2010 Social Media for Government Conference in Chicago

I’ll be the first to admit that I had my expectations set at a fairly nominal level for Advanced Learning Institute’s latest Social Media for Government event in Chicago this past week.  But it was really a wonderful time.  The smaller size of the event (approximately 50 people) really gave me a chance to make some deep connections with most of the attendees.  Additional ALI did a great job of adding value by facilitating networking time by organizing lunch and dinner outings.  The location didn’t hurt either.  Being across the John Hancock Building, 2 blocks from Michigan Ave and 4 blocks from the lakefront provided easy access to social fun.  Hillary Hartley and I actually rented bikes, rode along the lake, onto the Riverwalk, into the Frank Gehry infused Millennial Park to soak in an evening of Indian music and dancing in the park. 


Regarding the conference content, there was some great presentations and case studies shared

The city of Geneva, Illinois shared a true participatory government example in explaining how a Facebook Fan Page for Geneva, Illinois started by a high school junior … on his own time … became adopted by the city and established as the official Facebook Fan Page for the city.  Truly inspiring stuff.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin shined light on a court ruling about how access to Facebook profile pages of a government official is not required. ((I searched the interwebs for a link about this, but haven’t found one.  I’ll be following with the presenter to see if there is something on the web to point to.)) Essentially, that means that government officials with Facebook profiles can still choose who to connect with on Facebook.  And that means, that social media jerks can still be left on the outside. 

“Social scientists.”  A term used by John Ohab – the man behind Armed With Science – to describe the type of person that social media practicers are:  one part web-savvy technologist and one part communications expert.  I like that term and imagine myself making use of it in the future.

But many challenges and unanswered questions remain. Including the typical ones surrounding culture change (or lack of) to embrace these new tools.  While everyone in the room understood how the risks of social media tools are no different than the risks faced by organizations when introducing email and telephones into their operations, evidence of how to properly make that case so that stakeholders grasp the message remains an ongoing exercise of experimentation

In fact, I was stunned by the number of people – who were sent to this conference with the task and action item to develop tactical strategies of social media use in their organizations – face blockers in their workplace preventing them from using these tools.  That’s right.  Access to sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube is blocked at the firewall level.    Craaaaaazy.

My presentation was a case study of the Ames Spotlight blog project I worked on in 2007.  Within that case study, I discussed how open source solutions and community practices are tools in efforts of social media adoption within government institutions.  While my presentation wasn’t designed to stand on its own (its mostly a slideshow of photos) it is embedded below.