Moving from Attention to Engagement to Participation – More World of GovCraft

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Continuing my thinking on the World of GovCraft, I’ve started to think about what the real challenge is for government, various comments suggested that Government is so disconnected that it is unlikely that we will start to bridge the gap. But i’m starting to wonder whether this just an illusion and we are only creating this gap and reinforcing it by not doing anything practical about addressing it in ways which will reduce the gap and simply not patch it with sticky tape and string that will break after any sustained use.

When I hear people talking about using social software or social media to connect to communities or networks, there is often a focus on “grabbing attention” and “starting a conversation” and “building relationships”. These are all good things to focus on but we also need to actually figure out what we really want to get from these relationships and conversations. It simply isn’t good enough to just grab someones attention in these spaces, we actually need to have a plan on how we will encourage them to engage and participate.

It comes back to a recent post of mine where i started to question whether we actually focus enough on outcomes and creating value instead of thinking that Twitter or Facebook are cool and or sexy to use.

Jane McGonigal who is now a big influence on my thinking published back in 2008 Engagement Economy by the Institute of the Future, this publication – recommended reading by the way – states in the introduction:

The inability to turn members into active contributors is an important signal of a new kind of challenge facing any organization that seeks to reap the benefits of crowdsourcing, collective intelligence, massively scaled collaboration, or social networking. For these groups, they must do more than merely “grab eyeballs,” register members, or collect ratings. To effectively harness the wisdom of the crowds, and to successfully leverage the participation of the many, organizations will need to become effective players in an emerging economy of engagement.

In the economy of engagement, it is less and less important to compete for attention, and more and more important to compete for things like brain cycles and interactive bandwidth. Crowd-dependent projects must capture the mental energy and the active effort it takes to make individual contributions to a larger whole.

But how, exactly, do you turn attention into engagement? How do you convert a member of the crowd into a member of your team? To answer these questions, innovative organizations will have to grapple with the new challenge of harnessing “participation bandwidth.”

There will inevitably be increasing pressures to balance the amount of time someone has available with the number of “requests” someone might receive to “take action”. Clay Shirky mentions in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, “With many more possible groups competing for the average individual’s time, the speed with which a group can become unglued has also increased.”

The World of GovCraft idea is about tapping into the gaming culture and in creating elements of “fun” when participating and engaging with Government.  A question we really need to ask is how serious are we about bridging this gap and are we prepared to engage people outside of the government sector to help put the fun into Government. In the publication Jane states:

…organizations should look to hire researchers and interactive designers with backgrounds in online gaming and playful social network design. Any mass collab project, whether internal or public-facing, will require the strategic input of experienced “fun engineers” and “fun economists.” Whether as permanent IT staff or in key consulting positions, these individuals can help ensure that resources are being invested in projects that have a high likelihood of engaging crowds.

Organizational leaders should find out what kinds of communities are drawing the participation bandwidth of members, and create conversations about what employees get from their “fun work” that they may not get at their “real work.” This dialogue can provide valuable lessons about introducing fun flows into the organization’s primary business practices.

There are huge lessons here for Community Engagement, Internal Communications and Employee Engagement professionals in understanding the motives of people and how game design could help inform and shape engagement and participation activities.

The UK needs to start making progress and look at how we can involve people who are really passionate about social change, but also have knowledge of gaming. In the USA they have something called the Serious Games Initiative. It’s goal is:

to help usher in a new series of policy education, exploration, and management tools utilizing state of the art computer game designs, technologies, and development skills.

As part of that goal the Serious Games Initiative also plays a greater role in helping to organize and accelerate the adoption of computer games for a variety of challenges facing the world today.

Why do we not have something like this in the UK? Or do we? Who would actually drive this forward – Could Martha Lane Fox and the new Digital Public Services Unit play a role in creating or supporting this kind of initiative?

One comment made to me was that the game series “Sim City” is one example of a game where people make similar kinds of decisions to Government. However, I’m thinking we want to go further then just the traditional “Education” approach to what Government does to actually creating solutions that improve peoples lives directly.

Moving away from gaming, we need to also understand what presence we are creating and how this approach and decision will contribute to the overall outcomes we want to achieve, this should also be considered when thinking about whether you simply want to grab attention or want to develop and build a level of engagement or participation with people.

Scott Gould, has posted an excellent presentation about Social Media Presences which i think can help inform people who want to move from simply attention grabbing to engagement to full participation.

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