After talking around the traps and having a bit of a ponder I think it is about time to refocus OZloop. Personally, I see it as an evolving beast anyway.

The Gov 2.0 Taskforce Report focus and title Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0 sparked the thought of public servants and community colleagues just getting on with engaging with one another. Lot's of people seems to be doing just that, but it is fair to say that the bulk of public servants are comparatively quiet on line.

It's a fair enough call. On the one hand we have the Gov 2.0 Taskforce Report taking the stance that public servants should get the OK to engage on line - we even have changes to the APS Code of Conduct clearing the way for people to do so. But on the other, from talking to people it is clear that mixed messaged are being given within many APS Agencies. This points to the very question of culture raised by the Taskforce.

So what we have is uncertainty coupled with, from personal conversations I have had, a degree of fear. Question: Do public servants really need permission to talk on line? Isn't it odd that public servants are asked to collaborate, but some of the messages they get effectively say "Shut up".

So the refocussing of OZloop was shaped by the thought of, "Engagement - Let's just get on with it."

What do you think? Let me know.

Steve D.

ps. Watch out for the Green List.




Views: 12

Tags: aps, community, culture, taskforce

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Comment by Darron Passlow on February 22, 2010 at 1:10pm
Steve
Unfortunately there are a lot of people "wedded to institutional arrangements" and by that I mean top level managers (who have always done it this way) and the poor old drones who see no value in "rocking the boat" or contributing to a non performance based activity. We need to make the debate so interesting that we "drag" a number of new people along with us (at all levels).
Do we have anyone at the top level (from anywhere) looking at these discussions and more importantly getting involved? It becomes a bit self gratifying if comments are produced only by the faithful few.
Perhaps we could look at our own organisations and get the next level(s) up involved.
Comment by steve davies on February 22, 2010 at 12:37pm
Hi Darron

I could not agree more with your comment about avoiding petty point making. By the same token it is just as important to point out what is being done well - and where. The same applies to what is not being done well.

The challenge with that is doing so in a way that puts the issues on the table and offers a way forward. A lot of this boils down to systemic issues and entrenched culture. In the Gov 2.0 space this is reflected in the fact that there is a lot to do on the ground. In that regard there is no doubt our greatest asset is our people. The biggest challenge, I suspect, lays in institutional arrangements - or the lack thereof.

The thorney question lays around people who are wedded to institutional arrangements that are incompatible with open government and innovation.
Comment by Darron Passlow on February 22, 2010 at 9:00am
Steve
I thik we can have a very meaningful discussion about public service engagement, without resorting to petty point making at the expense of one group or another.
Even at the local governemnt level there are strict rules on who can make public comment and who cannot (a job security issue!). This attitude has to change to encourage true engagement. This will take time and needs to start at the top.
In the mean time I think there are some interesting debates (like applying Innovation in the public service - the how, where, why, who and when) that could generate some interesting comments and interest to a broader audience. We need to get our colleagues engaged in conversation before we take on the really difficult issues.
Comment by Kerry Baker on February 21, 2010 at 5:42pm
Hi Steve. I think there is a bit of a spiral happening that gets in the way of true engagement. I think that in the present climate there is a level of fear and distrust about what happens if I get involved with this group? People might agree but prefer to sit back and watch what happens. So I personally think yes we should be able to talk online being mindful of the need to observe code of conduct etc. The APS legislation says something along the lines of not bringing the APS into disrepute, but that should not mean we can't voice genuine concerns or criticisms. I suspect that attempts to stop are just control mechanisms from people who are afraid to empower others.
Comment by Phil Nelson on February 21, 2010 at 4:54pm
Steve,

In answer to your question: Do public servants really need permission to talk on line?, the answer is unfortunately, yes. As mentioned often before, this is a culture issue, and as we all know, culture is not easy to change. It's a long process. We have controls within agencies to stop any communication being made public (even internally), without going through many levels and revisions. The fear of making a mistake is ingrained in public servants, and we will not start to communicate more openly (in any mediums) until this is addressed.

I believe that before we even start to think about Gov2.0 and "engaging" online, we need to start to engage more in traditional forums. The Government is trying to set a good example with it's community cabinets, but how often do we, as public servants, really engage with our stakeholders? I have seen examples where we purposely avoid talking (literally) to industry, other levels of Govt, or (heaven forbid), the general public when forming policy or developing programs. If we don't have the guts to engage in person now, Gov2.0 is not going to enable it.

While I'm at it, I will also say that I disagree with the Taskforce's recommendation 2, to have a lead agency established, which will consult with other agencies on Gov2.0 This would simply be more of the same. We'd get reports no one would read, committees no one would want to go to, a traditional hierarchy to stifle debate and no results.

A better recommendation would be for agencies to appoint they're own Gov2.0/Open Gov executives. I think there is confusion in agencies about whose responsibility it is to drive this - PR and Comms? IT? HR? Should we leave it to individual branches and sections? But they will all tell you they have a full plate already, don't have the time - not their core task!

What we need in agencies is a dedicated champion (full time, perhaps even a team) of Open Gov and Gov 2.0, who will be empowered to lead others, set the agenda and policy locally, educate and explain, and GET THINGS TO HAPPEN! Only then we others see it can work will we start to change the culture for everyone.

Anyway just some thoughts to stimulate discussion, thanks, Phil.
Comment by Marion Hutton on February 21, 2010 at 1:07pm
Hi Steve

I like the Express/Exchange/Engage tagline - it really captures what Ozloop is all about. We shouldn't need permission to talk online, but people should be careful not to breach the Code of Conduct. Having said that, I would like to think that Ozloop would only attract those who have a genuine interest in improving the APS, not getting on a soap box about the Government or airing personal vendettas. Love your work Steve! Cheers Marion

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