One small decision by Iceland, One big social change

Photo on Flickr by Moyan Brenn used under Creative Commons License

Photo on Flickr by Moyan Brenn used under Creative Commons License

So this week in class we have been looking at how Government can use social media to be more open and transparent, and how they can restore participation in social, civic, political and economic intuitions. For those of you interested in the theory check out this mouthful “From Bowling Alone to Tweeting Together: Technology-Mediated Social Participation” by Hochheiser and Shneiderman – $10 if you can pronounce their last names!

Anyway, essentially the article looks at Government 2.0, which is really just a fancy way of saying ‘as a Government, we are going to try and connect better with the people through social platforms’. Think Obama’s 08 or Kevin’s 07 social political campaigns. Both campaigns developed simple and basic messages to get the people involved – Obama’s campaign simply asked Americans to enroll to vote, and Kevin 07 made politicians approachable – made himself one of the masses – read more about his campaign here.
There have been countless studies looking at how Government’s can make friends with new media, why and the results of doing so. Check these out,,

But one of the best examples of Government actually doing so is in Iceland – now if you’re anything like me the only thing you know about Iceland is that in Mighty Ducks 2, the ducks faced off against the Iceland team in the Junior Goodwill games and won. In 2008, after the banking crisis where billions of dollars were lost in collapsed Icelandic banks, the Government drafted a new constitution in an attempt to change the political atmosphere in their despondent nation. But, the Government used social media to get the opinions of their citizens. They asked them to share their ideas as to what the new constitution should contain.

The Iceland council posted draft clauses for the constitution on its website every week. The public had the ability to comment or join in with discussion on the council’s Facebook page.
The council also established a Twitter account, a YouTube page which posted interviews with its members and a Flickr account containing pictures of the council members at work. Meetings of the council were open to the public and live streamed on the web and to their Facebook page.

The result from the locals was overwhelming – Iceland developed a constitution truly written by the people. Thorvaldur Gylfason, a member of Iceland’s constitutional council told The Guardian that the public saw the constitution come into being before their eyes. “This is very different from old times where constitution makers sometimes found it better to find themselves a remote spot out of sight, out of touch,” he said.

So what has the Iceland Government taught us? They have taught us that with consistently using the right social media tools and messages, Governments can engage people actively in what they do.
Social Girl

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