Intellitics 2014 Blog Highlights


The following is a list of our ten most popular posts in 2014, in chronological order (for previous years, see here: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013):

Once again a big thank you to everyone for following the conversation.


IAP2 NorCal Meetup: January 9 in Sacramento, CA


For those in the Sacramento, CA area, the Northern California chapter of IAP2 USA (where I serve as chapter co-chair) will host an event there this coming Friday, the first in what must be at least a decade:

IAP2 NorCal Meetup
Friday, January 9 at 6.00 pm
Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Company
1630 S St
Sacramento, CA 95811
Head to the chapter website to RSVP online.

No set agenda, just a chance to casually meet and connect with colleagues over food and drinks, though we might discuss opportunities for potential chapter events in the state’s capital later this year.

I’ll be in town for CityCamp Sacramento. Looks like we’ll have a very fun group, so see you there!


Top Posts December 2014


Happy New Year! Here’s the list of recent posts (from the three-month period October through December 2014) that got the most attention last month:

And once again, our three top performing posts overall from the same period:

Thanks for reading along!


Effective Number of Issues (ENI): New Indicator Aims to Measure the Efficiency of Consultations

Digital Engagement, Europe, Online Consultation, Research

Discuto is a new web-based service out of Austria that supports document-centric discussion and decision making (for more, read their beta launch announcement from December 2013).

Over on their blog, John May shared a curious little formula right before the holidays: Measuring the Efficiency of Consultation, Participation and Engagement

One thing is certain: there is a lot of consultation, participation and engagement going on. And they all seem to use different processes to get our views as citizens, service users or consumers. There are traditional questionnaire surveys, focus groups, e-participation exercises, citizens’ juries, deliberative conferences, world cafés, town hall meetings – the list goes on and on.

Wouldn’t it be good if we knew how efficient these different processes were, and how well they perform their common task of communicating our views as citizens? And what if we could compare the efficiency of all these different processes in different circumstances? That would be great, wouldn’t it?


I have created a new tool for measuring this information flow. It is called the Effective Number of Issues (ENI) and adapts a technique ecologists use to measure the biodiversity of a community of plants or animals. If we think of the information flow as giving rise to a community of issues we can use the ENI to calculate the diversity of this community and thus the efficiency of the process.

The accompanying Practitioner’s Guide (PPTX) lays out the calculations in a few easy-to-follow steps.

Screenshot "Practitioner’s guide to calculating the efficiency of a consultation or engagement process"

For the idea generation stage of one of their recent projects (on developing a digital agenda for the City of Vienna, Austria), the Discuto team calculated an ENI of 145.9. For reference, the total number of ideas generated was 172, according to the project website.

Now, could something like this actually be useful? For engagement scenarios aimed at generating a broad range of ideas, an indicator of this nature might indeed be helpful to compare performance across projects, methods and tools. However, other types of consultations or participatory processes are guided by completely different objectives, so the formula may not be as generally applicable as the article suggests.

For the time being, though, it would be interesting to see ENI being applied to a few more projects and compare notes. A few of our upcoming projects might be suitable, so we’ll keep it in mind.


CityCamp Sacramento: January 10, 2015


I’ll be heading up to Sacramento, CA next week to attend their local edition of CityCamp there on Saturday, January 10 (other events will be held in San Francisco, CA and Oakland, CA that same day). From the site:

Love where you live? CityCamp is an event focused on innovation and collaboration for government agencies, community organizations and citizens. Think of it as TED meets ideathon.

CityCamp Sacramento aims to:

  • Bring together local government officials, municipal employees, experts, developers, designers, students, citizens and journalists to share perspectives and insights about their cities
  • Create outcomes that participants will act upon by forming small groups with participants from different backgrounds and brainstorming solutions on challenges in the Sacramento region (e.g., urban agriculture, public transportation, social entrepreneurship, etc.)

CityCamp is a national movement that brings together local citizens to build stronger communities where they live.

Code for Sacramento is organizing CityCamp Sacramento because we want to connect civic technologists with with public agencies and community organizations to ensure that we’re using our skills to solve problems in the region. The event will help us define our priorities for 2015 and partner with organizations already working on these issues.

IAP2 NorCal, the Northern California chapter of IAP2 USA, is putting together an informal meetup the evening prior. This is an opportunity for anyone working in (or curious to learn more about) public participation to make new connections and will possibly lay the groundwork for local chapter events later this year. See you there!

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Top Posts November 2014


Here’s the list of recent posts (from the three-month period September through November 2014) that yielded the most traffic last month:

And our three top performing posts overall:

Thanks for reading!


Twelve Themes for Successful Community Engagement

Community Engagement, Digital Engagement

Earlier this month, Australia-based community engagement expert Andrew Coulson reached out to his Twitter followers asking them to share “1 tip for engaging the community successfully”. The hashtag #onetweetonetip quickly took off, and dozens of tips were shared from across the globe.

Andrew just published the full edited list on the commsgodigital blog, and it’s quite comprehensive: A crowdsourced guide to successful community engagement

Between the more than 100 contributions, here are the twelve themes that emerged:

  • Plan properly
  • Build relationships
  • Use the right tools
  • Listen
  • Be meaningful
  • Know who to engage
  • Build trust
  • Go to the community
  • Have fun
  • Feedback
  • Communication
  • Make it easy

Looks like the crowd nailed this one.

Make sure to check out the various suggestions in detail and find a few more community engagement people to follow.

1 comment

Top Posts October 2014


Here’s the list of recent posts (from the three-month period August through October 2014) that were most popular last month:

And once again our three top performing posts overall, same as last month:

Thanks for following!


PB Organizing Toolkit: The Missing Technology Segment

Digital Engagement, Participatory Budgeting

Following the PB Conference in Oakland, CA last month (see here), the Participatory Budgeting Project recently released a new toolkit: “Organizing for Participatory Budgeting: How to start participatory budgeting in your community” (PDF download, registration required).

Focused on promoting participatory budgeting in the United States and Canada, the toolkit aims to “help organizers and advocates start new PB processes”. It goes over the necessary conditions on the ground, how to build initial support, and how to make the case for participatory budgeting vis-à-vis potential champions from government and community organizations. The toolkit further addresses some of the common concerns or reservations with regard to participatory budgeting, provides a high-level overview of the PB process, and provides hands-on tips for organizing public events.

What’s missing is a section on digital engagement, so in the spirit of collaboration here’s a first draft of what that section might say, were it to be added in future editions:

Technology for PB

Everyday technologies such as web, email, telephone or text messaging have enormous potential to support and strengthen your local PB initiative. Used appropriately, they can make your community engagement work more inclusive, more accessible, more interesting and more fun.

Nearly every step or phase in the PB cycle provides exciting opportunities to meaningfully engage people through technology, usually in addition to traditional in-person formats: from hosting neighborhood assemblies online or via phone, to providing an effective collaboration infrastructure for your budget delegates, to virtual project expos and electronic voting — enabling people to participate around the clock and from wherever they are (at home, at work or on the go) has become a real possibility. Or maybe you simply want to keep more people in your community in the loop and bring them to the polls when the time comes? Well, that’s something technology can help you with, too.

When you’re just getting started, you probably have no idea yet whether any of these options will work for you or what other creative ideas for integrating technology you and your team may come up with. And that’s perfectly fine. What’s important at this early stage is to lay a strong foundation that you can build on over time as your organizing efforts bear fruit.

Here are a few recommendations to consider:

  • Set up a basic website to present your cause, introduce your team, provide contact information and let people know how they can support your efforts.
  • Get your own domain, e.g.
  • Set up a blog and get in the habit of sharing updates on a regular basis.
  • Set up a mailing list and allow site visitors to subscribe to your email newsletter.
  • To the degree that you’re comfortable, set up tent on social media.
  • Start telling your PB story!

By the time your first PB cycle kicks off, you’ll be more than ready to explore in more detail how the full spectrum of digital engagement tools and methods can help transform democracy in your community.

The draft is open for edits, so have at it.


Online Facilitation Unconference 2014

Events, Facilitation

Last year, an idea that had been cooking for quite some time finally bubbled up and turned into what became the inaugural Online Facilitation Unconference (OFU 2013).

Well over 200 people participated in more than 20 session, exploring topics as diverse as virtual student exchange, online learning in higher education, and online graphic recording.

We’re a bit late to get the ball rolling this year, but I’m happy to announce that OFU 2014 is indeed happening. In fact, it’s only one week away, once again taking place during and as part of International Facilitation Week.

The overall format will be pretty much the same as last year’s, though you can expect to see a few improvements based on feedback we’ve received (e.g. more time for topic ideation, pre-defined session blocks during the day to optimize participation across continents, more convenient online infrastructure for session scheduling).

We’ve decided to keep this event a (mostly) not-for-profit affair for now. Like last year, we’ll scale up our (paid) volunteer efforts according to what’s coming in via donations and sponsoring. Registration is free. Please consider making a contribution if you can, or sign up as a sponsor. For more information and to RSVP:

Should be very fun! Stay tuned for more details to emerge over the next few days. Look forward to your participation!