Progress with Open Opportunities: Notes from the Field

A motivational note reads, Let's be Awesome! Signed, The voice in your head

As a task creator with an ambitious agenda and limited resources, I’ve got a great deal of incentive to make the most use that I can of Open Opportunities. And indeed, Open Opportunities participants have made a concrete and positive difference in the operations of our office, the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office, part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the Department of Commerce.

Open Opportunities participants have, among other things:

  • Written blog content for a national outlet
  • Created infographics that have boosted traffic on our Twitter account, @AdvMfgNPO
  • Redesigned our organizational charts and stakeholder maps
  • Created graphics used in executive briefings and external speeches
  • Teamed up to launch our Facebook account (forthcoming)
  • Written “tough questions” for use in FAQs
  • Researched practical applications of the complex technologies our institutes develop

This isn’t to say that it’s a piece of cake to convince folks to try it: Open Opportunities involves unfamiliar tasks, new virtual colleagues, and requirements that can seem daunting.

Plus, there’s always the issue of getting buy-in. I’ve heard the concern expressed: “will my boss think of this as ‘moonlighting?’”

Still, supervisors on the whole are supportive, and the existence of this interagency skills exchange is a gigantic leap forward for those who want to learn new skills without leaving their duty station for a significant amount of time. And there has been a noticeable trend upward in employee interest in the program since I started posting tasks a few months ago.

When they hear how it works in practice, the program sounds so good that people sometimes ask me, “can this be for real?” I’ve even had non-participants contact me, wanting to learn how to create tasks, create community around them, and generally what my experience with the program has been.

Indeed, this program has proven to be a lifesaver. Not only is it useful for getting specific tasks done, but it also:

  • Generates objective third-party feedback about the program’s existing communication efforts
  • Helps to identify additional communication gaps in the program
  • Provides a means for motivated professionals to network with one another and support each other’s professional development

There are many reasons people participate in Open Opportunities. Some want to advance their careers by learning new skills and others want to make a difference. As such, they’re exactly the kinds of people you want to work with—collaborative yet independent, constructive critical thinkers, and skilled at using time productively.

What are your thoughts about Open Opportunities, as a participant, potential participant, or as someone engaged in posting tasks? Your comments will help me, and DigitalGov, improve the program.

And if you’re interested in taking on any of our tasks, please check out the listings on Open Opportunities—or drop me a line and suggest one.

Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. is the Associate Director for Communications at the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office, NIST, Department of Commerce. For more information on the program, visit the Advanced Manufacturing website, follow the program on Twitter at @AdvMfgNPO, or join the LinkedIn Group. Feel free to contact Dannielle directly.

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