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Top bureaucrat gets it, the workers at the bottom get it, who’s left?

Here’s the scoop: In the 17th annual report to the Prime Minister published a few weeks ago, Privy Council Clerk Wayne Wouters states “government departments have to embrace the Web 2.0 tools and technology that rest of the world uses that allow more collaboration among workers, levels of government and Canadians”. While his predecessor included similar phrases in the last report, Wayne clearly makes a point to emphasize how Canada has fallen behind in terms of e-government, not just from a technological standpoint, but much more importantly from an organizational culture standpoint.A grassroots movement of proactive public servants has been brewing for years now trying to push this to the front of our government’s agenda. Just take a look at the Canadian examples on the Gov 2.0 wiki or the conversations going on under the #w2p, #goc, #gov20 and #gc20 hashtags.

So this begs the question, who’s left to convince? Why aren’t the majority of departments jumping on collaborative platforms, 2-way engagement tools, and data sharing programs?

My simple answer:

  1. Extremely risk -averse middle management (not everyone, but the majority)
  2. Political culture of centralized-control (enough said)

I sincerely hope that representatives from these two groups (not just their junior staff!) start attending events such as the Gov 2.0 Expo taking place in Washington D.C this year in May. The Government 2.0 movement is revolutionizing the role of the public service in numerous countries. It’s time for a wake-up call. This latest Privy Council Clerk report is a great chance for proactive public servants surrounded by a stagnant culture to piggy-back on and lead the change within their departments.

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  1. Nice blog Mike. I think it is worth pointing out that the Clerk is also “walking the talk” as he regularly references GCpedia and has a page there, now has a Twitter account on his new website and was the Campaign Chair for a highly successful Privy Council Office Innovation Campaign that finished last month.

    Actions like these – that have all occurred in the last couple of months – are sprouting up more frequently across the GC. Leadership in the public service cannot ignore social media in the gc anymore because of it. Once they come to grips with that, as many are doing, I am optimistic that there will be a surge forward (soon). Which is good, because you are right, we are losing sight of those governments in front of us.

  2. I think you meant “…#gc20 hashtags”. instead of “…#g20 hashtags.”.

    Great post.

  3. Thanks for pointing out the typo Doug. I fixed it up and changed the link.

  4. I agree the two things you mention are key impediments but the biggest one is this: management don’t see that social media can help them achieve their core goals. I think too many see it as stuff they’re being pressured to do “because so many Canadians are using it.” This isn’t nearly enough motivation when they come up against real challenges to social media implementation like official languages and accessibility for people with disabilities.

  5. Hi Mike,

    As I understand it, the reason for the risk averseness is fairly simple: accountability! The fact is that in terms of everything web, the buck stops at the DG Comm level.

    So the message from top bureaucrats is usually a resounding “Let’s do this” but it is usually followed by a whispered “but don’t get any egg on my face…”

    The simple fact is that there are so many policies to consider and interpret that many managers prefer to play it safe and wait for the policy suites to be updated before moving forward.

    As a strong proponent of social media and a longtime web communicator in government, I know all too well the frustration of wanting to move projects forward. But at the same time, it is easy for me to criticise because ultimately, it is not just my bum on the line.

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