Steve Ressler, co-founder of a professional organization known as Young Government Leaders, has taken the lead in 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, will grow into a hub for the public-sector community -- a place where government workers can exchange ideas and explore new opportunities. Government Technology spoke with Ressler about GovLoop's origins and where he hopes the site will go from here.
GT: Steve, can you tell me a little about yourself?
SR: I came into government in 2004. A few friends and I got together around 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, 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.
GT: When did GovLoop launch?
SR: On Memorial Day this year, 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 ICMA [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.
GT: Looking at your membership numbers, it definitely seems like GovLoop is catching on.
SR: 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. I believe the CTO of California is on there [Indeed, P.K. Agarwal is a member]. One of Gartner's big thought leaders for government IT is on there. It also includes the really good, mid-level people.
GT: Did you build the site yourself?
SR: Yeah, it's based on a Ning [a customizable social network software] platform, and I did the rest of the coding myself.
GT: We've talked to many government folks who are trying to figure out how best to use Web 2.0 to better connect with