This post is from OGIS Deputy Director Karen Finnegan.
“The only thing that stays the same is change.” Melissa Etheridge
At OGIS, we specialize in change. The very existence of OGIS represents an innovative change to the FOIA administrative process. Our daily work involves changing the way people approach conflict and how they communicate with others. However, the time has come for OGIS itself to change: I’m leaving OGIS to work at the U.S. Department of State.
The last three years have been life changing for me! I’ve have the honor of being part of an extraordinary team of professionals who collaborated to lay the foundation for a novel way of making FOIA work better for all parties. Although I’ve learned much about good government, good communication and myself during my tenure in OGIS, two experiences really stand out in my mind.
First, my OGIS experience has shown me how collaboration is truly an efficient and cost-effective way to make good decisions. It allows everyone to have a voice and provides a safe environment for thinking outside the box. And sometimes merely inviting a party to the table helps to avoid and/or resolve a dispute because it shows an interest in hearing that person’s point of view.
Second, I’ve also seen how having that difficult conversation works wonders in building rapport and gaining understanding. Our professional and personal lives thrive when we are skilled at building and maintaining relationships. One of the best ways to do this is by communicating in a way that is open and curious. When we approach a conversation in an open and curious way, we are laying the groundwork for an even exchange of ideas and concerns.
I’m grateful for the personal and professional growth I’ve experienced as part of the OGIS team. I also appreciate having worked for the National Archives, which, as the government’s record keeper, is essential to our democracy. The Archives is a great example of good government because the entire organization is focused on providing excellent customer service and ensuring that our history is not only preserved, but also accessible. The Archives’ slogan—Records Matter!—reflects the notion that access to government records is the backbone of open government.
I leave OGIS with a tool kit brimming over with innovative ideas and approaches, which I know will serve me well in my new position. As I move on, I’ll keep in mind that good government is about sharing information and working together for a common goal; that good communication is essential to avoiding conflicts and building rapport; and that collaboration is the best way to give people a voice and results in better decisions. In other words, I’m not leaving the OGIS methods behind, just carrying them with me to a new venue.
I’ll miss my OGIS and Archives colleagues, and will always cherish my time among some of the most impressive and dedicated people in government service.