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Created

September 8, 2008

Who needs to address the Engagement Gap?

Previously, Rob Pinkerton wrote our first installment on engagement for government. Rob mentioned how the topic is somewhat abstract so I’m opting to share the story of how we came to the conclusion that engagement is important to government. Winding back the clock almost two years, there was a small group of people at Adobe investigating the concept of “engagement applications”. I recall many meetings, each starting in the same way, with the need to define the idea because there was someone new in the room. The idea was very fresh and came at many of the challenges in government from a very different perspective, primarily from the perspective of the citizen experience. At first, it seemed like an uphill battle, most people would eventually “get” the idea, but, not without a considerable amount of discussion.


In the months following those early meetings, the team took the message of engagement for citizens on the road. We briefed customers, analysts, the press and various thought leaders across the industry. The response was very positive and encouraging. It seemed that we tapped into something that many others were thinking about as well. In fact, we realized it wasn’t only Adobe folks having engagement conversations. Since then, research papers from the likes of Gartner, Forrester and the Center for Digital Government have appeared, universities such as Rutgers and Harvard have started offering classes and/or research papers, and many government agencies from around the globe have incorporated the concept. To get a feel for just how pervasive the idea has become, do a Yahoo or Google search on “government citizen engagement”.

To further substantiate the importance of engagement to government, in 2007, the Economist conducted a survey of government and public-sector officials and found that more than 80% of the respondents thought that engagement is either very important or important to achieving their mission. Additionally, over 75% of the respondents said the lack of engagement actually interfered with their agency’s ability to fulfill its mission! This tells me the concept is actively on the mind of government, which is good news, but that there is still much work to do. In fact, according to the survey, only 25% of public service managers think their department or agency is deeply engaged with its constituents. Over half said the lack of engagement cost their agency 20% or more of its budget annually, which translates to millions of dollars wasted.

Of course, unlike commercial entities who have the option to choose their audience and customers, public-sector organizations are mandated to accommodate the needs of all citizens, which offers a different set of opportunities to leverage technology, especially with regards to engagement solutions.

To be continued……

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