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Open Government Opens the Doors to Small Business

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Open Government Opens the Doors to Small Business

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: June 2, 2009

On May 21, a White House blog entry saw the launch of the 'Open Government Initiative' - which echoes and makes real the pledge made by President Obama to make the Federal government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.

The main thrust of the initiative, according to the White House, is to allow for 'an unprecedented process of public engagement in policy making ... with the government soliciting comments and input on draft recommendations, as well as seeking ideas from citizens early in the recommendation creation process.'

While the 'Open Government Initiative' represents a truly centralized commitment from the government to openness, many agencies have been busy for some time developing and refining innovative forms of citizen outreach - not least of which is the first government-sponsored online community for small businesses - Business.gov Community - hosted on www.business.gov.

Championing the Open Government Initiative with the Small Business Owner in Mind

Whether you are a Web 2.0 social media hound or prefer to get your information from more traditional Web and print sources, it’s hard to ignore the varied, and somewhat disparate, efforts by government agencies to dip their toes into new media in the form of tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, and more.

NASA, for example, has nearly 60,000 followers on Twitter and The White House has over 200,000 'fans' on Facebook. State and local agencies use Web 2.0 tools to collaborate internally and improve citizen outreach in areas such as emergency response, public transportation updates, and more recently in providing visibility into the use and reporting of Stimulus-related public funds.

Few agencies, however, have what would be considered in the business world as an integrated approach to citizen outreach.

Business.gov does exactly this and challenges the traditional concepts of public outreach by combining home grown social media tools - such as the Business.gov Community - as well as popular, established tools such as Facebook and Twitter, to help small businesses start-up, operate, and grow with resources from across government.

Small Business and Government have a Two-Way Discourse (in Plain Language)

An extension of the 'official business link to the U.S. Government' - Business.gov - the Business.gov Community (launched in February 2009) combines plain language discussion forums, blogs, and useful tools for navigating the labyrinth of government resources, policies, laws, and opportunities that impact the small business owner.

The objective of the online community is to allow business owners to interact directly with government and industry professionals, as well as with each other.

The site also provides one-stop access to information that is normally stove-piped across 22 different government Web sites including the Small Business Administration, IRS, Department of Labor, Federal Trade Commission, and more.

Sharing Entrepreneurial Goodwill and Advice

What you’ll find on the site isn’t quite what you’d expect from the government.

Because the Community site is user-driven in its content, the tone is conversational and uses familiar interactivity tools such as forums and blogs, covering topics such as starting and managing a business, staying in compliance, and understanding governmental assistance and support programs.

With over 3,000 registered users to date, it’s interesting to see the diversity of interaction that unfolds online, with small business experts and entrepreneurs themselves chiming in to help others out on all manner of questions from 'how do I protect my business when a customer gets injured on my premises?' to 'how do I get a loan with bad credit?'

The team at Business.gov also looks to community members for feedback to drive new content and features on the site through its 'What kind of topics would you like to see in this Community?' as well as general input on how the government can better serve the small business community.

So innovative has Business.gov’s Community been in its delivery of the vision of open government, that the project was selected by the administration and celebrated on its newly launched 'Innovations Gallery' as an example of new ways in which agencies are meeting open government objectives - enabled by Web 2.0 technologies.

View the Business.gov Community profile on the White House’s Innovations Gallery here.

Additional Resources

  • The Open Government Innovations Gallery - Celebrates the innovators and innovations championing the President’s vision of more effective and open government. Browse examples of new ways in which agencies across the Executive branch are using transparency, participation, and collaboration to achieve their mission.
  • The Open Government Initiative - More on how this new public engagement program is unfolding and how you can participate.
Message Edited by CaronBee on 06-02-2009 09:58 AM

About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


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