The GovLab to Host Third Global Online Conference on Crowdlaw


Following two events earlier this year (see here), The GovLab will host another online conference on crowdlaw this Thursday, September 24.

From the Eventbrite page:

The GovLab is organizing its third global online conference on #CrowdLaw, that will bring together practitioners to share their experiences and learn from others about crowdsourced legislative and regulatory lawmaking. With several #crowdlaw experiments already well underway, the goal of this session is to deepen our collective understanding of what works, what doesn’t, how to assess impact, and accelerate the implementation of more effective and legitimate participatory lawmaking practices.

The session will comprise a series of lightning presentations followed by a moderated conversation among practitioners. A wider web audience will be able to tune in, listen and pose questions.

Over two hours, we will talk about:

  1. Design: What makes for successful #crowdlaw projects: what works, what doesn’t.
  2. Incentives: How to encourage people to participate.
  3. Impediments: What are the legal, cultural, technological and other obstacles.
  4. Metrics: How to measure what works and demonstrate both legitimacy and effectiveness.

The first two sessions had great international presence and were very insightful. The line-up for this round looks promising as well.

The event is free of charge, head here to RSVP.


New Zealand Government Launches Online Engagement Guidance

Digital Engagement, Radar

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) New Zealand just launched a new Online Engagement Guidance as part of their very comprehensive web toolkit.

This resource was developed under leadership from Amelia Loye, Director of engage2, an Australian based community engagement firm. From her blog post:

Our vision in creating the guidance was to collate all of our various experiences in online community engagement into a single, easy to follow guide that public sector organisations large and small could use either as a first step in community engagement or as a useful guide to best practice.

One of the challenges for all communications and engagement activities across Government in the Digital Age is the enormous range of issues, subjects, tools and audiences engaging with Government and there are few if any “one size fits all” solutions. Through the Guidance I have tried to capture my experiences using technologies to help Government’s engaging community to listen to, understand and consider social issues in decision-making processes and the design of Government programs and services.

The Guidance takes a practical approach to online engagement with a simple explanation of key concepts and checklists for communication, engagement, website, policy and planning teams to plan and deliver effective online engagement. It looks all at phases of engagement, from planning, to consulting, closing the loop, through to ongoing engagement for project delivery, relationship and impact management.

The guidance includes a set of principles for online engagement, a checklist, and an 18-page engagement strategy template, among other things. There’s also a section that outlines the case for online engagement in New Zealand, which lists key drivers and success factors.

At first glance, this looks very well put together.

Hat tip to Mary Moreland via Facebook.


Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency Launches Consultation on Public Participation Principles

Digital Engagement, Public Participation, Radar

Last week, the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) announced the launch of a public consultation process regarding a set of public participation principles the organization has developed over the past year.

The complete version of the principles is available for download (PDF) and also includes a set of principles and good practices on public participation in fiscal policy.

From the document:

Public participation refers to the variety of ways in which the general public, including citizens, civil society organizations and other non-state actors interact directly with public authorities by means of face to face communication, deliberation or decision-making, or by written forms of communication using electronic or paper media. Participation ranges from one-off consultation to on-going and institutionalized relationships.

It is increasingly accepted that public participation in fiscal policy can strengthen the efficiency, equity, effectiveness, predictability, legitimacy and sustainability of fiscal management, thereby improving fiscal performance and enhancing the likelihood of positive economic, social and environmental outcomes.

And (emphasis mine):

Developments in information and communications technology have dramatically lowered the cost of direct interaction between citizens and non-state actors and governments while also creating entirely new spaces for citizen input and deliberation in government policy making. Governments and non-state actors are increasingly working together to address social, environmental and economic challenges and opportunities. While public participation involves costs both for official entities and for civil society that must be recognized, and participation needs to be tailored appropriately in each case, direct public participation is increasingly cost-effective as a policy tool.

There is, however, a lack of guidance at present on how public entities should undertake public participation in fiscal policy. Drawing on country practices, the workshops, case studies, and a review of relevant literature, this document attempts to fill that gap by setting out principles that should guide public participation with respect to fiscal policy, and enumerating a set of suggested good practices.

The principles, which took into consideration resources from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) and the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), among others, are listed as follows:

[…] [W]e propose that public authorities should endeavor to ensure that their public engagement on the design and implementation of fiscal policy and budget making is:

  1. Inclusive: Ensuring inclusiveness and non-discrimination through the pro-active use of multiple mechanisms to reach and facilitate inputs from all citizens, including traditionally excluded groups, without discrimination as to political or other opinion, gender, ethnicity, religion, caste, citizenship, nationality or domicile.
  2. Direct: Encouraging the public to speak for itself: although there may be groups and mechanisms that have standing to speak on behalf of others, individuals and communities should be allowed and encouraged to articulate their interests in their own ways, and to choose means of expression that they prefer.
  3. Open: Ensuring openness about the purpose, intended outcomes, process, and timelines of public participation.
  4. Timely: Allowing sufficient time in the budget and policy cycles for the public to provide inputs in each phase.
  5. Facilitated: Facilitating and supporting public participation in general by disclosing fiscal information and data in formats and using mechanisms that are easy to access, understand, use, re-use and transform and that are designed to facilitate participation.
  6. Well-informed: Ensuring well-informed participation through providing specific objective background information and other tailored information, highlighting and informing key policy choices and trade-offs, and incorporating a diversity of perspectives, in a timely and accessible manner prior to consultation.
  7. Meaningful: Ensuring meaningful participation by consulting early in the process while a range of options is still open, where desirable allowing for more than one round of consultation and engagement, using an appropriate mix of participation mechanisms, considering public inputs on an objective basis irrespective of their source, and providing timely and specific feedback on the public inputs received and how they have been incorporated in official policy or advice.
  8. On-going: Engaging in on-going and regular consultations and deliberation to increase knowledge sharing and mutual trust over time, and institutionalising public participation where appropriate and effective.
  9. Complementary: ensuring that mechanisms for participation complement and support existing accountability systems and do not establish parallel systems.

In turn, civil society should endeavour to ensure that participation by non-state actors in invited participation activities is:

  1. Open: Non-state actors should be open about their mission, the interests they seek to advance, who they represent and should be aware of the public interest in the use of public resources.

GIFT online consultation slider

Participants in the online consultation can rate each of the principles and provide additional comments. The consultation will be open through October 30, 2015.

Hat tip: Jay Colburn via Linkedin.

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Proceedings from 7th International Conference on eParticipation

E-participation, Europe, Events

The 7th International Conference on eParticipation (ePart 2015) is currently under way in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Topic areas include: eParticipation and social media, deliberation and consultation, evaluation, and policy formulation and modeling.

A number of interesting papers are being presented. Here’s one co-authored by Todd Davies (mentioned here): Equality of Participation Online Versus Face to Face: Condensed Analysis of the Community Forum Deliberative Methods Demonstration.


Online deliberation may provide a more cost-effective and/or less inhibiting environment for public participation than face to face (F2F). But do online methods bias participation toward certain individuals or groups? We compare F2F versus online participation in an experiment affording within-participants and cross-modal comparisons. For English speakers required to have Internet access as a condition of participation, we find no negative effects of online modes on equality of participation (EoP) related to gender, age, or educational level. Asynchronous online discussion appears to improve EoP for gender relative to F2F. Data suggest a dampening effect of online environments on black participants, as well as amplification for whites. Synchronous online voice communication EoP is on par with F2F across individuals. But individual-level EoP is much lower in the online forum, and greater online forum participation predicts greater F2F participation for individuals. Measured rates of participation are compared to self-reported experiences, and other findings are discussed.

The full conference proceedings are available for download.



Digital Engagement at the 2015 IAP2 North American Conference

Digital Engagement, Events

Just like in previous years (see here, here), the 2015 IAP2 North American Conference in Portland, OR next week will once again offer several sessions exploring various aspects of digital engagement.

Thursday, September 10:

Friday, September 11:

Anyone I missed? Leave a comment below.

See you there!


International IDEA to Host Constitution Building Tech Fair


The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), an intergovernmental organization whose mission is “to support sustainable democratic change by providing comparative knowledge, and assisting in democratic reform, and influencing policies and politics”, will be hosting an event on the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) in the constitution making context.

From the announcement (emphasis mine):

The making of a Constitution is one of the most difficult processes a nation can embark on. As well as critical political hurdles of reaching agreement among disparate groups regarding the basic structure and vision for the country, there are a number of other challenges that must be overcome if the constitution making process is to succeed. These include learning from the vast experience of other countries, ensuring the citizenry are kept informed and involved in the process and allowing opportunity for citizens to participate in the process, such that the constitution results from the voices of the people – their hopes, dreams, fears and concerns.

A number of innovative technology solutions have been developed and used by various constitution making processes around the world, but there is no effort to catalogue these products and practices such that new processes can learn from, and build upon, existing knowledge and experience.

International IDEA, in partnership with the Google Docs and Google Ideas, is organizing a one-day “Constitution Building Tech Fair” for technology entrepreneurs to present services, platforms and products that could help in a constitution making process, and have an exchange with leading constitutional experts and practitioners regarding currently unmet needs and challenges for which existing technologies could be adapted. This event will be hosted by the National Constitutional Center, and curated by ICT4Peace.

Sounds very promising. Applications are now open. Deadline is September 10.

Over on ParticipateDB, we currently list about a handful of entries related to constitution making, including three projects from Egypt, Morocco and Iceland. Hopefully, this event will surface many more.


Engaging the Public on Public Budgets LinkedIn Group


Chris Adams, President at Denver, Colorado-based Engaged Public, just announced the launch of a new LinkedIn group focused on “engaging the public on public budgets”. From his post:

Is public engagement on public budgets even a thing? It is if you believe that traditional public hearings (a.k.a. “three minutes at the mic”), posting huge PDFs on websites, or sending out a budget survey without context counts.

For a task most people consider the single most important task of government — creating a budget —there is a lot of room to do better and many places in which to do it.


But what does “better” really mean in the public budget process? Is it public officials heading into the community for informal discussions? Is it harnessing the power of two-way communication that the internet provides? What is the role of leadership — from staff, elected officials, non-profits, the business community and neighborhoods?

There is no single answer for any situation, but when it comes to ensuring that public budgets reflect the public’s vision for our future, the stakes are too high to ignore.

Indeed. Look forward to the conversations.


About That Ladder

Public Participation
Buckled ladder

Buckled ladder” by Craig Pennington is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Editor’s note: This post, after having been sitting in the draft folder for quite some time, got published prematurely by accident late last week. I’ve made a few minor edits and added or edited two of the hyperlinks. The post was supposed to contain a little bit more context, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Over on the IAP2 USA blog, one of the creators of the IAP2 Spectrum, Lewis Michaelson, shared a few thoughts on terminology a while back. According to him, here’s how the Spectrum differs from Arnstein’s Ladder: Lewis Michaelson on What Makes the IAP2 Spectrum Unique

The Spectrum is laid out horizontally instead of as a ladder, because each of the processes on the Spectrum has a legitimate purpose, depending on the decision to be made, the significance of potential impacts on stakeholders, and the amount of time I, as a stakeholder, may wish to commit. In that sense, the Spectrum is non-judgmental.

To Arnstein, consultation is “tokenism”. In her famous 1969 article “A Ladder of Citizen Participation” (PDF), she writes:

Inviting citizens’ opinions, like informing them, can be a legitimate step toward their full participation. But if consulting them is not combined with other modes of participation, this rung of the ladder is still a sham since it offers no assurance that citizen concerns and ideas will be taken into account. The most frequent methods used for consulting people are attitude surveys, neighborhood meetings, and public hearings.

And therein lies the main problem with Arnstein. As I alluded to over on Govloop a while ago, the ladder conflates the public’s level of impact on the decision making process with the ethical soundness of the engagement process. To Arnstein, engaging the public at lower levels of impact (inform, consult) implies ethically questionable behavior on part of the decision maker (“Tokenism”). While that may have been her experience, it’s not a general rule.

It’s not that there aren’t disingenuous decision makers that run sham consultations simply to lull their constituents in. But that doesn’t mean that’s always the case or an inherent quality of consultative public participation processes.

In light of the contributions IAP2 has made, Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation is inaccurate and cannot serve as a model for understanding public participation today.

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Scottish E-Participation Toolkit

Digital Engagement, E-participation, Europe, Resources

Via the #worktogether15 stream coming live from Participation Week, I found this 2014 e-participation toolkit (PDF) by the Scottish Health Council. The toolkit is part of a comprehensive collection of resources on public participation, incl. a set of public participation standards and a couple of assessment reports from previous years.

The toolkit recaps a number of commonly referenced pros and cons of digital engagement (pages 5-7):


  • A lot of people are online already
  • Time and geography are fluid
  • Cost savings
  • Breaks down barriers
  • In-built record keeping


  • Accessibility and usability
  • The “Digital Divide”
  • Reduced level of engagement
  • Information governance
  • Resources
  • Uncivil behavior

The “General considerations regarding e-participation” (page 10-11) are also quite good.


Participation Week Launches in Scotland

Europe, Events, Radar, Uncategorized

The Directorate for Local Government and Communities in Scotland kicks off a weeklong event series today that aims to explore what a more people-centric and participatory government might look like. From Eventbrite:

Participation Week is a chance for all of us involved in public services to learn together about how we involve people more in the development and delivery of policies and services and think about the impact that can make. It will provide space to think about how we put people at the centre of our work, why this matters and explore what we really mean by ‘participation’. As well as an opportunity to share experiences, ideas, tools and techniques, the sessions will include conversations about what support is needed to deliver greater participation.

The program includes sessions on digital engagement and public participation in the planning process.

Follow hashtag #worktogether15 on Twitter for live updates.

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