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Government Professional Workshops

The term social media, similar to Web 2.0, encompasses a wide range of tools that generally serve three different purposes. Collaborative tools, such as Wikis, are designed to foster collaboration among various parties that would otherwise face organizational or geographical barriers to their efforts to collaborate. Social networking tools, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace, enable social networking, whether for purely personal use (like connecting with one’s friends and family) or creating communities of people centered around a common interest. Lastly, communication tools, such as Twitter, are designed to foster information sharing in real time. All of these tools can be used internally to a government agency, such as using wiki designed to enhance collaborative capabilities among various departments within an agency; or externally to establish collaborative capabilities across agencies. They can also be used externally for dissemination of information to constituents or for collecting input on proposed services, policies, and other issues. For the purposes of the government workshop, we asked participants to consider the entire range of issues connected to the different purposes and tools outlined above.

The first workshop took place at the Center for Technology in Government on September 17, 2009 from 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. It was attended by twenty-three government professionals from sixteen state agencies, as well as one representative from the New York State Forum. The workshop began with a brief introduction to the project, followed by two plenary sessions concentrating on the values sought, and issues and areas of concern in government use of social media. Participants also provided information about their agencies’ existing or planned social media projects that could be later shared with all participants.

The second workshop was held as part of the bi-annual New York State Local Government IT Directors Association Conference on October 8, 2009. It was attended by approximately 40 local government professionals representing over 25 counties and other local government entities. Given the larger size of this group, a different facilitation approach was selected to ensure a fruitful discussion. The workshop began with a presentation of the benefits and concerns collected from the first workshop. The participants were then asked to rank both lists and add any additional benefits or concerns they felt were missing. The group felt that the benefits and concerns articulated in the first workshop represented their situation accurately and so did not add any items to either of the lists. The workshop then concluded with a facilitated discussion of what kind of product or report would be most useful to the participants for analyzing social media use in their local governments.