Monday, July 19, 2010

OpenGovRadio at Six Months: What's Been Learned

This is what we'll talk about on OpenGovRadio tomorrow (Tues., July 20th at 2:00 pm ET):

"OpenGovRadio at Six Months: What's Been Learned"

Six months ago, in January, I started up OpenGovernmentRadio as a way to have a weekly, real-time discussion with the interesting people who are doing interesting work to make our government more "transparent, participatory, and collaborative."  (Are you  new to "OpenGov"?  See links below.)

Using the "talk-radio" format, I invited guests to come on my one-hour show to talk about what they are doing in the Open Government intiative of the Obama administration.  We also browse through "OpenGov" and related websites while the show's listeners follow along with us, and then we take questions and comments from listeners who have left blog-comments and/or call-in "live" to the show.  (It's really fun, and the hour always flies right by.)  The archives of past shows can be found in the column to the right.   

I scheduled the OpenGovRadio show for the same time every week ("Tuesdays at 2)", so that my listeners would be able to set-aside time to listen (and call-in) to the show.   However, I find that this is not as beneficial to people as I thought it would be.  With everyone's (including potential guests) schedule always in flux, along with the fact that people can opt to listen to the show's recording later, I've decided to arrange and announce the upcoming show on an unscheduled, semi-regular basis.

So what does that mean?

I still plan to do the shows on weekday afternoons (because 11am Eastern is only 8am Pacific, etc.) while, at the time, shifting from a weekly show to one about every other week.  And the flexibility will make it much easier, of course, for potential guests to choose a show-time that fits their schedule.

Also, because many of my invited guests are representing their government agency, the extra time for scheduling is useful for most agencies' Public Affairs Office because it appears that they each operate with different procedures for dealing with the public (including "the media").  And so, I never quite knew how long it will take for my invited guest to get "approval from Public Affairs".

But the most interesting thing that I've learned is what often happens when I am talking with the people in the Public Affairs offices in the various federal agencies.  After they tell me their procedures for deciding if someone can come speak with "the media" (e.g., on OpenGovRadio),  I then ask if these procedures are written down for me (or anyone else from the public) to see.  The most common response is "Gee -- umm -- our Public Affairs procedures? Written down? Uhh, I don't know."

Now, that type of response raises a red flag with me .. for two reasons.

First off, as a former management auditor with the federal government, it was often my job to find out "what went wrong" to create a failure.  So when people would tell me that they did follow the rules but that they "are not written down", then the main reason for the problem starts to become clear.

Secondly, here I am, talking with the Public Affairs office in a federal agency, trying to get information about how they plan to improve their Public Engagement practices.  But, while their new "Open Government Plan" talks about how they really, really want to do that in the future, they can't show anybody the existing rules for how they do things now!  (OMG!)

No organization can improve on the way it does something unless it understands (i.e., can show to others) what it is doing NOW!  (And, yes, the same thing applies to personal improvement.)

So now, I'm thinking that I may have to submit a Freedom of Information request in order to get a federal agency to divulge its current procedures for public engagement (aka, "open government").

Ironic, huh?  So, if you want to keep up with my next step, you can subscribe-by-email to this blog by using that feature in the right-hand column.

But, in the meantime, I'd like to hear YOUR perspective on this or any other OpenGov topic.  You can leave a comment below (anonymously if needed .. as a former fed, I understand why).  And if you've read this far, I want you to know that I will be hosting OpenGovRadio tomorrow (July 20th) at 2:00 pm ET, but the invited guest is YOU!   I want to hear if YOU have anything -- a question, comment or suggestion on "Open Government"  -- that YOU want to discuss.

You can do that in either (or all) of three ways:

1.  Post a Comment/Question on this Blog at least one hour before the show begins.  Scroll down to "green box" (below) and click on "Comment".  It must be concise, and focused on the Open Government Initiative (or else it will not be approved).  Commentors can choose to remain anonymous.

2.  Email a comment/question Confidentially to your host Stephen Buckley, who fully understands the risk of raising unwelcome questions within the government.  Mr. Buckley can then raise the question "on-air" without identifying you.

3.  Call-in "live" to (917) 388-4210 with your comment/question.


 Handy Links to "Open Government":

1.  President's Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government (1/21/09)

2.  White House's Open Government Directive (12/8/09)

3.  OMB's "Initial Assessment of OpenGov Plans" of Federal Agencies

4.  OMB's "OpenGov Dashboard" for tracking Compliance by Federal Agencies

5.  GovLoop's Chart of the OpenGov Plans

6.  Transparent Leadership by Roger Schwarz (Government Executive magazine, 4/7/10)
"When you are transparent, you create better results and relationships because others understand your thinking. People always are trying to find the meaning of actions, especially leaders' behaviors.  When you fail to be transparent, you increase the chance that others will come up with their own theories about your intentions and motives - theories that often will differ from yours.
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Tim Bonnemann said...

Congrats on the semi-anniversary! I try to listen in when I can.

One suggestion I have would be to either cut the total time in half (30 minutes) or break up the one-hour show into smaller segments and share a more detailed playlist after the fact. Personally, a one-hour podcast isn't always easy to fit into one's schedule (live or on-demand). Smaller chunks make it easier to consume.

Good luck going forward!

Dan Bevarly said...

Stephen - Congrats on 1/2 year of OpenGov Radio. I'm glad i saw your post on GovLoop today and will plan to join in on future shows. Dan