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By Christine Springer
Nurturing continuous engagement of the community served by public agencies is not only important but also critical to successful public management in an environment of change.
Networking can be an important way of engagement but it must be done in an organized way. To be effective, networkers must be part of a team and have a plan. They must work to expand their network, get the most value for their time, communicate messages and success stories effectively and become the experts, drawing people to them because of positive “word-of-mouth” on the streetnet. In many ways this requires innovation, is one tool for transforming the entire culture of the organization and is part of a growing recognition that fostering a culture of innovation is critical to success.
After putting these five elements together, there should be a goal statement that is focused on organizational outcomes and agreed upon by the individuals involved. The goal statement often includes becoming a member of or aligned with another organization that is also active in networking and a community partner (e.g. a local chamber of commerce or a regional council of governments). It can also include achieving a percentage increase in annual referral business, or in volunteers, or in community participation in events or on the webpage. In order to create a functional goal statement, organizations often need to ask and answer the following questions:
It is also important that the individuals involved in doing the networking understand online etiquette by learning to play by streetnet rules. In doing so, the online experience for each individual is more effective.
The power of online networking is in the group. Many organizations not only join a group but also create a group with the best and brightest who are not always those that work for the organization. By doing so, a true path to influence is created online.
When joining a group, it is important to know what an individual is getting into and who else is part of the group. Groups today often involve either highly motivated individuals devoted to helping each other achieve their goals and excel or those who are quietly doing what they are committed to and working with others. Today, these groups often exist in a digital-only form. They work well together because they are aligned through a web-based interest rather than geography, workplace, age or professional discipline. It is possible to ask people all over the world questions and they can view things on their own time, which allows for a more powerful collection of thoughts, data and observations. People collaborate all the time via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, services like Yelp and across the Web, making large projects seem small and small projects incredibly easy.
Both individuals and organizations have the ability to function faster and to find more people to do a little part of the whole so that forward progress is achieved in an effective way. It is important to know that these groups are more informal than their traditional counterparts and their goals today are more tactical with mutually beneficial strategies. That is why it is important to know what an individual is getting into when they become part of a group.
In the final analysis, engagement through the use of the streetnet is critical to successful public management. It is here now and change is unavoidable. It will affect outcomes regardless of whether or not the organization is directly involved. Without acknowledging the importance of inside out and outside in approaches, processes and outcomes will never improve. They will only be buffeted by unmanaged forces.