
  • The success of PatientsLikeMe will be mentioned as a model for supporting the wounded warriors you serve.
  • Someone else might point you to Healing in Community Online, a sort of Second Life for patients and their families.

The question of metrics would become easier as well: TRICARE already surveys its beneficiaries regularly to determine how they perceive the accessibility and quality of care (and if you didn’t already know that, rest assured someone would tell you). Surely you could work some questions into that to evaluate your Gov2.0 initiative?

Now, with your help, your readers are brainstorming how your agency can accomplish its mission and deal with its challenges.

So, tell us about your agency’s key relationships, inside and outside government, and the ones that are most troubled, and watch the conversation explode.

(***Background on USDOD – Health Affairs is drawn from NAPA’s description of top “prune” jobs in the Federal Government. It might be an eye-opening exercise to review the other positions listed and brainstorm how Gov2.0 could, specifically, help each of these appointees.)

(Cross-posted from Govloop.)