DorobekINSIDER Live: How Data is Changing the Face of Citizen Engagement

A special edition of GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER today. We're LIVE! We meet every month with the simple idea, get smart people together and share ideas because we believe that the real power of information comes when it is shared.

Better data means better customer service. Consider the way Amazon uses your purchasing history to suggest items that you should also add to your cart. You always wanted a limited edition VSC tape or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- and now its right there in front of you.

And we've all heard of Moneyball -- the story about the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane. The team used analytical, evidence-based approach to assembling a competitive baseball team, despite Oakland's disadvantaged revenue situation.

Government is using data as a customer service model, too. Do you have a pothole on your street? There are mobile apps in many cities you can use to alert the transportation department. Got an idea on how to better utilize park funds? There's an online public forum geared towards you.

Listen to the Archive!

DorobekINSIDER Panel:

  • Tim Fullerton, director of digital strategy at the Interior Department [GovLoop; Twitter; LinkedIn]

  • Nicole Stillwell, deputy chief of new media for the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs @TravelGov [LinkedIn]

  • Mai-Ling Garcia, Online Engagement Manager for the City of Oakland [Twitter, LinkedIn]

So how do you jumpstart this data driven citizen engagement at your agency? The DorobekINSIDER and his team of experts are here to lend a hand. The panel took a look at three main solutions:

1. Match the Data to the Person

The Interior Department is known for their Instagram account, but Fullerton said the agency targets specific messages to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and the website. "On social media we are highlighting the agency's greatest hits. People want to hear a story on social media, if they want a policy update they go to the website. We target our messages accordingly."

Stillwell agreed, she noted the State Department has two distinct audiences foreign and domestic. "Foreigners really engage with us on Facebook, they want to know where they can get a visa. While we are telling them about the visa process we are also able to go myth busting and dispel some rumors that surround the visa process. So we are able to target the message effectively."

In Oakland they developed a platform that allows citizen to tell the city their biggest issues. The city can in turn evaluate those pain points and get feedback on a much more immediate basis. "We use data to improve digital services and create a baseline for service."

2. It's Not All About the Size of Your Reach

It may sound cliche, but agencies are really looking for engagement and results over sheer numbers of followers on social media platforms.

Fullerton explained, "There was an analysis of DOI's audience size which is 190,000 versus NASA's audience which is five million. What they found was that although the size of NASA's reach was much greater than ours, the level of engagement was the exact same. Our instagram feed shows some of the nation's best public lands, if from a picture we post online a grandmother decides to take her grandkids to a National Park that is a win for us. That means we are making an impact."

The State Department has been doing some targeted social media outreach with Foursquare. "The app allows the passport agency to send a message to users that they are near an open passport center and that there are open appointments. We are able to give updates in real-time. The group might not be huge, but for those looking it is critical information," said Stillwell. 

3. Get on the Same Page

Government department's or agencies often have departments within departments within departments. Getting all the different entities to speak the same digital language can be a huge challenge. 

But the Interior Department has found a solution with weekly friday digital engagement meetings. "We get all the stakeholders from our nine bureaus on a call every friday morning. We let them know the latest tools and the best practices for using them. It is also a great time to get intel from them about the big projects that they are working on so we can promote projects together. On the call, we can talk about what works and what doesn't. We are never going to be 100% on the same page, but it is a huge step forward."

In Oakland, the city uses design thinking sessions to get a project's stakeholders all in the same room to brainstorm new ideas and solutions for process problems. "We recently did a design thinking session about permitting. It may sound boring, but we had all the stakeholders in the room and since we were all together we could discover people's pain points and troubleshoots solutions collectively," said Garcia. 

*GovLoop would like to thank our partners Carasoft and Teradata. 

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