What Does the Future State and Local Public-Sector Scene Look Like? (Opinion)

Key issues facing the next generation of government.

Editor’s note: Starting this month, Steve Ressler’s column will appear monthly in Government Technology. Ressler founded GovLoop, a social network for the government community, in 2008 as a federal government employee. The site, now a subsidiary of GovDelivery, has more than 30,000 members and Ressler serves as its full-time president.

Nobody likes to read a young person’s ruminations on “coming of age.” But as I recently crossed the threshold from being a 20-something to a 30-something, I thought the milestone would make a good introduction to this new column.

My plan for this column, Gov 2020, is to focus on the next generation of government. What will the state and local public-sector scene look like in 2015 or 2020? (Or how does my generation want it to look?) What will the work force look like? What technology will be hot (or not)?  

Generally speaking, I will cover broad generational themes around generations X and Y, as well as new and emerging technologies.

Depending on your persuasion, that last sentence may make you want to fall asleep. Do we need another generational “expert?” Another person talking whiz-bang technology and using weird words like wiki and World of Warcraft?

Nope, I don’t think so either. So this column will focus on real issues — on generational differences, but also the similarities. Cool technology, but also technology that is overhyped. (Second Life anyone?)

Each month, I’ll highlight a key issue facing government and show how different state and local agencies are handling it.

As a third-generation public servant, I’ve always been interested in how to make public service amazing, and how to make change and innovation occur from the inside.

My interest was sparked as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, where the U.S. Department of Homeland Security funded my research on social network analysis and terrorism. Work that continued all the way to my creation of Young Government Leaders, the leading young professional organization for government employees with more than 2,000 members and eight local chapters.

My father, a retired senior executive from the IRS, keeps me in check when I sound like I’m full of it ... or when I’m on to something.

Currently I run GovLoop.com, an online community where nearly 40,000 federal, state and local government leaders help one another make a difference every day.

Are social networks the cure-all for collaboration? The short answer is “nope.” But I would argue that social networks are the “next generation” version of present-day associations and conferences — places where we meet others doing similar work, and share ideas and best practices. Today we do it in person (and we still will years from now), but we need a place to sustain our conversations in the time that passes between keynotes and sponsored socials.

Communities like GovLoop do not replace these great institutions and events. Instead, they are a great complement as next-generation collaboration leverages new technologies and tools while integrating with traditional models of communication, education and organization.

As I’m sure I’ll discuss in future versions of this column, the answer is rarely either/or — old or new, tech or not, Millennials or baby boomers. Even though I have my preferences as a 20- ... um, I mean 30-something, I still see the value of integrating and working across any and every channel that improves the way government works.

Until next time, I’d definitely have to say that 30 rocks.


Miriam Jones is chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. She joined e.Republic in 2000 as an editor of Converge magazine.