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Gov 2.0 x Reality TV: Brick City

If you haven’t already seen the new Sundance channel reality/doc series, “ Brick City ” (Sundays at 9PM EST), then you haven’t experienced one of the best examples of the use of new media to create better, more transparent governance, or what is now popularly referred to as ‘Gov 2.0′. President Obama, in his “Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government” , explains:

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency , public participation , and collaboration . Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Over months of shooting and 5 hour-long episodes, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark ( @CoryBooker on Twitter, another great example of Booker’s commitment to Gov 2.0) opens up his office, his city, and his own life to the Emmy-deserving cameras of Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin (“The Last Party”, “The Blues”). And not only Booker, the energetic, Ivy league-educated, community organizer (remind you of anyone?) 1st term mayor, who defeated longtime incumbent Sharpe James (see Oscar-nominated doc “Street Fight” ), and has made it his mission to rebrand Newark as a city on the rise. But also the Police Director, who is fighting not only the gangs on the street but his political opponents within the Department; a former gang-member turned women’s activist, who is pregnant with her second child (by her boyfriend from the rival gang) and also facing multiple years in prison for an assault in 2004; the principal of one of the city’s underfunded public high-schools, who is trying to put pressure on the school board to make good on their promise of a new school building; even the governor, former Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine, makes a few cameos. So, how does this all add up to a case study of effective use of Gov 2.0 strategies? Not to be a pain in the ass, but you’ll really have to watch to understand. The best I can do is explain that it’s all in the way each character uses the power of the camera to connect with the virtual community that has grown around the show, from its fans, watching live, streaming clips, commenting, tweeting, retweeting, and in other ways multiplying the impact of the show’s content and various change-agenda; the way those characters use the show as part of a multi-platform social media campaign to promote their individual causes. This allows Cory Booker to be tweeting about Newark’s “achievements” as they unfold on the screen and in the online forums and episode guides. It allows  ex-gangmember Jayda to promote her peer group, Nine Strong Women , and provide professional video content to its website. It allows Central Highschool Principal Ras Baraka to make an impassioned speech to his students about the abnormalcy of gang violence and have it reach audiences across the state and country, even the world (see below).

Please notice the posting by a Youtube member (unaffiliated with the school or the show) of Facebook and Twitter links for “OurBrickCity” and “CoryBooker”, as well as the positive comments from actual students and supporters of Principal Baraka. I would call that a very effective partnership between Education, Media, and Government, and the public to rally wide support behind a change-initiative. It’s transparent, it’s open, it’s participatory, it’s collaborative, and it aims to build trust between partners. In fact, the Producers Guild of America recently hosted a panel to discuss “Brick City” as a ‘New Media Marketing Case Study’ .

But more than just the effectiveness of increasing visibility for the show and, ostensibly, support for the various causes that it champions, “Brick City” introduces a whole new way to (literally) look at governance: as a fully transparent, interactive, publicly-accountable system of leadership.

Here’s a little promo reel. Many more clips at the Sundance site.

This post originally appeared on The Imagination Blog.

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