Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Transforming government via communities

Every generation seems to live through some kind of transformational national or global experience, be it the Great War, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the 60s, the Space Race, the Personal Computer revolution, the fall of Communist, or the rise of the internet.

A lot of people see the growth of social networks as the next great transformational event for the world - and with some reason. We've seen a billion people become 'internet citizens', with access to global communities on a scale never before possible in human history.

This, in turn, is causing change throughout society. Our choice of entertainment, our approach to philanthropy, to education and to social engagement are all adapting to the new tools available.

It is inevitable that social changes transform governments. For every transformational event in world history there has been equally significant changes in politics and in public institutions.

Governments have had to change along with their citizens, their employees and their peers in order to remain relevant, to ensure their nations remain competitive and to address changing social norms.

There has already been significant government change due to the growth of the internet reflecting changes in how citizens wish to interact with government.

Ten years ago there were few government services online and websites were primitive 'brochureware'. Today the egovernment agenda is a leading driver for government reform.

What we are only just now seeing the start of are changes in how society interacts with government in determining policy and community engagement.

In the UK we're seeing Lords blogging and civil servants encouraged to participate in public discussion forums. In the US we're seeing political leaders broadcasting their voting intentions and facilitating online communities. In New Zealand we're seeing legislation created by the community.

Around the world citizens are asking if their governments will embrace this change, or resist it for as long as possible.

Little of this style of activity is, as yet, occurring at a national level in Australia, but it will.

The question for those of us within Australian government is how can we begin working with communities within the framework of the legislation, policies, processes and perceptions of today's public service - or how do we go about reshaping the business of government to enable the level of participation that our citizens now expect.

This presentation from Deloittes and Beeline Labs, the 2008 Tribalization Of Business Study, offers some insights into what we should expect along the journey.

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