Open Government West is just revving up on this second day. People from several states and British Columbia are gathered around, looking at the various proposals for presentations here in Seattle City Hall. We’re all voting about what talks people would like to see and hear.
The picture from right is from yesterday, at a panel I helped moderate about social media policy and government. People were voting there too, this time on recommendations for how to best implement social media policy and government.
It’s only normal to look at what’s happening now in the light of what happened to you in the past. As I look back over my career, the most workshops I went to were staged by or for benefit of journalists, such as the National Writers Workshops. Journalists would gather for a couple of days and talk about reporting and writing. These sessions were always valuable for the people you met and for what you learned. The other day, at the first gathering of Social Media Club Tacoma, one of my former writers floored me by saying she remembered a writing technique I had taught her. I had picked up the technique at one of those national writers workshops.
There’s clearly a need for something similar in the Open Government community. As I look around the room and pick out people I know, I see citizen activists, community organizers, a slew of Information Technology workers, Web techies, PR people, software developers, small business entrepreneurs, grad students from the Evans School at UW and officials who work in a variety of jobs and a variety of levels at a variety of government levels.
The challenge, of course, is that this is not a unified group of people who are used to meeting with each other. So it’s an open question whether events like this will continue to take place. I hope they do. The group of us do not constitute a profession that naturally gathers. But we constitute a movement that believes passionately in the importance of communication and the dialogue of government. There are tools to be learned, challenges to overcome, opportunities to be recognized and articulated.
What makes me smile as I type is the biggest difference. Journalists were a profession that organized workshops. Open government believers are here a conference organizing a sort of profession. Five years from now, our vocabulary and tools about open government will be much broader than any of us can imagine. So will a new ‘profession’ – the profession of linking communication, data and democracy for better public policy and a better world.