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Canada Revenue Agency announces YouTube contest

Whenever I see a new addition on the Government 2.0 Best Practices Wiki, I immediately proceed to do a little investigative research to find out if it’s legit. The other day I stumbled upon this press release (via the CRA RSS feed) announcing the launch of The Canada Revenue Agency’s new “Underground Economy – Not your Problem?” YouTube video contest.

Essentially,  the CRA is inviting Canadians to tell how the underground economy is affecting them and their communities. The contest details are brilliantly laid out in this surprisingly “non-government like” YouTube video (that’s a good thing by the way…):

Here are some things I like about this initiative:

  • It takes the existing “one-way” CRA YouTube channel to a “two-way” engagement state, calling on Canadians to submit their thoughts in the form of a video using a  medium accessed by over 336 million people each day.
  • It shows that the CRA, an organization that is easy to pick on and “hate”, is ready to engage in dialogue and perhaps vocal negative feedback (this form of openness will surely make it succeed in the long run).
  • It is “an idea worth spreading”. These kind of “memes” are worthy of a quick “tweet” and/or even a blog post like this one. The easy “embedability” of a YouTube video allows buzz to spread exponentially.
  • It puts other departments that still don’t know what “web 2.0″  is to shame. If the CRA can engage in social media, why can’t department X?

Things I don’t like, or do I?:

  • I noticed the comments on YouTube for this video are blocked. On the other hand, comments are not the main objective of this initiative. Besides, they would surely be filled with brainless absurdities from active tax evaders. If someone has something intelligent to say, it’s easy to find other places to do so that are tied in to this initiative. Therefore, while I am usually in avid support of comments, not including them in this case could be justified. Hopefully the contest information website is sufficient for people that have actual questions. Otherwise the only option is to email contest_concours@cra.gc.ca.

There have been numerous entries already, which is a good sign for initiatives of this nature. I’m looking forward to seeing the winning video.

What are your thoughts?

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6 Comments

  1. Benoit

    On the comments/no comments issue, I think you hit the nail on the head when you mention the following:

    “If someone has something intelligent to say, it’s easy to find other places to do so that are tied in to this objective.”

    It’s pretty much a given that Canadian citizens are well aware by now of the number of places where they can voice their comments on public policies and programs. Local MPs and information lines are typically staffed with very nice people who will take a pleasure at assisting citizens with this sort of thing.

    I concur that it depends on the issue. I would be curious to read more about the european consultations (UK?) where they used some social media sites to generate public dabate or discussion over a public issue.

  2. cnidog

    This is a great initiative. The video produced by CRA is pretty hip. I think you are absolutely right though, if CRA can do this, why can’t any department. I’ve recently raised the issue in my department. The Canadian Forest Service has a YouTube channel (http://ca.youtube.com/user/CFSweb), but the videos are all produced by government. Now, we need to ask viewers to contribute their own videos about how well Canada is managing its forests. We could use this as an opportunity to have a public discussion about the future of our forests and as an opportunity to direct people to CFS web sites for data and information. The CFS wants to be THE source of forest information in Canada and we want to move beyond the debate about which government or group has the best data and on to the debate about what to do with our forests. This seems like a great way to start. Thanks for this example from CRA. It will be useful.

  3. Steph

    I agree that the GoC should be using more social media tools like YouTube, but when you have great initiative like the CRA’s video contest and someone comes up with this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q3ivuI3l24, it makes the decision-makers hesitant to get on board. YouTube makes it more prone to pranks and negative reaction, doing more deservice to the brand than good. Any thoughts on couterreacting this would most welcomed.

  4. Steph, my response to you is short and simple: “WE HAVE A VOICE TO!” The “negative feedback” can easily be counter-balanced by “positive feedback”.

    Usually, the negative comments are pretty brainless and very easy to counteract with something a tad more intelligent. Even though YouTube only let’s you post 500 character comments, I managed to squeeze in a condensed version of the following:

    “All of you calling this a “waste of taxpayers money” should quit wasting bandwidth time coming up with brainless, idiotic comments on YouTube that lead to nothing. I highly praise CRA for having the balls to actually try and engage with Canadians through social media. They know they are not “the most liked” department and yet they realize that one-way communication is quickly becoming obsolete in the new digital world we live in. So what if they blocked comments on the official YouTube post of the video? It was done exactly to protect them from the kind of groundless, immature discussion that is prevalent on this thread.The goal for them is user-generated videos and the discussion/ideas around them. There are plenty of channels where the discussion surrounding this initiative can happen. Intelligent people know where to find them.

    Why don’t you try to suggest a better idea rather than complaining? If only you all knew how much damage you are doing towards innovative ideas spurring in government. Want to talk about wasting taxpayers money? You make public servants risk-averse, which in turn leads to stagnancy and $2million 30-second PSA’s as opposed to simple, much cheaper online videos that leverage the creativeness of Canadians. Grow up.”

    Thanks for bringing this up Steph.
    Cheers,

    MK

  5. “YouTube makes it more prone to pranks and negative reaction, doing more deservice to the brand than good. ” by Steph

    I agree with this comment by Steph, also by using social media it is much easier to duplicate parts and use them in scams (which seems to be hapening a lot lately with rev Ccanada).

  6. True, however whenever you consider the alternative, which is “not using social media”, the outcome will be much worse over time. Social media is here to stay, so the one thing that can be done is to approach it with a strategy and get ready to drastically change your organizational mindset.

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