Takeways from Gov 2.0 L.A. 2011 Listening and Learning

Gov 2.0 L.A. 2011 is now behind us. Such an amazing experience. Thought leaders and practitioners, entrepreneurs and government leaders all came together in one place, for an out of the box weekend filled with very smart people and ideas as well as collaboration and innovation.

My big takeaway as the Founder of Gov20LA:

The amount of listening and learning going on now at all levels of Government, whether international or local is vast. We learned from the Canadian, British and United States Governments just how much active listening is occurring on the global social media stage right now. These countries are both pushing out content in their own and many other languages, but are actively listening and seeking engagement from citizens (not always their own) in other countries. This is a profound statement, and shows clearly the need for Governments to create social media listening command centers (like Dell has for example.) At the same time, we learned from local leaders some of the challenges they face not just in listening but in creating actions out of the issues at hand. I must have heard the term “listening” from almost every panelist and speaker this weekend.

The other big takeaway is the amount of learning going on right now. Two, three years ago, the learning was “so what is this social media/gov 2.0 stuff anyways?” Now – that learning has leapfrogged to best practices, to what is working and not working, and to what lessons can be applied from the private sector into the public sector and vice-versa. We have gone from “what is open source” to “which open source platform/software are you using and why?” The learning is going on from one level of government to another, from one country to another and from one person to another. Remember word of mouth? Social media just expands on that and creates a broader cycle and more rapid response to the word of mouth.

My third powerful takeaway: there is a quiet evolution occurring that is actually creating new companies, new jobs and new possibilities for the marketplace. The explosion of open data is creating new pathways for entrepreneurs to attack centuries old problems in some cases. The interest of the news media and society at large in social media as intensified in recent months due to the continued use of social media as a change agent in the middle east and due to the fact that social media is becoming ubiquitous in much of society. But we also have a very bifurcated social media arena globally. In the west social media means internet (mostly) based platforms and networks. But in many places in Africa, or Latin America, the only social media available is SMS based off of mobile platforms with no graphics or video. But yet these SMS based social networks allow for micro-finance banking to occur in areas where even just a few years ago there were no communications abilities let alone “banking” abilities. So the changes that these tools and technology are producing is profound already.

Did social media cause the events in Egypt, Tunisia? Most of the attendees seemed to agree (loosely) that while social media and mobility played a huge role in these events, it was not the social media itself that was the cause, but rather a highly efficient tool that was tactically and strategically applied in a chaotic situation. There has always been “viral marketing” we have just moved from slower forms of communicating those ideas to instant delivery. What social media did do in those countries was provide a place for planning, strategy implementation and networking and recruiting. But it still took real people to make a real decision to put their real feet on the real streets. So social media was but just one part of a much larger picture driving these historical events unfolding in front of our very eyes.

We are way past rhetorical and ontological debates about “What is Gov 2.0″ or “what is Opengov.” We are now into the delivery phase of the good revolution we call loosely “Gov 2.0.” In fact anyone still spending time debating what “it” is has already benched themselves from the tremendous action and movement in this space now.

My most quoted statement from the weekend:

“*We* are the shareholders. *We* own this business called government.”

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