The Lectern: GovLoop gives the public sector community a voice

Recently I was invited to check out a new site called GovLoop.com. The site comes courtesy of Steve Ressler, an energetic Tampa, Fla.-based young DHS employee who co-founded Young Government Leaders, a professional organization of over 1,500 young federal employees and was a judge for the Federal Computer Week Rising Stars awards (and, of course, a Facebook friend).

According to the site, GovLoop.com is the social network developed by and for the government community. This site is the true "Facebook for Feds" and provides a great way for the government community (government employees, students, and contractors) to connect and collaborate with existing and potential colleagues. The site includes individual social profiles, blogs from peers, a calendar featuring government events, discussion forums, a repository of career resources, and various interest groups.

I talked to Steve about why he created the site, and he responded as follows: "Personally, I have participated in many government associations and have found them very rewarding. The most valuable part was that I would be dealing with a problem at work and think to myself I'm dealing with a problem someone in the government has always researched and solved. And the value of these groups is that I could often talk to someone who had often dealt with the same problems, and they would offer great advice.

"However, I never could find an online home that facilitated the same level of discussions and connections. I wanted an informal place where people could connect, share their ideas, and ask other questions. Additionally, instead of only discussing with specific government groups, I wanted to engage  a broader community -- across agencies, associations, disciplines, grade levels and ages. I wanted to engage those people who might not be in the D.C. area, might not be able to attend events after work, or simply feel more comfortable online. I wanted to engage those students interested in working in the public sector to share in conversations with others already there.

"So I created a place to help answer the questions I've had and a currently having. I believe GovLoop differentiates itself from other social-networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn as the focus revolves around government. With LinkedIn, after one signs up, most people simply add friends and there isn't much community interaction. Facebook is a great resource but individuals may be wary about mixing their various worlds (work, friends, etc). Additionally, in both sites, there is very little career content, and it is difficult to connect and have discussions with people you don't already know. GovLoop provides an alternative as you can network with current and potential government colleagues, and find a range of good [government]-related content from blogs to events to career resources.

"I had the idea for such a site for a long time. Finally, I decided to take the idea into my own hands and do it myself. And rather than focus on one niche such as Young Government Leaders, I thought it would be better to open it up and engage the entire government community."

The site includes Steve's own blog about questions such as How to Write a KSA, Learning how to Speak in Public, and Managing An Email Inbox. Other bloggers include a retired SES writing about his 50 tips for management and a mother in the field who blogs on human interest stories ranging from dealing with working outside the Beltway and managing work/life balance. The discussion forums also help answer the kind of concrete questions feds have, such as where's the best government childcare facility in D.C. Plus, the individual connections and discussions are great -- one master's in public administration student at Iowa State has connected with several government employees who have provided him advice and potential resources for his thesis.

Launched about a month ago, the site has grown through word of mouth and now has about 220 members, not just young people. I encourage everyone to join the discussion and spread the word.

I've signed up. If you would like to as well, go to GovLoop.com and click the sign up in the top right. After completing a brief profile, you can begin participating -- adding friends, commenting on blogs and forums, joining groups and inviting colleagues.

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