Trust and Government
The role of social networks in Gov 2.0
Ms. Mei Lin Fung
G-CEM Global Adviosr
This article is exclusively written for G-CEM and reprinted by permission..
Around Chinese New Year 2007, my esteemed CRMGuru colleague, Paul Greenberg (best selling author of the textbook: CRM at the Speed of Light) and I were speaking with the heads of eGov for every agency and ministry in Singapore's Treasury Building, the central HQ of Singapore's Civil Service. eGov - electronic government - was a major initiative underway - to cut red tape, to speed up delivery of services and improve quality AND cut costs. Most memorable was the discussion we had about the role of trust, an understanding of trust as an asset to be preserved and grown... This is the most sophisticated understanding of CRM in government or other industry which I have come across.
The first Gov 2.0 Expo and Summit was held in Washington DC in September 2009. Tim O'Reilly, the head of O'Reilly Media, the conference organizers explained why he initiated this important event:
"Government is a means of collective action where more people can get involved with advancing the common good. "
The problem I see with this idea is that many people have many different ideas about what is "the common good". Collective action without agreeing on what is the common good, will result in mis-alignment of activities and is a recipe for disaster. A compass tells us whether we are on track or not. Government needs a compass in order to keep on track to advance the common good.
So I went back to thinking about that meeting in Singapore in 2007 and to the idea of trust.
I have been paying attention to the changing ideas of Trust and found The Speed of Trust - Stephen R Covey's book on the benefits in increasing speed and lowering costs when an organization starts to build trusted relationships. Assessing trust lies in answers to 4 key questions:
1. Who do you trust?
2. Why do you trust this person?
3. What is it that inspires confidence in this particular relationship?
4. Who trusts you?
Let's clarify what I mean by government. Answers.com has a short definition that sums it up well:
"Ideally, a government is the way a society decides to structure authority
in order to protect and advance the common good."
Government is a concept that has deep cultural roots - the way that one society agrees to structure authority is based on each country's history of the use (good and bad) of authority right up to the present. It is important to note that just as different businesses have different cultures which would be reflected in their implementation of Customer relationship management (CRM) or Customer experience management (CEM), different countries have different forms of government and this is natural and a normal reflection of different cultures and values. In addition to national histories, there are many countries with multiple ethnic groups living together sometimes integrated, sometimes more tightly in geographically separate communities. These ethnic groups within one country also may have different culture and values. It becomes difficult to say what are the national agreement on what is the "common good".
The problem of a government in defining the common good when there are so many competing agendas by many interest groups is made worse in the following way. In the world of CRM, many businesses were chasing after the goal of being customer-centric. Now that sounds "so yesterday". Now our catchwords have changed from "customer-centric" to "customer-driven" which means that we are placing more and more emphasis on participation and even leadership by customers in defining the direction of technology for CRM and CEM in the future. As a renowned blogger from Microsoft wrote June 2006
"Our ideas of trust and community and all that are under radical change because of the Internet."
We have only to look at the quicksand of US Healthcare Reform to see how the competing interests of different groups make it impossible for the current form of US government to come up with a "one size fits all" answer to the healthcare crisis and a situation where the US spends 16-18% of GDP on healthcare, more than any other country in the world, and still ranks far down the chart at number 37 in a report on world health systems by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Gov 2.0 is a grass roots response that offers a path for government to shift from "citizen centric" to "citizen-driven". When you are not pushed to define policies centrally, but solutions emerge from different parts of the country, within a framework that allows for "citizen-driven" initiatives, then it is possible to satisfy many more people and still have an orderly society.
We can see how this operates in our daily lives by looking at the vehicles in the streets of any big city like Beijing, New York, Rome, St. Petersburg or Lagos. Each driver operates their own vehicle of choice: bicycle, motor bike, car, truck, or mini-van and steers to their individual desired destination, taking the route that they have chosen for themselves. They share the road, and must obey the traffic lights and traffic laws and the traffic police. "Citizen-driven" initiatives, in the form of individual journeys are taking place in a mostly orderly fashion on the world's roads every day.
How can Gov 2.0 set up a framework for citizen-driven initiatives that improve the common good?
Tim O'Reilly in a guest post at TechCrunch suggested not just using technology but also learning from the technology industry's evolution and critical success factors behind the industry's growth:
"But as with Web 2.0, the real secret of success in Government 2.0 is thinking about government as a platform . If there's one thing we learn from the technology industry, it's that every big winner has been a platform company: someone whose success has enabled others, who've built on their work and multiplied its impact. Microsoft put "a PC on every desk and in every home", the internet connected those PCs, Google enabled a generation of ad-supported startups, Apple turned the phone market upside down by letting developers loose to invent applications no phone company would ever have thought of. In each case, the platform provider raised the bar, and created opportunities for others to exploit."
What does government as a platform mean? Tim O'Reilly went on to describe a certain site provided by the US government called Data.Gov. This site takes the view that it is the job of the government to provide seamless access for use of unclassified government data and expands public access to machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. People are invited to actively participate in shaping the future of Data.gov by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements. The government through data.gov is shifting away from controlling data, to enabling citizen's to be pro-active in improving the common good.
"Behind Federal CIO Vivek Kundra?s data.gov site is the idea that government agencies shouldn't just provide web sites, they should provide web services. These services, in effect, become the government's SDK (software development kit). The government may build some applications using these APIs(Application Programming Interfaces), but there?s an opportunity for private citizens and innovative companies to build new, unexpected applications."
It's important to sound some important notes of caution and raise flags here that the innovation must be responsible and accountable for contributing to the common good. Crowds can lose their wisdom and become mobs. We have to be vigilant to avoid these dangers of Gov 2.0.
Just as the rules of the road were formulated for road drivers to have considerable independence yet share the same roads - there must be rules of the road for Gov 2.0.
- Just as there are traffic police to enforce the rules of the road - there must be enforcement of the codes of good conduct within Gov 2.0.
- Just as there are traffic lights and signals to coordinate the movement of large streams of road traffic, so must there be common sign posts and alerts about the appropriate use of large quantities of data analyzed without knowing the source and data collection methods.
Within the US Gov 2.0 conference, some themes emerged) of interest to an international audience:
- Geo-Spatial mapping - Virtual Alabama
- Contest / Competition - Prizes offered in Apps for Democracy - to take the data.gov databases and provide applications or tools to make the data more usable. Winner www.Gapminder.org
The applications were citizen-driven - they cut across traditional government department boundaries and consolidated, integrated, synthesized data to make views of data that could be immediately acted upon.
At the Summit, invitations were given to submit Gov 2.0 applications as demonstrations of what was already happening at the initiative of individual civil servants or government departments either in the US or internationally. These applications were divided into the following 5 categories:
Government as a Provider - The winning application was one implemented in Africa, by a US aid worker. Called Txts4Africa ? the application was written in a matter of weeks and implemented immediately - it was used initially to submit information for a malnutrition survey - in the end, the cell phone application not only recorded the key physical statistics for malnutrition and sent it in directly to the central database, the data receiving officers were also able to send back messages on how to care for the malmourished person depending on the degree of severity of the malnutrition.
Government as Partner - BART.Gov was the winner - Bay Area Rapid Transit created a social network and community of BART riders, encouraging performance art, community engagement and just plain fun. The commuters on BART were better informed and educated on how best to use BART wisely.
Government as Peacekeeper - Second Life is a virtual world - the winner was an approach to allow people to experience the unfamiliar in the virtual world of Second Life. This was used to explore how a person felt he or she was perceived and how the person was actually perceived. Interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims were studied to see how new communities could be gradually developed through relationship building activities.
Government as Protector - The Utah state highway patrol spokesperson demonstrated the wining application which used social media including Twitter to provide better and faster access for journalists to highway patrol incident news. Twitter is a micro-blogging application where only messages up to 140 characters can be sent.
Government as Process - The City of Santa Cruz in northern California was struggling with severe budget cuts due to the recession and the fiscal crisis in California as a whole. They wanted public input, without having the sessions dominated by one or two people, so developed a web application to solicit and display public comments, questions and discussion.
A big surprise was the number of tech savvy highly placed individuals were now in the Federal government - I left the summit having a strong impression of people in the White House and Federal Government who were committed and passionate about Gov 2.0.
The dedication and innovation drive of Federal government CIO's, CTO's and IT managers to embracing Gov 2.0 was astounding - you had a sense of Gov 2.0 providing an exciting avenue where civil servants could find meaning and purpose in serving the public in valuable, innovative, new ways. Gov 2.0 2009 laid the groundwork for the next year's conference in May 2010 in Washington DC where more applications will be demonstrated and the wave of government innovation, citizen-driven will have more role models of people dedicating themselves to innovate for the common good. I strongly urge and encourage CRM and CEM professionals to consider attending in order to grasp the vast change that is ahead for all US organizations over the next 5-10 years as government data and government applications build on top of the Gov 2.0 platform.
Moving to a broader view beyond the US, it is time to look globally and ask which countries have been successful users in enabling governments to advance the common good? Accenture has been publishing an annual report based on asking citizens questions about their government in different countries. Accenture?s "2008 Leadership In Customer Service: Creating Shared Responsibility for Better Outcomes" includes a comparison of the effectiveness of government as rated by folks in the society in advancing the common good expressed by the measure of quality of life:
So where do social networks fit in the picture? In his blogpost , January 2009, Paul Greenberg
"What is completely noticeable is that in all but one area the government of Singapore comes in first in the world when it comes to constituents who trust them to be transparent, provide a quality of life that is personally valuable to individual constituents, to do the right thing and at the same time, to continuously engage their citizenry."
In 2009, Accenture's report listed the 4 best practices for government efficacy and ALL of them refer to engagement by government with citizens in a social network. The social network is the basis for developing common understanding of shared goals and common interests aa mong participants of the network - citizens, civil servants, policy makers, administrators.
1. "Better service starts with better understanding."
2. "Engage. Listen. Respond."
3. "Harness all available resources."
4. "Be transparent. Be accountable. Ask for and act on feedback."
Items 2 and 4 are trust building best practices - I recommend a fifth best practice to increase the cohesion of the social network, to ensure that rules of conduct for citizen-driven innovation are observed, obeyed and enforced if violated.
5. Measure trust regularly, especially forecasting whether trust is increased or decreased by policies, actions or decisions.
Concluding remarks on Trust and Government, Social Networks and Gov 2.0
Technology enables pin point government solutions that address the values, and needs of small groups of people, where once we could only imagine and implement single "one size fits all" solutions. Defining the "rules of the conduct" for citizen-driven initiatives must be made a priority in order to avoid the problems of rampant greed, conflict of interest, and the dominance of powerful interest groups. Social networks are valuable frameworks for developing the rules of conduct in the rapidly changing world currently undergoing a financial metamorphosis. Trust is a compass for sustained social networks
building trust = good, decreasing trust = bad.
Singapore is a pioneer in mass scale citizen feedback , online with Facebook pages and more and face to face as described here by Paul Greenberg here:
In 2007, I attended National Feedback Day with about 6,000 Singaporean citizens and watched with astounded fascination the mostly intelligent and passionate discussions on varying government reports with proposals in different areas such as housing, or transportation or education. Citizens flocked to general and proposal-specific sessions to discuss their thinking on the different proposals and present their counterproposals or support for the existing recommendations. The actual committees that wrote the report were on stage and available to be grilled. The back and forth about housing or education policy based on the proposal was amazingly detailed. Each committee had a scrivener who took notes on the citizens' comments.
If you couldn't attend, they had all of the reports available online and you could provide them with feedback there. All of the in person and online feedback was aggregated and then incorporated into the revisions discussion. Recommendations were made and policies changed accordingly. Paul Greenberg
Gov 2.0 - represents a profound and powerful shift to government as a platform on which citizen-centric and even citizen-driven applications can be developed and used by citizens to contribute to the common good. Constant feedback and response is essential to Gov 2.0 and building trust in a social network is critical for orderly citizen-driven innovation.
About the Author
Mei Lin Fung works with Oklahoma State University's Spears Business School to offer certificate and apprenticeship program ins networked service leadership. She recently assisted communications firm Avaya in developing an innovative public and private customer relations partnership, honored with the American Society of Competitiveness' Phillip B. Crosby Golden Medallion. Fung was an early pioneer in CRM, having worked with both Tom Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems, and Marc Benioff, founder of salesforce.com in 1988 at Oracle at the very beginning of the CRM industry. Blog: Professionals Earn Customer Trust
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