Dutch grassroots social media project wins prestigious prize

Open source project started by Dutch government employees wins Management 2.0 M-Prize by highlighting benefits of web 2.0.

A grassroots social media project started by Dutch government workers has won a prestigious Management 2.0 M-Prize, designed to highlight the ways in which web 2.0 can improve communication among employees. The award is co-sponsored by consulting firm McKinsey, management expert Gary Hamel's Management Innovation eXchange, and the Harvard Business Review.

The Dutch entry describes a scheme to share office and conference space and other resources. The previously existing office booking and security system was time-consuming, bureaucratic and frustrating, leading one employee to tweet "Help, we want to work in all government buildings!" From this simple beginning, a group formed and decided to use open source software to create a new reservation system, bringing one building at a time into the scheme.

The project, called Deelstoel (‘share chair') allows civil servants to cut through red tape and share offices, knowledge, expertise and resources through the website www.deelstoel.nl. The website was quickly built on the Ruby on Rails open source platform and was deliberately kept low cost and small in scale.

By the summer of 2011, 400 government workplaces were being shared. According to the competition entry, the system has redefined and invigorated work-style by streamlining and facilitating communications, and promoting flexible and spontaneous contact. In addition it has reduced paperwork, travel time and CO2 emissions.

The project started small, requesting participation from government offices "one table, one space at a time". There was some initial resistance but the project team made it as easy as possible to join, and emphasised that there were no costs involved. The scheme is about "moving from a perspective of ownership to stewardship" according to Kim Spinder who authored the winning entry.

Other winning entries in the competition include an internal training programme created by ophthalmic lens maker Essilor. The programme combines face to face and web 2.0 elements to share best practice among more than 100 sites in 40 countries - for example, a training game that was created in Thailand was then shared with other international offices. The scheme has meant that the company can now deliver training three times faster than previously.

The M-Prize for Management Innovation is dedicated to reinventing management for the 21st century. It takes place over the course of a year and includes three separate phases focusing on technology, strategy, and rethinking organisations. The winning entries in the Management 2.0 M-Prize can be viewed here.

Photo courtesy of lost in the red woods via Flickr.