Steve Ressler, co-founder of a professional organization known as Young Government Leaders, is helping move government squarely into the age of Web 2.0. Ressler recently launched a social networking site designed and built exclusively for public-sector employees. Ressler hopes the site, GovLoop.com, will grow into a hub for the public-sector community - a place where government workers exchange ideas and explore new opportunities. Government Technology spoke with Ressler about GovLoop's origin and where he hopes the site will go in the future here.
Q: Steve, can you tell me a little about yourself?
A: I came into government in 2004. A few friends and I got together during happy hours to discuss dealing with the government, and eventually we created a group called Young Government Leaders. Fast-forward about five years later and the group is now a 2,000-person organization for federal employees with chapters across the U.S. We do a lot of professional development activities - speak a lot at various conferences, community services, a newsletter, etc.
As part of that group I was co-founder, vice president, CIO - all at different times - and I saw a real need to have a place online where we could talk, connect and share ideas. So I started going to more conferences, meeting a lot of really interesting people. Age didn't matter - they were across all ages, across all levels of government, state and local, some in academia and some were contractors. That's how I got the idea for GovLoop. Wouldn't it be cool to have a place where we could share ideas on various topics? For example, I'm a new employee, so how do I dress at work? What are the protocols? Or I'm a local CIO in rural Kansas and I want to start a blog. Have any other government agencies done this?
You can share best practices back and forth. That's the whole idea.
Q: When did GovLoop launch?
A: On Memorial Day , I launched it to about 20 friends. This is something I did on my side time for fun. It's not a corporation; I'm not trying to make a million bucks. I have my day job, and I just think there's a need for this. So I just sent it out grassroots to people I knew. I sent it to 20 people who sent it to their friends. I contacted a couple organizations I knew on the state and local level, I talked to the [International City/County Management Association] and it grew and spiraled from that. On Memorial Day we had five people sign up, and now we're more than 1,000.
Q: Looking at your membership numbers, it definitely seems like GovLoop is catching on.
A: It's doing pretty well. I think the most important thing is there are a lot of good conversations and people are connecting. There are already a decent number of stories about how this has actually helped people. What's more interesting than [the number of members] is who is on the site. There are a lot of thought leaders in government. P.K. Agarwal, the CTO of California, is on there. One of Gartner's big thought leaders for government IT is on there. It also includes the really good, mid-level people.
Q: We've talked to many government workers who are trying to figure out how best to use Web 2.0 to better connect with constituents. Is GovLoop filling a niche by helping government use Web 2.0 to better connect within itself?
A: That's basically why I created it. I saw there was a hole. People were not able to