A chance for two students to attend the Social Media for Government Conference

I’d like to offer two students a chance to attend the Social Media for Government conference being organized by the Advanced Learning Institute (ALI) in Ottawa March 2-3.

What you’ll hear

The conference will feature a strong lineup of speakers presenting case studies of how government has used social media – both internally and externally. Sessions and presenting organizations will include:

  • Engaging your employees before you engage the public, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada;
  • Using social media to build relationships and reduce crime, Toronto Police Services;
  • Developing a collaborative network in a hierarchical organization, Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre;
  • Social Media And Government Communications: Using social media to communicate and engage the public while complying with government policies and laws, Government of Canada’s Community Communications Office;
  • Making the business case for social media, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation;
  • Social media strategy rules of engagement and evaluation metrics, Human Resources and Skills Development;
  • Using social media to address the needs of a diverse audience, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care;
  • Using Facebook and Twitter to communicate in an ever-changing communications environment, Genome Alberta;
  • Strategy before tactics, Public Safety Canada;
  • Expanding your social media network while staying within your agency’s guidelines, standards and policies, Parks Canada;
  • Using social media on both sides of the firewall, Canadian Tourism Commission;
  • Social networking  to create a more agile and responsive organization, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency;
  • New web analytics for a new wave of social media, City of Ottawa;
  • Using social media to foster innovation and drive change in a large organization, Royal Bank of Canada (Yes, not a government organization. But a very large organization exploring the use of social media.)

I’ll be chairing the conference and presenting a workshop on the day before it opens.

How you can attend

As I was preparing, it occurred to me that this conference would be a wonderful learning experience for a student interested in social media, communications, political science or journalism. But the registration probably puts it out of reach of all but the wealthiest students.

So … I bought a couple tickets to the conference and I’d like to give them to two students who will benefit from the sessions.

Interested in attending? Here’s how you can get one of these tickets.

Leave a comment below or write a post on your own blog explaining how this learning experience would fit in with your academic studies.

I’ll read the comments and posts and offer the tickets to the two students who I think make the best case. Simple.

So, if you’re a post-secondary student and you’d like to attend, tell me why. Also, if you know a student who you think could benefit from this opportunity, please point out this post to them.

I’ll select the winning students at 5PM Feb. 25 and contact them that evening.

  • What a great idea! I would have jumped on an opportunity like this when I was in school.

  • Erin Allen

    I am a student in the advertising at Loyalist College, in Belleville, Ontario, and I feel that this conference would be beneficial to me. Currently, I am doing an internship at a full service advertising agency in Belleville, Ontario. One of my main responsibilities is updating their facebook fan page and twitter account. Seeing how other organizations have used social media would be very helpful as I make my way from school out into the industry.

    As of now, my social media experience is limited to what I do for my internship, and my person twitter and facebook accounts but I would love to broaden my knowledge.

    Thank you for the opportunity.

  • Patricia

    I would love to attend!
    I am a Journalism student at La Cité collégiale and I work for the public service.
    I have worked on using social media, youTube actually and blogging as well, to communicate and engage the public in discussions about loans, grants and services offered by the Government of Canada.
    It’s a pilot project, really, that I began working on this summer in 2009.
    For that same reason, one of my biggest challenges was to comply with government policies and laws while using social media to do my work.
    My employers are always telling me they are hoping for me to be among those that bring forward innovative ways to keep our social media projects going.
    This conference would be a great opportunity to get some tips …and to learn more about social media for myself! I’m not exaclty an avid tweeter, but the people and teachers I discuss with every day in class make me feel like I should be kept in the loop about how “revolutionnary” twitter is and will become over the followin years to come for journalists everywhere!

  • Julia

    Here’s my why:

    Conceptualizing new forms of communication has far-reaching implications for all people. As a women’s studies major, I’m fascinated by copyright, access to media and non-linear (top down) forms of social interaction. The immediacy of crowd-sourced information gathering and validation is not only valuable for activists, but for governments interested in what people are saying and doing in relation to governments. From the ‘reasonable accomodation’ talks in Quebec to the fervour over management of the tar-sands, localized, simple, accessible conversations shape the way we perceive and interact with each other.

    Given this, who really has access to this simple, accessible engagement platform? Certainly not anyone lacking access to broadband, including Northern Canadians, impoverished Canadians, Farmers, rural Canadians and numerous others who suffer not from excessive marketing and data mining, but from invisibility in the digital age. Those companies who engage in throttling – what they call ‘shaping’ – are those same companies who refuse to expand the Canadian infrastructure, effectively shutting out those who grow our food, need access to public housing, and attempt to disseminate our culture and history.

    One Acadian language will die in my lifetime because there is only one person left who can speak it. I can’t engage with local farmers online because connections to their farms require a 10,000.00$ investment from each individual farmer. These issues and more of access to conversation are the reason I want to learn about what governments and banks are interested in using social media for and why it is in their best interest to have ignored those who are ‘off the grid’ thus far.

  • I am excited for this opportunity. Please look at my link to see why I am an excellent candidate. I would like to thank Joseph Thornley in advance for thinking of Ottawa students for this conference.

    Kristy Fallon

  • I’m really excited for this opportunity. Please check out my link to find out why I am a great candidate to attend the conference.

    Thank you,
    Kristy Fallon

  • Joseph,

    We first met downtown Calgary – we were both looking for the Third Tuesday Meetup Meeting. Troy Wason (@Imparo) navigated the streets and we made it. You were an esteemed guest and I was a MA in Communications Studies student trying to connect with other social media rats in the city.

    Currently I am a graduate student in the Faculty of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary. In my undergraduate degree I took an interest in social media and wrote an Honours thesis about how social media, particularly Facebook, was changing student government election campaigns. My research took me to the University of Alberta campus as well as the University of Calgary. I discovered that social media was not just another medium to advertise student candidacy but a way for large campuses to get involved in the election process. Not only did both campuses have higher voter turnouts the year of my research (2007-2008), but the numbers of students participating in online conversations about candidates related to the number of votes candidates received.

    I knew my research wasn’t done – I entered in to the Masters program with the desire to see how social media was changing government on a larger scale. Currently I’m looking at online conversations concerning Alberta’s Bill 44 and Bill 50. Clearly citizens are participating in conversations online – but are these conversations making a difference? And if they aren’t how can they? I believe social media is fuelling the transformation of the private individual to the public citizen. Principles of deliberative democracy are evident on blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. It excites me. I’m interested in hearing the perspective of experts in the field of social media – how government and business are making the most of these conversations.

    I would love to attend Social Media for Government in Ottawa. As a graduate student finances are tight – but it is so important for me to network across the nation with others practicing, researching, and innovating social media for government. Attending this conference shows me the application of my research; it solidifies my field work and will give me solid examples. It “fits” with my academic studies because it is my academic field of study.

    Thank you for this opportunity. I look forward to the lessons I will learn, the people I will meet, and the inspiration I will receive as I move in to writing the final chapters of my MA thesis.

    Christina Rontynen (@crontynen)

  • Meaghan Kierstead


    I am a third year Public Relations Co-Op student at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The course is a four year program that runs twelve months of the year for the last three years. Over the course of the last three years, I will complete three work term placements with companies around Nova Scotia and potentially the rest of Canada. There is a lot of emphasis placed on social media in my program, but the professors do not seem to have a lot of know-how about where social networking tools fit in the workplace and how they can be an effective means of marketing.

    I am currently working in my second Co-Op term with a company in downtown Halifax. There is a social media campaign in place here that is fairly solid, but could be more effective. There is a fair amount of know-how surrounding social media, but it is so busy here that any training I could receive will fall to the wayside as the company prepares the financials and communications tools as we approach the end of the fiscal year. I would love to learn more about the many different uses that social media has and help my company implement them to enhance their online presence.

    Employers are expecting new graduates to come to them with a wealth of information about social media and social media marketing – which is not readily available to us at the university level. I have one more Co-Op work placement left before I am ejected into the ‘real’ world, and I need to be prepared.

    Social media is a critical component of public relations and managing a company’s reputation. As a student, I am financially unable to attend conferences such as these, but the information shared will provide me with knowledge that will serve to advance my career and enhance my last year and a half in the academic world. I have not had the opportunity to attend any conferences or sessions through the university or a work term placement – this would be an invaluable opportunity to network with professionals from across Canada, develop my skills as a professional PR practitioner and grow the hard skills that I can offer to an employer.

    Social Media for Government in Ottawa would present me with an opportunity that would not be available to me otherwise. The conference will help me help a company with their social media needs – and help position me as an asset to a potential employer. Social media has changed the way the world interacts with companies, and I need to be in on the conversation.


    Meaghan Kierstead

  • Hello,
    I am currently completing my last semester of my undergrad in Public Relations at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto. I am marketing myself to potential employers as a communications and social media consultant.

    The opportunity to attend the Social Media for Government conference would help further my studies and my career for the following reasons.

    A final thesis is required for graduation and the topic I have chosen focuses on the need for the Government of Canada to implement social media as a communication tool for relaying messages to citizens. A creative aspect of this thesis is creating a social media marketing plan outlining how social media (internal government tool and external tools) can be implimented into elements of the Youth Employment Strategy to help with promotion, FSWEP recruitment and public service renewal. Attending this event would allow for an understanding of how social media is already being implemented and the challenges these departments had to overcome or are facing.

    I have spent the last three years working for Service Canada (formerly the HRSDC) where I have worked as a team lead on youth programs, assisted in client affairs and am currently completing a co-op term working as a Media Liaison Officer where a major project I am undertaking is promoting the use of internal social media / web 2.0 tools to supervisors and coordinators.

    I am incredibly passionate about the public service and am interested in having the opportunity to speak with other government communicators and to network with them in an effort to learn more about what other branches of the government are responsible for and what they have to offer.

    Please consider me for this opportunity,

    Thank you,
    Melissa Loomans

  • Austin Menyasz

    Hi Joseph,

    My name is Austin Menyasz, and I am currently a student working for Public Safety Canada in the National Capital Region. I am also finishing my undergraduate degree in political science and public administration at the University of Ottawa. Soon thereafter, I will pursuing my MPA at either the University of Ottawa while I work, or taking a year off and doing it at Hong Kong University (haven’t decided yet, please don’t remind me).

    My area of interest in public administration is the integration of the public into the administration. I believe that the public has been excluded from the decision-making processes for too long, and the poor impression that citizens have of their government and of civil servants is a manifestation of our current reality. However, with the development of new technologies, and the limitless possibilities for reaching Canadians through online interaction, we are presented with an opportunity to leverage these technologies and bring the public back as a key stakeholder.

    It would be a great opportunity to see how other departments are using social media, especially because my team is trying to develop an interactive portal for our community of practice. Getting the chance to learn from these trailblazers is difficult without such conferences, because departmental silos still separate so many likeminded public servants from sharing their successes and tips from would-be adopters or pushers. But I believe that the longterm goal of social media in government should be as an enabler for better public consultation.

    In any case, I would be very excited to get the chance to go, and would appreciate your generosity!

    Austin Menyasz


  • My name is Lesley Chang, and I would absolutely love to attend this conference! When I first heard about it, I asked you on Twitter to see if they had student rates, as they didn’t have anything posted on the conference website.

    If I were to win a ticket, it’d be a very last minute trip but believe me when I say that this conference is more than right up my alley. I started volunteering for a local political candidate during BC’s provincial election in May 2009, helping her communications team navigate the world of social media. A lot of what I did was more technical than messaging, seeing as how I lacked experience with messaging. From then on, I was hooked!

    Government communications, caucus communications, public affairs bureau, and political communications are definitely something I’m interested in – be it with social media tools or otherwise. I was extremely lucky to be paired up with a former Senior Special Assistant – for Prime Minister, Hon. Paul Martin in the Canadian Public Relations Society Vancouver chapter’s mentorship program, and everything I’ve heard about this field is extremely intriguing to me.

    My path is only beginning. I’ve read the other comments, and it sounds like we could all benefit from these tickets you’re generously offering. You certainly have your work cut out for you!

    Good luck to all entrants!

  • Hi Joseph,

    I included my entry on my blog! =D


  • Hello Joseph,

    My name is Femi Fasoyinu. I am a second-year public relations student at Algonquin College. I am very interested to learn more about social media in government. By attending this conference I will have this opportunity. I will be able to see how this online conversation is changing how businesses communicate, and how the government is looking to get involved in this conversation.

    As a young person in the government, I want to be at the forefront of this conversation. I want to understand how it is going to affect the relationship government has to the Canadians they serve.

    Currently, I work for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada in the Medical Expertise Division, CPP Appeals, and have done so for the last two years.

    It has been a great experience working with doctors, adjudicators, lawyers, and other support staff in providing service to the thousands of Canadians whose disability has hindered them from the simple daily tasks we able bodied people take for granted.

    The importance of social media in PR and communication is growing and will continue to grow. It allows us to touch different networks in speeds we haven’t thought possible before.

    If I can bring the knowledge from this conference to my department, the communication processes for both the internal and external networks at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has the potential to be improved and be a greater benefit to all who are involved.

    Internally, communication between support staff, doctors, adjudicators, and lawyers has the opportunity to be improved and so there are better relations between this diverse group.

    Externally to the Canadians we serve, they will be able to receive the information that will impact their lives in ways that will be more convenient to them and more efficient to us in our department.

    Finally, on a more personal level, as a client of Royal Bank of Canada, a company I am involved with daily on a basis for my banking needs, I am interested to see the ways they are getting involved in social media.

    Social media is a hot topic right now in PR and communication. I want to the chance to be involved and learn about how it is changing the way businesses interact with one another and those they provide products or services to.

    Thank you for this opportunity.

    My contact info is:

    E-mail: [email protected]
    Twitter: @femifasoyinu

    Femi Fasoyinu

  • Morganne King Wale

    I admit it, I’m not tech-savvy. Well I am compared to my parents, but compared to my peers I am a quite few years behind. Nevertheless, I’ve been muddling my way through social media for the past five years.

    For the past three years I have had to become more familiar with these formats in order to better advertise the many organizations and events in which I participate. This has included being a student manager for the McMaster Students Union (MSU) and being a campaign manager for two student union presidential campaign candidates, where we were competing with as many as seven other campaign teams for attention on Facebook, etc. This made me more aware of the need for a specific strategy for social media in order to avoid overwhelming your audience. Overwhelming your audience can be a strategy too, but it is one that can actually induce apathy rather than overcoming apathy.

    Last year, I was responsible for raising awareness about the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) at McMaster University. We began with word of mouth using a group of twenty volunteers, then we expanded into social media as another way to pique people’s interest. And it was a success! Social media allowed us to get out brand out there for people to see and soon we had several students asking us what this OUSA thing was. Since we had a maximum of 30 people working to spread the word about OUSA via social media, we were able to target many different audiences and never overwhelmed any one group of students, I hope.

    I’ve seen social media campaigns work and I’ve seen them fail. Failures have included a recent STAND movie screening event I was a part of which showed me that not all events and organizations can reach their ideal audience through social media. I’ve also learned that some organizations, such as the Brantford Arts Block in my hometown of Brantford, Ontario and Apathy is Boring, can exploit social media to their benefit in order to reach their ideal audience, 20-something hipsterish types.

    Sorry for the rather shameless plugs for these various organizations, they are all amazing and I hope that if you’re reading this you will Google at least one of them. Please?


    p.s. I just realized I didn’t really give any personal information in here. My name is Morganne and I’m a fifth year honours peace studies and political science student at McMaster University. I’m currently volunteering for many different organizations in various different capacities: policy researcher for STAND Canada, OUSA volunteer, McMaster Students Union volunteer for various committees, Apathy is Boring volunteer. And I spam people every which way I can about all of these organizations and the causes they champion. I’ve also worked “in politics” in the constituency offices of my local MP and MPP, but that was before social media really hit it big so I haven’t had the opportunity to understand the government perspective. This is why I would really appreciate the opportunity to attend this conference. While my more recent experience lies in the non-profit realm, ideally I would like to work within the bureaucracy of the Canadian government. I want to help share my interest in politics and government with my peers. I know many politically active students however we are painted as apathetic by media. I want to see that description changed to one that shows that students and youth are passionate about politics and government. Government has begun to approach youth using their forums (Facebook, Twitter) and it is now our turn to reach out and participate, something with which I’d like to help.

  • Meg

    “Distractivity is what you’re doing when you get distracted from what you should be doing. It’s generally what you want to do, often what you need to do, and arguably, what you’ll do best.”

    This is how I feel about social media. It’s what I read about when I’m procrastinating and what I’m doing when I should be doing my homework. However, as much as I’ve discovered through my own initiatives, I would love an opportunity to really learn about social media in a more formal setting. Specifically, I would learn how it’s being implemented in the real world.

    The Social Media for Government Conference seems to be the perfect opportunity for me. It will allow me the opportunity to learn from others and see how social media is being used in the government. Furthermore, since next week is the PR reading week at Algonquin, it will allow me to continue the tradition of pay attention to social media when I should be studying!

    Thank you for the opportunity!
    Meg Murray

  • I’m currently in the stages of completing my MA thesis proposal at the University of Ottawa in organizational communications where I will be examining a British Columbia government initiative. The initiative, “The Future of Work” aims to better engage employees and citizens by streamlining processes using information technologies. My interest in government and IT started during my undergraduate years at York university through taking classes in new technologies strategy and effective communication. I then spent a year working hard at Humber College in the public administration program that furthered my knowledge of the inner workings of the government and fueled a desire to implement change.

    An issue I face in academia is a back log on published peer reviewed journals that creates a struggle to locate recent tactile examples and methodologies that can be used in my research. This conference fills that void by providing multiple sessions that look like they are applicable and extremely helpul to my current research.

    External to, but not separate from, my studies is my involvement in local events that engage the public and government workforce through events like Third Tuesdays, Girl Geek Dinners and Change Camp. My first third Tuesday was in Toronto with Anthony Williams presenting about Wikinomics while I attended York.

    Finally I just want to say that looking at the line up of this conference actually excites me and it is an amazing opportunities for the students who get to participate. Thank you for offering it.

    Finally I just want to say that looking at the line up of this conference actually excites me and it is an amazing opportunities for the students who get to participate. Thank you for offering it.

  • My interests in social media and government go beyond my studies in political science at McMaster University. It was on a parliamentary internship in 2007 doing basic communications work that I first realized that public relations wasn’t only a viable career choice, but one that I would thoroughly enjoy.

    Three years later, I haven’t looked back.

    I love what I do as an intern in the public relations office at McMaster. I’ve even been able to implement some basic social media tools into our mix of day-to-day activities. That being said, I need some help.

    I have no idea how other public sector organizations are utilizing these tools. I have no case studies from which to work. Worst of all, though there are conferences such as this one available to me, they are financially out of my reach.

    My supervisors look to me for guidance in developing our social media strategy. I want to be able to make a good impression during my internship so that I may have the opportunity to build a career in public relations. I also want to ensure that I have the proper training I need to become proficient in the use of social media within the public sector.

    For these reasons, and many more than I can list here, I ask you to consider investing a ticket to this conference in me.

    It will be money well spent.