The Rise of Digital Influence - The Imperative for Public Service Reform

A very interesting "how-to" guide from Brian Solis on the rise of digital influence. While it does focus on the dynamic between business and consumers the thoughts and lessons are relevant to the public service. In particular, the point that,


At the same time, consumers are learning the meaning of their newfound stature in social networks and are exploring the possibilities related to their influence score, what it means, and also ways to increase it. Brands are also seeking ways to make sense of these numbers to better identify the right people and ways to connect. Whether it’s through advocacy or promotional programs, relationship building, or through important events, everything begins with an understanding of what digital influence is and isn’t. And, once influence and how it works is understood, brands must develop strategies and processes to effectively partner with connected consumers who are becoming influential in their networks.

Let's put this statement into a public service context.


Citizens are learning the meaning of their newfound stature in social networks and are exploring the possibilities related to their influence score, what it means, and also ways to increase it.


And so far as Gov 2.0 at the Federal level in Australia is concerned that's pretty well where it stops for the most part. Australian Public Service agencies do not have much understanding of influence and how it works and do not develop strategies and processes to effectively partner with connected citizens who are becoming influential in their networks. If they did they would be doing so.


The majority of Australian Public Service agencies are locked into a cycle of risk aversion, reputation management and marketing. They mostly talk at people. The result? Progress with Gov 2.0 proceeds at a glacial pace and citizens become less engaged and increasingly cynical of government and the public service itself.


This is not good at all. Not good for government, not good for the public service, not good for policy development and not good for the community. So why does this situation persist?


In essence, as pointed out by Malcolm Turnbull in his speech Nerds Rock and Gov 2.0 because,

[We do not recognise that there] is no public servant, no politician, no expert, whose brilliant idea or plan could not be improved by the input and assessment and criticism of others.


[There is a lack of] of humility and a preparedness to look out for, to seek out, the views of others in a very engaging way. Often when the public are invited to make submissions about policies, those submissions are ignored or are treated as just the untutored, naïve contributions of the ill-educated. We all have to do a lot better than that, quite frankly.


However, as also pointed out by Malcolm Turnbull,

There is a big opportunity here, we have the tools, the barrier is our technological imagination, our preparedness to change our mindset and to recognise that we can mobilise much greater resources for policy making and governments if we bring people in.


It is all to easy to blame the government of the day and the APS agencies who play a leadership role in relation to Gov 2.0 for slow progress. However, the reality is more insidious than that.


By its very nature responsibility for Gov 2.0 lays with every public servant. The problem is that key corporate areas within many agencies will not change their mindset and practices. They persist in perpetuating a risk averse and controlling culture that is anathema to Gov 2.0 and, indeed, the very notion of authentic engagement with the community. Under this regime public servants are effectively discouraged from engaging online.


It's not a new massage from me, but if there is to be significant progress a considerable part of the solution lays in the root and branch reform of corporate functions within Australian Public Service agencies. In my experience a considerable part of that reform would focus on those in corporate leadership positions at the SES and EL2 levels. I mention this because staff within corporate areas see a need for change and, I believe, would be amenable to it.


Changing the culture of the public service is hard work. However, we need to be less vague and focus on those whose mindsets and practices actually shape and perpetuate that culture.



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