Friday, March 13, 2009 Weekly Column: WTF is Public Service Renewal?

In what Mike deemed "probably the most honest post yet" I made an off the cuff remark about writing a presentation called WTF is Public Service Renewal. The thought occurred to me after having seen and written about the What the F**K is Social Media deck that made the rounds a while back. I eventually abandoned the project because I could never distil it to a point of being able to present it in a meaningful way. As it turns out, that was probably a good move considering it led to the considerably more practical Scheming Virtuously. That being said, we never really addressed in a direct fashion what we think public service renewal really is. I think that it comes by implicitly in our writings here and in our discussions with others, but in the vein of Etienne's more proper treatment of the subject, here is our very own rendition.

WTF is Renewal?

Simply put, I think renewal is as simple as people having open and honest conversations.

When I say people, I mean people. I don't mean faceless bureaucrats, groups or levels, or relative positions in an org chart. I mean you and me, him and her, us and - well - us, because there is no them.

When I say conversations, I mean conversations. I don't mean dictating, hearing without listening, or feigning interest. I mean conversations powered by their transparent, participatory, authentic and collaborative natures.

WTF should we care?

The writing is on the wall, the traditional communication model (monologue) is dead.

There is so much noise out there, we shouldn't be adding to it. We should be offering people (both employees and stakeholders) what they want: the new communication model (dialogue).

WTF can we do?

Be social and engage one another. Leverage new social tools behind the firewall whenever possible. Be cautious not to approach renewal from a “if you build it (social media behind the firewall) they will come” standpoint. It doesn't work. Borrowing a line from a recent presentation given by @aaronjuliuskim on Government 2.0: a fool with a tool is still a fool.

Essentially what I am trying to get at is that in order to renew the public service, public servants need to adopt the mantra of the social media evangelists - share, because the more you share the more power you have.

I know this is a difficult thing given that we are in an organization that has operated on the complete opposite premise - power belongs to those who hold knowledge.

WTF do I need a conclusion for?

Renewal is new ideas, roles and responsibilities.

Renewal is trust, even if that means failing.

Renewal is keeping conversations alive and focused.

Renewal is a culture of open…

… WTF does public service renewal mean to you?


  1. Amen. This should be part of the official Mission Statement and Vision of the Public Service Renewal initiative....

    Or maybe you should circulate a nicely formatted one-page Manifesto throwing it into every government cubicle...

    Better blogged about it! More reach than any of the above over time. Good job.


  2. I love it, this is your best post yet Charney.

  3. Nick, you just captured the freshness and anti-establishment spirit of renewal the way it should be, without the lenses of bureaucratic govspeak that permeates the briefing notes on the subject. Well done!