NAPA launches collaboration Web site

The Collaboration Project aims to attract leaders to use interactive social tools "to solve government's complex problems."

If you've ever wished your federal agency could adopt wikis, use YouTube or delve into the virtual world but feared the security, technology and political barriers were too high to overcome, take heart. You've got supporters, and they have success stories.

Comment on this article in The Forum.On May 8, the National Academy of Public Administration went live with its Collaboration Project Web site. The project, which began in February, "is an independent forum of leaders committed to leveraging the interactive Web and the benefits of collaborative technology to solve government's complex problems," it states.

The site is a great example of collaboration, chock-a-block as it is with case studies, a long discourse on government 2.0 by Don Tapscott, Anthony Williams and Dan Herman, authors of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (Portfolio Media, 2006), a blog and plenty more. There's even a catchy slogan: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what we can do together."

And that's the point of the whole endeavor, finding out through experimentation how the wisdom of crowds can be applied to improving operations and services, while simultaneously realizing the participatory aspiration of true democracy.

But neither the site nor the project is lost in lofty intentions. There's plenty here about the barriers: the fears of middle managers; the low capacity of servers; the terror of poor security, ill-spoken employees and ranting citizens.Case studies offer managers wise counsel, while Kip Hawley, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, hosts a presentation about TSA's wiki, the Idea Factory. The notes detail all sorts of potential pitfalls and how agencies can address them, complete with audio snippets from the event in true Web 2.0 fashion.

The site also offers video: the inaugural YouTube video features Molly O'Neill, Environmental Protection Agency chief information officer, talking about a Pacific Northwest protection effort.

The collaboration between EPA and the Puget Sound Leadership Council encouraged people and groups interested in improving the Puget Sound ecosystem to offer their ideas online. In the first 36 hours the video received 17,000 page views and 178 quality submissions, ONeill says, conquering her fears that no one would contribute or that the contributors would not have sound ideas to offer.

Cases include examples from NASA, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Patent and Trademark Office, but so far omit one of my favorites, the smart, funny and surprisingly engaging Evolution of Security blog at TSA.