What if a Congressman or Government Agency had a Community Manager?

I’m sitting here at Transparency Camp. Some of the conversations today got me thinking.

If all the data that we want opens up, standardizes, and were able to make great tools, how are we going to get folks to use them? How are we going to get folks wanting to participate in a relationship of trust with the government? You’re not going to get a rush of people just by creating the tools.

When it comes to communicating with the American people, it seems like most congressman and government agencies don’t actively pursue public response and participation into the process. They wait for people to come to them.

I live in Washington, DC so my representative to Congress is Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. My only interaction with her has been the multi-page and multi-color newsletter that I got in the mail a few weeks ago. It makes me think that she doesn’t really care about keeping me up to date about what’s going on or actively soliciting my opinion.

What if a congressman or government agencies had a community manager? This would be a person that everyone in the community knew. On the Web site, there’d be a photo of them and every possible way to get ahold of them. They’d hang out at coffee shops, bars, churches, town squares, barbershops, or any public place where their constituency spent their time. I could easily walk up to them and talk to them about what my problem is or what’s on my mind.

Or…How cool would it be if government agencies and congressmen had Get Satisfaction pages? It’d be manned and monitored by the community managers.

Maybe if there was this culture of community within Congress and the governement maybe I’d feel like it’d be more worth while for me to get involved… to check/use the great tools that are made by folks like the Sunlight Foundation or even Thomas from the Library of Congress.


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5 thoughts on “What if a Congressman or Government Agency had a Community Manager?”

  1. I wonder though – they have so many people who come to them already that many of our friends who work on Capitol Hill are paid letter/email writers.

    It seems like press secretaries and some of the support staff in each office play a big part of the role. Could they be trained to better use the technologies available (and would they find it worth it in less tech-savvy districts)? The question would be how could a community manager make the processes that are in place more effective. Would it add to the often overwhelming wave of communication a congressional office must do, or would it streamline it, make it more effective, and allow the Congressperson to sleep better at night?

    Also, that community manager would have to be a pretty brave fellow. At times of political turmoil, he could face a murderous mob of angry constituents.

  2. @JT: I think you’re always going to get the passionate and vocal minority that’s going to have something to say but what about the rest of us. 90% of the time I really don’t care enough about what’s happening in government to become involved (unless it’s an election).

    So… I think that Congressional offices need to be seeking out to hear my opinion instead of expecting us to come to them. Congressional offices risk only hearing one side of the story.

    Heh… when there are technological problems at my company, I and my entire team face just as much of an angry mob but it’s our job (just like it is that of public facing folks in congressional offices) to listen to it and learn from it. We don’t have to agree with everyone who’s frustrated that demands action but we do have to listen.

    Yes, there may be a problem with the firehouse of people but that’s a technical problem that we can solve. I think government needs to start using GetSatisfaction.com.

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