Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Government must follow the rules when engaging communities online

As a law-maker, governments are often more attuned to making the laws and being in the position of controlling and defining the terms of engagement with communities.

Agencies and departments often consult external stakeholders, but on their own terms - choosing the place, the medium and the scope of discussions.

There's good reasons for this, an organism - or organisation - that is in control of its environment feels safer and can manage the depth and cost of engagements.

However, when engaging with existing communities online, government agencies need to be aware that they do not control the ground rules, and must respect and follow the rules of the community to be respected and accepted in return.

This means being able and willing to have authentic conversations, steering clear of defensive behaviour, using clear and simple language, listening actively and not shying away from difficult conversations.

Fortunately there are no shortage of guides for working with communities online as companies often have as much difficulty in engaging as do government agencies.

One such guide was posted recently at the Aussie Bloggers Blog, It's just like a party, providing 13 tips for effective engagement in online forums.

It provides a useful framework for public engagement in the medium.

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