Switchboard's mission is to provide HUD's citizens, stakeholders, and staff with the tools and channels necessary to interact meaningfully with their government in the following ways:
- By welcoming and encouraging creative ideation to improve HUD's programs, policies, and operations, and engaging those interested in the process of putting those ideas into action;
- By creating avenues of feedback for individuals or organizations on matters that directly or indirectly affect them;
- By making decisions through open, transparent, and democratic crowdsourcing; and
- By providing timely, friendly, and helpful support in HUD's customer care functions.
HUD uses Switchboard the way one (at least metaphorically) uses any old switchboard: to connect people to other people. The people on the front end of that span a wide breadth-citizens, taxpayers, grantees, stakeholders, employees, etc.-and those on the back end are generally HUD decision-makers, like Assistant Secretaries, CXOs, office directors, the Deputy Secretary, and the Secretary. Sometimes, Switchboard does less connecting-one-group-of-people-to-another and more connecting-one-group-of-people-to-itself, providing channels for conversation, collective brainstorming, and the organic formation of idea implementation teams.
Switchboard connects person A to person B in a number of ways:
- Through Ideas in Action, Switchboard provides its users ways to help HUD come up with lots of good ideas. We sometimes create specific ideation forums around a particular issue like open government or sustainability, but always leave open a number of forums in which to post creative solutions to improve our programs and operations. Moreover-with Switchboard being, above all else, an engagement platform-we frequently call upon our employees to roll up their sleeves and help put their ideas into action, allowing an idea submitter to not just suggest a new project, but to actually lead a team that implements said project, having input every step of the way.
- Sometimes, often after a lengthy ideation process, we put some good ideas into practice-or draft what we think is a pretty good plan to do so-and we'd like some feedback on whether we're on the right track. Feedback forums generally seek comments, additions, or deletions to what we're proposing. We're proud to be one of the only agencies in government having opened our strategic planning process to public comment in this way for two administrations straight, and are always looking for new ways to engage in this way moving forward.
- Both our ideation and feedback forums allow users to vote, and while we do respond to every idea or feedback comment we receive, we sometimes open forums to help us make decisions based on those votes alone. Inside of HUD, we find crowdsourcing to be an excellent means of selecting our all-employee town hall questions, and wherever else we can, we aim to let our stakeholders decide what we should do in the most democratic way we know how: through the power of the vote.
- Most of the Switchboard site is oriented around those aforementioned engagement functions-ideation, feedback, and crowdsourcing-but a large part of what we do is hidden away on our backend, where we work tirelessly to provide one-on-one support to those who need it. We're a long way from our vision of one consolidated point-of-contact with HUD where one can have all of their needs and questions and issues addressed, but we're working toward it, aiming to become a one-stop shop for getting housing help or grant assistance or-for our employees-some attention to an HR or IT issue they may be having.
Switchboard itself is also always evolving and improving. If you have questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.