Fostering A Facebook For the Feds

By Stephen Barr
Monday, October 23, 2006

MySpace. Friendster. Facebook. YoungFeds?

A nonprofit public service group launches YoungFeds.org today -- featuring blogs, message boards, video clips and, yes, some old-fashioned career advice.

"The goal is to get people in the young feds community to provide content or give direction to the content," David Roberts , 26, a leader and organizer of the online clubhouse, said as he loaded material onto the new Web site from a laptop computer Friday.

Roberts and other organizers hope the Web site will connect under-35 professionals across government and, with the help of a little buzz, grow into an online networking place for the federal sector.

The organizers of YoungFeds envision the site becoming a destination for young government workers where they, not the organizers, will create a sense of community. Over time, organizers hope, the YoungFeds site will permit users to set up blogs, create profiles, link to friends, search out other young employees in their agency, and post events on a calendar so that users can meet one another in person at breakfast forums and evening receptions.

Roberts is a staff member at the nonprofit Council for Excellence in Government, which is sponsoring the YoungFeds project in partnership with Geico, the insurance company. The project is being guided by a group of some 35 young people, in and out of government, called "35 Under 35," or "35<35."

Antony DiGiovanni , 34, is part of the steering group, and he has written what the Web site calls an "UnCommentary" about working on temporary assignment at a Capitol Hill subcommittee as a "detailee" from his agency, the Energy Department. It's called "The Devil Shouldn't Be in the Details."

About 20 percent of federal employees are 35 or younger, and many work in offices where up to 60 percent of the staff will be eligible to retire in the next 10 years.

When DiGiovanni joined Energy in 2000, he said, "I got the sense that young people feel isolated in the federal government." A Web site for younger employees, he said, could be "a promising way to help people find each other."

In addition to "UnCommentary," the YoungFeds site will feature "ProFile," accounts of young people who are making a mark in government; "Sound Bytes," featuring user-produced podcasts, webcasts and YouTube videos; and "Brand U," a summary of a hot topic in government and what a young person would need to do to take advantage of the trend.

Like many other Web sites, YoungFeds will gather feedback for a poll, called "The Gauge," to see what, for example, viewers think of new pay-for-performance rules, their office's Friday casual dress code and food in government cafeterias.

More serious offerings will include "Big League Advice" from current or former federal officials on how they climbed the ladder to success, and "Working Points," a sort of been-there-done-that column that steers young employees to data and practices that they might find useful in their professional lives.

The site's organizers do not want to be seen as competitors to associations and membership groups, such as Young Government Leaders, but as a place that welcomes them.

"Our hope is that individuals and organizations use the site and live activities as a like-minded community to improve government," said Tony Nicely , Geico's chairman and president.

Patricia McGinnis , president of the Council for Excellence in Government, said she expects "the infectious ingenuity of this network to multiply as word spreads about what it means to be a young fed."

DiGiovanni said he plans to send e-mails today informing colleagues of the YoungFeds launch in hopes of creating some buzz about the project. "It could be more than just a Web site, and bring people together for sharing ideas," he said.

E-mail Stephen Barr atbarrs@washpost.com.


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