It hit me with a dull thud, strolling from an air-conditioned conference center in Vancouver to a hot downtown street, that I’ve been going about this all wrong. Well, somewhat wrong.
By presenting twice now to my fellow city council members at the Association of Washington Cities …. by being in a “how to” webinar last January … by helping in my own modest way with OpenGovWest … I thought we’d help current elected representatives find new ways of using social media and other aspects of the so-called “Gov2.0″ movement.
The brutal truth the other day in Vancouver at the 2010 Association of Washington Cities meeting was that co-presenter Everett Asst. City Attorney Ramsey Ramerman and I had probably a fourth of the people we had at the 2009 meeting of the Association of Washington Cities. Honestly, I’m not surprised. If you talk to a lot of city council members, they don’t get it. They were elected without social media. They were elected without Gov. 2.0 Why bother? People are clamoring for more services and lower taxes. Isn’t that enough of a challenge?
There are a few exceptions – the moderator of our panel, for example, City Councilwoman Jennifer Gregerson of Mukilteo. But in general, the currently elected folks are pretty ambivalent about diving into these waters. After the workshop, I spoke with two city council members thinking of blogging. Both are motivated by a lack of competent news coverage. So there’s interest but …
What I’m left to wonder is whether it’s better to focus on the people who got elected last year who practice new forms of communication, and those of us few ‘old fogeys’ taking a swing at a better world of communication and democracy. Maybe we can share examples of how this stuff helps. So I’m going to take more of a focus on sharing best practices than trying to convert anyone. Maybe if those of us using the tools use them better, and share how that strengthens democracy, it will matter.
I sort of went down this path with the collection of city council bloggers I began on Friendfeed. But we need to share more aggressively. And of course there’s a lot lot lot more to digital democracy than blogging, which is really a communication vehicle of last result for more politicians.
Still, blogging is what I know best. As part of prepping for the AWC meeting, I got a great note from Spokane Councilman Jon Snyder that explains why he blogs. I’ll post that next week after the holiday, and try to do a better job of highlighting how a new generation – regardless of their chronological age – is using digital tech to strengthen public policy and democracy.