Jonny Goldstein, a veteran media producer, artist, trainer, and speaker, created the above visual notes for the recent Digital Government: The Transformative Power of Communications, captured and disseminated fittingly via Instagram.

The tweet: “Check out @jonnygoldstein visual notes from (the) #GovD12 event on Digital Government: the power of communications!” captured the sentiment of many that attended this excellent event, which featured the book Little Bets, by Peter Sims and a series of government agency success stories including the following:

  • Small Business Administration – As a result of a campaign focused on government contracting, visits to the SBA government contracting page have jumped 72% since the campaign began — and a 255% increase in traffic to entry-level courses like Government Contracting 101.
  • U.S. Census Bureau – A national campaign to encourage the public to participate in the 2010 Census saved $1.87 billion in taxpayer money. Census also saw more than 175,000 visits to its FAQs, helping to increase the number of subscribers the agency can reach directly.
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services - In just eight months, CMS has seen more than 850,000 visits to its FAQs, helping to drive an increase of more than 80,000 subscribers to over 2,400 topics.
  • United States National Guard Bureau – NGB was recognized for its excellence in digital communications. It recently won an award for proactively communicating through multiple communication channels to reach the largest possible audience establishing more than 5 million impressions through a dynamic news widget, and communicating its mission and message to 22,000+ blog viewers.
The purpose of this year’s event was to address concrete steps agencies can take to fulfill the objectives of the White House’s Digital Government Strategy:
  • to enable the American people to access high-quality digital government information and services;
  • to insure that government adjusts to a new digital world; and
  • to unlock the power of government data to spur innovation across the nation and improve the quality of services for the American people.
The event’s sponsors provided a Digital Government Strategy checklist as follows:

1. Make open data, content, and Web APIs the new default
2. Make existing high-value data and content available through Web APIs
3. Establish an agency-wide governance structure for developing and delivering digital services
4. Deliver better digital services using modern tools and technologies
5. Improve priority customer-facing services for mobile use
6. Security and privacy


They also provide a list of tools and/or services under each item for how they do that for their clients. Interestingly, they did not deliver the content from this event following that check list, as the author has done with the White House’s Digital Government Strategy, and tried to do for this event in a knowledge base.

However to their credit they did provide an excellent motivational speaker and his book free: Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims. The book is all about how taking small risks, learning from your failures, and making improvements to your ideas is where true creativity comes from, rather than out-of-the-blue strokes of genius.

Sims writes, “The type of creativity that is more interesting to [University of Chicago economist, David] Galenson, and that is far more common, is experimental innovation. These creators use experimental, iterative, trial-and-error approaches to gradually build up to breakthroughs. Experimental innovators must be persistent and willing to accept failure and setbacks as they work towards their goals.”
This is consistent with agile development and Gall’s Law that I have written about previously.

I liked this conference format that provides a motivational speaker with a practical and proven approach, a clear purpose with specific examples for improving government communications to and services for citizens, and an active Twitter conversation that can be mined for recapping and ideas.

Some of the most interesting tweets I found during the event were:
  • Black sheep unite
  • “Challenge the status quo, don’t be afraid to be ‘black sheep’…”
  • gov communications not abt clicks or page views; it’s saving lives & citizen actions to enhance quality of life
  • How can gov learn from private companies w/ great customer service? Organize better to streamline communication
  • Is government moving in a ‘smart’ direction? Yes! In many small ways
  • Exactly! Panelist “How many people are you not reaching because you aren’t blogging and not creating content”
  • Gold standard for data? Check out @uscensusbureau
  • “watch the data that matters not all the data; don’t get caught up in metrics for metrics’ sake, pageviews, clicks, etc
  • Gov’t agencies should see themselves as primarily customer service orgs that just happen to also do xyz
  • the Smart Government Maturity Model slide from Thom Rubel will that be available or sent to us?