Reflections on Communities through Collaborative Tools in the Government of Canada

With only two weeks left and after last night’s meetup, I thought I’d reflect a little on some of the Government of Canada (GC) initiatives I’ve been part of over the term that are outside of my assigned projects, most of which are fairly recent or new.

Young Professionals Network Committees

Admittedly, this is a departmental (not GC) group, but it’s worth a mention.

Many departments (if not most) have a Young Professional Network (even if not by that name). YPN has committees to organize events as well as other work to support staff at the department. I sat on and contributed to:

  • Retention and Renewal Report, another survey is going out to validate the results
  • Student Committee, where we’re currently trying to develop a new orientation guide for students in the department
  • Spend a Day with Senior Management, a job shadow event which has been approved by the YPN sponsor ADM

Contributing to the committees has been a good experience. It allowed me to meet other people working in different sectors and has given me a sense of accomplishment and contribution towards the department even if I’m not here to see the results.

Wiki Community of Practice – WikiCoP

My understanding is that my coworker started wikicop about a year ago in order to have people in the GC community meet every 1-3 months and share ideas, knowledge, and experience on their internal wikis as many departments are developing or have them now. Although I only got the chance to attend a couple, it was great to see what other departments were doing with their wikis and to participate in the discussions. I also got a chance to see a couple of the ways Confluence was being used, which was neat.

GCPEDIA

The GC wiki, GCPEDIA, is a great place for GC staff to share information GC-wide without making it public. There is a lot of great stuff including draft strategies, guidelines, and start up initiatives surrounding all aspects including social media and web usability. I didn’t actually take part in sharing much information, but I have been helping with maintenance. Most of it is day-to-day stuff like fixing broken/double redirects, categorizing pages/files, and page clean ups, but I have also:

  • participated in a wikibee (essentially you do a big clean up as a group in person) for UXWG (User Experience Working Group)
  • been helping with the migration to a new and much improved National Inventory of Bridgeable Students [internal link]

Doing wiki maintenance has helped me learn more about the different departments and what goes on in GC. I also got to know a few people through doing wiki maintenance and participating in the 2011 Best User Page Contest. It was lots of fun!

I think that’s one of the things that makes GCPEDIA interesting to work on. The very active (more permanent) people have been very encouraging (i.e. @jesgood and C. Au) and people will do little things to increase the sense of community and enjoyment, namely by making fun user boxes. I got a green belt/experienced contributor award (basically it’s a level up system based on how much you contribute to GCPEDIA), the 5th level, which I think is pretty decent for a single summer.

Web 2.0 Practioners – W2P

It’s kind of funny, because I avoided Twitter for the longest time. I didn’t think I’d have much use for it, and it just seemed like another social media platform, especially since I don’t have a phone with internet and lacked a laptop for the longest time, I didn’t see how I’d get involve with any conversation.

I was pushed onto twitter because of work. It helped that I got tweetdeck installed. Regardless, I was somewhat surprised by how much of day-to-day sharing between GC employees involved twitter. I shouldn’t have been, but then I used to work at an agency where you had no internet access.

It’s been a great source of keeping up with GC Web/technology news, finding interesting reads, and resources. But most of all, #w2p really taught me what a great community can be built through twitter. It’s been a rare experience for me to simply show up and be so welcomed into a group of veritable strangers. Being a little nervous about going by myself to my first #w2p meet, I was encouraged by many #w2p members most memorably by @spydergrrl (for various reasons includind the fact that she was a co-host). At the meet, I ended up chatting mostly with @mhellstern who introduced me to lots of other people. It was great.

The proof that #w2p can just suck you in (in a good way) is how involved I got. After only two meetups, I ended up co-hosting last night’s meet up. Thanks to @macjudith and her discussions with a friend, the meetup’s theme was to meet the (bridgeable) students of #w2p and I cohosted with @mhellstern (I didn’t even know she was a bridgeable student!). Each student/recent graduate got a couple of minutes to introduce themselves and “sell” themselves just a little bit. We had a great turn out, plus as always, great conversations and stories. I got to finally put a few more faces to twitter nicknames, especially the ones from my department! Not least of all, it meant I got to add another userbox to my GCPEDIA user page (see the fun?).

I will definitely miss #w2p, because unless I get a position in the area in the future… well, it’s not unknown that getting a group together like this outside the NCR can be difficult since this is where most GC staff work and where a lot of this type of work is done since this is where all the “headquarters” are located.

Sense of Contribution, Engagement, Belonging, and Community

I’ve frequently heard people on contract talk about how they don’t in any way feel connected to their department, or the government, especially as a student when you may conceivably never return in, but I didn’t get that feeling thanks to joining #w2p and other groups. There are of course so many different ways to get involved and to find out what’s going on in the GC world, and these are but a few examples, so I encourage GC staff, especially students to get involved; it doesn’t matter that it’s only for a short time, and newbies are welcomed!

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Cynthia

A librarian learning the ways of technology, accessibility, metadata, and people

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