Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Refreshing Enthusiasm

By John Verrico, Director of Professional Development for the National Association of Government Communicators & Member, FCN Board of Directors.

Imagine bringing together representatives from multiple divisions in your organization and getting them to agree to work together. 

That could be quite a challenge just for any workaday decision.

Now imagine that what they must agree upon would completely change the way they have always done things. They would have to, as a group, establish new policies and procedures, and put aside their individual priorities, preferences and differences in order to help each other be successful.

Have them come up with an agreement committing them to work together toward achieving mutual success.

You can see this happening, right?

So, let’s ramp it up a bit. Instead of representatives from multiple divisions of the same agency, what if they were all from different agencies?

What if they were all from different governments?  Governments with such differences that they had separated from each other to form independent nation states?

Sound impossible?

I would once have agreed with you, until just a couple of weeks ago when I witnessed it happen.

In the beautiful Balkan nation of Montenegro, I had the honor of participating in the South Eastern European Communicators Conference last month. The event was attended by about 60 government public affairs professionals from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia.

Participants in the SEECOM eagerly, enthusiastically, and unanimously committed to establish open and transparent government policies and practices in their respective nation states. Together, they came up with a simple two-page declaration outlining the principles of transparency, openness, inclusiveness, integrity, impartiality and professional cooperation.

Some of these principles sound pretty familiar, don’t they? We’ve been kicking these terms around here in the United States for a few years. As government communicators, we’ve had an uphill battle trying to implement effective open government practices, trying to teach our leaders to be transparent, and convincing the public that we’re not hiding things.

If you think that it’s been challenging here, imagine what they face trying to do this for the first time in governments that have not been open at all in the past. 

Yet, as difficult and as challenging as the work ahead of them is, the government communicators in South Eastern Europe have a refreshingly positive attitude about it. They are dedicated and enthusiastically determined to work together to be successful.   

Open government is becoming a global objective and the nations in the South Eastern European region are among the latest to sign on to global Open Government Partnership initiative which kicked off in September 2011 by the United Nations. What started as a partnership with eight countries has grown to include nearly 60 in just over a year.

If the government communicators in the other participating nations are as eager and enthusiastic as those I met in Montenegro, the world may soon be a very different place.

I was delighted to be part of the kick-off of the SEECOM and one of the greatest honors of my career was to have been made an honorary member of the forum. I look forward to continuing to work with these extraordinary communications professionals in South Eastern Europe. As they begin to implement changes in their own governments, I think there will be much to learn from their experiences.

Plus, it really puts perspective on the petty interoffice politics we deal with on a daily basis.

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