Thursday, March 11, 2010

Use Your Best Resources to Engage Citizens – Your Employees

I am up to my ears judging Clearmark Plain Language Award entries, but I just had to raise my head to comment on Andrea DiMaio’s latest blog piece, “How To Love Government 2.0 and Be A Contrarian at the Same Time.” I so agree with him that we can’t just rely on technology to engage citizens in their government. We have to put our money where our mouths are – invest our best resources to make this successful.

And what are our best resources? Or, who? Government employees. Everywhere.

I haven’t heard one single word about using that huge untapped resource – government employees working in “the field.” We have thousands of government employees working in large, medium, and small government offices in every big city and many small towns across this country. They are members of the communities where they live. They have family, friends, and neighbors all around them. If you did nothing more than ask each field office – big or small – to hold one “listening session,” you could take a huge step toward finding out what citizens want, need, and suggest.

Tell your field staff to invite their family and friends, give them an agenda, and trust them to do the right thing. They won't let you down. And citizens will start to believe that their federal government isn’t just a bunch of faceless Washington bureaucrats (sorry – but that is what many think). They will know it’s their neighbors and friends – people they know…people who understand their issues, concerns…and ideas. That’s how to open up government. Bring the government to the people and the people will engage.

Related Post
Participation and Collaboration – Let’s Make It Work


adrielhampton said...

Great post, Candi! Make sure to watch Dustin Haisler of Manor, TX. He has some great ideas about governments leveraging their employee strengths for projects. It could be an incredible way to cut down on contracting waste.

Sarah Bourne said...

Oh Candi, there you go with your crazy talk again!

I think you're spot on, but the culture shift this requires is massive. For federal agencies, or even large state/local agencies, they need to not only be given permission to do this sort of thing, but also be told that they must.

City/town governments are probably going to be the leaders in this area because they already have a closer relationship with their constituents, and already do similar things.