Social Government is Oxy-moron-ic: April Fool’s

Apr 2nd, 2015

Government & public service is incapable of being truly social.

April Fool’s?

Not quite.

What does being social really mean, beyond the typical definitions of companionship, community or strata?

To me, it means being authentic. And I think the challenge for governments, particularly public service, is to find authenticity in their social voice.

Authentic is defined as “genuine, real, bona fide, true, veritable”. Throw in “legitimate, lawful, legal, valid”. A tough set of standards to meet.

Everyone’s truth matters. But in a socially driven world, reaching beyond chatter platforms like Facebook, Linkedin, Snapchat or Twitter, to really influence (or at least be heard), authenticity really does matter and make a difference.

Why?

Because authenticity can be seen, felt and heard very quickly. You can’t hide on a social platform because you will be ratted out. Easily.

For example. Social cannot just mean pumping out press releases in 140 characters. Some Canadian departments have moved the yardstick by adding a bit of personality to value-added tweets of a senior official. My gut tells me that these are few and far between. But for the most part, carving out an authentic government/public service social voice is tough. Too many platforms, a risk averse culture, and a shifting landscape of priorities.

But it can be fixed. With a little imagination, tolerance for human mistakes and recognition that an authentic voice – however imperfect – can cut through the noise to deliver a message to Canadians that can be heard and received.

Because Canadians are themselves imperfect, and actually get it.

So what does an authentic government & public service social voice look like?

First, it’s messy until its becomes clear, refined and defined. And in many ways, that’s its beauty because it speaks to potential depending on the issue. As long as its made clear that it isn’t clear, refined or defined at the beginning. And that requires help from those who care & want to shape the agenda to help make it real.

Second, it demands reconciling the tension between the political with public service neutrality. Finding a singular institutional (departmental or maybe government-wide) relevant voice is tough, and maybe necessary, although I’m on the fence on this.

And frankly, I don’t have an answer for how to do it. Maybe someone else has a view to share.

Finally, it needs relevance to operate. Being connected to the matter at hand. And the connection is to the citizen (and actually to other public servants as well). On platforms that matter to them. Sometimes digital. Sometimes physical and tangible. Where age, gender & geography melt away in a space that shifts seamlessly according to the need of the citizen and the need for the government to be responsive in a customized, sensitive and relevant matter.

Authenticity knows no bounds. And that is its beauty, strength and potential.

Is government incapable of being social?

Maybe.

But I think public service can be.

Chrystia

vision | voice | visuals mine