FCW Forum | Social media

Drapeau: The rise of the goverati

Lately, there has been a lot of buzz about social media technologies in Washington. Web 2.0 technologies such as WordPress, Twitter and Qik are taking communications and personal interactions into new realms. But one local trend in the field of social software has largely escaped the notice of the national media: the rise of the goverati.

Who are the goverati, you might ask -- and are you among them? Goverati is a term I coined a few weeks ago while participating in a Social Media Club DC discussion panel. In essence, the goverati are people familiar with government and how it works and who understand new social technologies. They want to network with one another to foster an increasingly transparent, participatory and collaborative government.

President Barack Obama recently issued a memo that challenges the government to accomplish the latter goal during his tenure. Because Web 2.0 tools have empowered people to communicate with one another in a more efficient and open manner, people are demanding that access of their government, too. The good news is that it’s happening. Social software will be part of an overall strategy involving the still-to-be-named national chief technology officer, the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration. In addition, the White House’s director of new media, Macon Phillips, will no doubt advise the president on progress, push the process along and keep it smartly informed.

Just as the goverati are pushing for a more transparent, participatory and collaborative government, they are simultaneously using the social software they are passionate about to network with one another to become a collective force more powerful than the sum of its individual parts. For instance, a Homeland Security Department employee developed an informal social network called GovLoop in his spare time, and in a few months, membership surged to more than 5,000 members. Intelink, the intelligence community's secure network for exchanging information, is awash in blogs and other communications on relevant topics. And the goverati can be found networking on just about every commercial tool out there, including business network LinkedIn, Facebook and other Web sites.

The movement isn’t limited to Generation Y staff members, college interns and geeky slackers. The former secretary of the Health and Human Services Department published a blog about the flu. The Coast Guard’s commandant uses YouTube and Facebook. And the movement isn’t limited to Washington insiders, either: Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, talked about the need for open government during a recent panel discussion.

Goverati also use their social networks to plan informal events that help them exchange ideas and bring new people into the fold. One such upcoming event is Government 2.0 Camp in Washington March 27–28, when people from government, academia and industry will share information, form new collaborations, and discuss a future transparent, participatory and collaborative government of, by, for and with the people. There is still time for you to join the ranks of the goverati.

About the Author

Mark Drapeau is director of public-sector social engagement at Microsoft. 

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