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Politics riding the social wave

We’re starting to see strong instances of social media being brought into politics in a big way. Governments and agencies around the world have certainly been dabbling and taking small steps towards social media for some time, but so far, they haven’t taken any major actions to plunge in and take full advantage of social media for the things its good for: two-way communication. In the last few months, it’s refreshing to see this is starting to change.

The first example is very recent. Of course, it’s Obama’s Facebook and Twitter town halls.I was excited when I learned of Obama’s live streaming Facebook Town Hall a few months ago – and was pressed up to my phone on a streetcar trying to catch every word. I was even more impressed last night when I saw the news about Obama’s Twitter Town Hall. The combination of the two events likely makes Obama, in my opinion, one one of the most progressive and savvy world leaders when it comes to leveraging the power of social media as a means of communication. We saw it on the campaign trail in the run for Presidency, and we see it now three years later. While the raw, uncontrollable democracy and equalized voices of social media may cause fear and apprehension for some, it’s heartening to see Obama trying it, embracing it, leveraging it to reach deeper into the minds of his audience. While it’s been causing a stir around the quality of some of the questions asked, on the other side, there have also been some very real issues to Americans, and frankly the global community, that have been addressed as well. With democratic discussions, you take the good with the bad.

Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s Communications Director was quoted saying:

If you’re going to communicate with the broad public, it is no longer sufficient to simply do it through the traditional mainstream media. We’re always on the lookout for ways to have a productive interaction with the public in new and exciting ways.

I have to say, I fully agree.

And then, there’s Iceland. Having suffered a catastrophic financial crash in 2008, Iceland is doing everything it can to bounce back… including crowdsourcing their new constitution. They’ve engaged 950 randomly selected citizens to come together to brainstorm and discuss the new constitution, and have opened up the process to the public for further input and discussion: a process which has been overseen by a committee of 25.

They’ve built out their new website as a hub of their progress that houses line-by-line posts of new constitutional clauses for public commentary. They have established a Facebook page to encourage further discussion and to give updates on progress. And finally Twitter to push out links to information and to field public questions. Iceland, has in effect, methodically put in place a full-blown cross-channel digital strategy, and they’re doing it right.

As a bit of trivia, it turns out that Iceland has never actually written its own constitution before. The one currently in place was based entirely on the Danish constitution and carried over in 1944 when Iceland gained independence from Denmark. It’s certainly time for a change – and what a way to do it.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next – and whether other countries will start following suit.

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