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:

http://ofu14.eventbrite.com

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

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Technology and Digital Engagement at NCDD 2014

Digital Engagement, Events

The NCDD 2014 conference guide book is out, and quite a number of sessions and other programming elements deal with digital engagement and technology for supporting dialogue and deliberation.

Friday short talks:

  • The Anti-Crossfire: 90-Second Stories About What IF – Come to hear stories about thoughtful public policy discussions that the Interactivity Foundation has conducted in-person and online over the last decade in different states and countries and get free discussion materials.
  • Desperately Seeking a Family Doctor: Involving Citizens & Stakeholders in Healthcare System Design – How we engaged a city and its doctors in a meaningful conversation – online and in person – about how to find 1 in every 6 citizens a family doctor.

Workshop Session A (Friday):

  • Getting Local Government Participation Right: Alexandria, Virginia’s Guide to Public Engagement – Many cities and counties are strengthening their public deliberation and engagement methods to meet the needs of diverse communities for voice and impact. Learn about Alexandria’s citizen-driven process to affirm participation goals and chart distinct involvement methods. Documents to plan multiple participation options on a project are joined by practical tools on public meetings and online outreach. Resources and cases from California and North Carolina will provide similar “ready to use” materials.

D&D Showcase (Friday):

  • Visit with 25 incredible presenters, including several technology providers and software solutions (see previous post).

Workshop Session B (Saturday):

  • Text, Talk, Act: A Breakthrough in Youth Civic Engagement – Engaging the next generation in our democracy will require a fundamental shift in approach. Text messaging is the most popular digital activity for youth – with over 87% texting monthly. With this in mind, Creating Community Solutions, part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health, developed Text, Talk, Act. Following a brief introduction, participants in the session will join in a Text, Talk, Act event, utilizing cell phones and small group conversation. Presenters will then lead a brainstorming session about how this idea can be brought into our field.
  • Where is the Public in Public Budgeting? – There is no better expression of the values of a culture than its budget: the formal process for making decisions about where and to whom resources should be directed. Typically, budget decisions are made by elected officials without much public involvement. The process is complex, there are decades-old commitments to honor (e.g. veterans), there are reams of data to sift, and math is often involved. But could budgeting be improved with the addition of more thoughtful processes? Learn about and discuss two promising practices–an online simulation and a direct outreach to residents.

Workshop Session C (Saturday):

  • Moving From Nervous to Confident – A Peer Exchange on Online Engagement Tools – It’s clear that online tools will play a role in the next generation of engagement. Still, many practitioners remain nervous and have questions. Let’s talk about them! As a peer exchange, this lively session will include experienced practitioners who can offer a unique perspective: each was once skeptical and now uses a wide variety of tools regularly. They come bearing stories of challenges, successes, and best practices. Learn by stories — Experienced panel, great case studies. Learn by doing — Try them yourself. Learn by dialogue – Ask your questions, join this lively dialogue!

Day 2 Plenary (Saturday):

  • Working in small group, participants will discuss strategies for overcoming specific barriers to the field. Each table’s top three ideas will be collected and entered into the online participation platform Codigital, so conference participants and others in the D&D community who aren’t present will have the opportunity to hone and prioritize the ideas, providing guidance to NCDD and many others who are interested in paving the way for this important work.

Workshop Session E (Sunday):

  • Video Deliberations: the Opportunity and Challenge – Online video conferencing is quickly becoming an important tool for dialogue and deliberation. This session will feature lessons learned from a number of projects that used Google Hangouts, Webex and other platforms to conduct live video conferences for people to discuss public policy issues—including Interactivity Foundation projects, Face the Facts Hangouts, Soliya’s cross-cultural web dialogues, and the NCDD 2012 Catalyst Award winner Real Dialogues. Through recorded video, live demonstrations and group discussion, participants will explore the strengths, challenges, capacities and pitfalls of online video conferencing for public discourse.

Day 3 Plenary (Sunday):

  • Gamification, Rapid Response & Our Path Forward – In our final plenary, we’ll begin with a panel focused on Gamification and Public Engagement. This panel will examine how the principles of game design can strengthen public engagement efforts. We’ll look at several inspiring examples of gamified public engagement and identify ways to think about these tools for your work. We’ll also explore when a game design approach might not be appropriate.

The community engagement phase earlier this year identified people’s interest in online tools and digital engagement, and the conference agenda offers a wide range of learning opportunities. Very nicely done!

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Meet Intellitics At NCDD 2014

Events

Later this week, more than 400 leaders, innovators and practitioners in the participatory democracy sector will gather in Reston, VA for the 6th National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation.

From the website:

Our theme for this year’s conference – Democracy for the Next Generation – challenges us to build on all the innovative practices and tools that have been invigorating the dialogue and deliberation community in recent years. Now more than ever, we have both the opportunity and, increasingly, the imperative to bring this work to a much larger stage in order to build a stronger democracy that is able to address society’s most pressing challenges.

If this is the kind of thing that gets you excited, it’s not too late to register.

While the use of technology to support dialogue and deliberation has always been an occasional discussion topic among the general NCDD membership, there has been a significant uptick in interest over the past year or so, their Tech Tuesdays series being just one example (see here). It will be quite fascinating to watch if this is the year the technology question will finally play a significant and fundamental role in the conversations, particularly when it comes to building a stronger democracy at scale.

One indicator pointing in that direction is the fact that this year’s D&D Showcase is chock full of digital engagement technology providers and software solutions, incl. Bang The Table, Consider.It, Common Ground for Action, Ethelo Decisions, Metroquest, OneCounts, PlaceSpeak, PopVox and our very own Zilino:

Zilino is a web-based solution that enables practitioners to host deliberative online forums and other types of well-designed, well-facilitated and outcome-oriented group processes, both stand-alone and in combination with in-person activities. With its modular toolkit approach, Zilino supports a wide range of engagement scenarios and is currently being used in the United States in the public, non-profit and higher education sectors.

Just like previous NCDD conferences, the list of workshops offers so many compelling topics and presenters that it will be painful to decide which ones to attend and which ones to skip.

While the feedback phase for the Knight News Challenge is still ongoing (see here), I will likely attend two workshops on Saturday at the intersection of libraries and civic engagement:

Beyond Books: Librarians, Journalists and Dialogue Professionals Working Together

What’s possible when information professionals like librarians and journalists work together with dialogue practitioners to inform and engage communities? This session will support a self-organizing format to contemplate: “What’s possible at the intersection of libraries, journalism, and civic practitioners that can serve the information needs of communities and democracy?” Help us answer that question as we convene NCDD conference participants to consider possibilities for involving them with local journalists and librarians in order to build civic infrastructure and capacity.

Nancy Kranich
Convener, ALA Center for Civic Life/Lecturer, Rutgers University School of Communication and Information and American Library Association/Rutgers University

Peggy Holman
Executive Director, Journalism That Matters

Marla Crockett
Public Media Consultant and NCDD Board Member

And:

From Box to Bridge: Kansas Libraries as Places for Community Conversations

Five librarians from across Kansas will describe how they build internal and public capacity for conversations about a range of challenging topics. Most of the session will be presenter and participant conversation about 1) the strengths libraries bring to capacity building and related strategies and 2) community conversation models libraries use to meet the demands of each situation. Participants will leave with strategies and an expanded list of potential partners to convene community conversations.

Myles Alexander
Project Coordinator, Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy at Kansas State University

Donna Schenck-Hamlin
Assistant to the Dean for Grants and Collaborative Projects, Kansas State University, Hale Library

On Sunday, another recommended session will highlight some of the lessons learned during the Real Dialogues project (see here):

Video Deliberations: the Opportunity and Challenge

Online video conferencing is quickly becoming an important tool for dialogue and deliberation. This session will feature lessons learned from a number of projects that used Google Hangouts, Webex and other platforms to conduct live video conferences for people to discuss public policy issues—including Interactivity Foundation projects, Face the Facts Hangouts, Soliya’s cross-cultural web dialogues, and the NCDD 2012 Catalyst Award winner Real Dialogues. Through recorded video, live demonstrations and group discussion, participants will explore the strengths, challenges, capacities and pitfalls of online video conferencing for public discourse.

Mark Amadeus Notturno and Shannon Wheatley Hartman
Fellows, Interactivity Foundation

Susanna Haas Lyons
Public Participation Specialist + Civic Technologist

Waidehi Gokhale
Director of Partnerships & Development, Soliya

One of our very first clients, the West Virginia Center for Civic Life, currently has a new state-wide project under way, for which Intellitics will be providing the online deliberation component. You can learn more about the ambitious initiative during this workshop, also on Sunday:

What’s Next, WV? A Statewide Conversation . . . One Community at a Time

What’s Next, West Virginia? is a nonpartisan, statewide initiative to encourage local dialogue about West Virginia’s future and to help communities plan actions, based on their own ideas for building stronger local economies. Through sharing the story of What’s Next, WV, project partners will paint a picture of the growing civic infrastructure and community capacity to talk and work together on public issues in West Virginia. Participants will share their own insights in a discussion about what it takes to develop ongoing practices of civic engagement in a community–or even a state!

Betty Knighton
Director, West Virginia Center for Civic Life

Kent Spellman
Director, West Virginia Community Development HUB

There’s plenty more, of course.

We look forward to catching up with old friends and seeing and meeting many of our clients and prospective future clients.

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Democracy International: 2014 Big River of Democracy Briefing Tour

Events

Democracy International is an international non-profit based in Cologne, Germany. From the about page:

Democracy International unites people from all around the world who want to realise citizens’ participation and direct democracy. Like the environment or human rights, democracy must be protected as it is essential to a healthy society. We work towards this perception of democracy in people’s minds.

This November, they are organizing what looks like a very interesting research trip across several U.S. states:

Join Election Day in America!

The November 4 elections across the U.S. offer fascinating opportunities to learn more about how democracy works in America – and doesn’t. In the so-called mid-term elections 471 seats at the national level and 6,056 seats at state level are up for election. Elections for governor are being held in 43 out of 51 states. Our board members Bruno Kaufmann and Joe Mathews are going to co-host a Briefing Tour starting in Kansas City on November 3 and ending down in the Deep South a week later – in New Orleans. Join us, you are cordially invited!

Still a few seats left for this “first-hand look at citizens’ activities, public campaigns, ballot decisions and civic and media life in the Mississippi River Valley”.

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Top Posts September 2014

About

Here’s the list of posts that were most popular last month (from the period July through September 2014):

And our three top performing posts overall:

Thanks for reading!

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Knight News Challenge: Online Deliberation For Informed Community Problem-Solving

Deliberation

Talking Solutions

Back in 2013, we threw out an idea during the inspiration phase of the Knight News Challenge on Open Government. It wasn’t really core to what we’re doing here at Intellitics, so we didn’t pursue it further. To our knowledge, the “public participation calendar” still hasn’t been implemented two years later, so we recently brought it up again vis-a-vis the White House.

The two challenges that followed (in late 2013 on harnessing data and information for the health of communities, and again in early 2014 on strengthening the internet for free expression and innovation) were both very interesting but too remote for us as well.

Now their latest challenge invites everyone to reimagine the role of the library now and in the future and asks how we can “leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities”. We see a lot of overlap with conversations that have been going on for years within the library community and in the broader areas of participatory democracy, open government and even the future of journalism and local news media.

Here’s the proposal we submitted over the weekend:

Talking Solutions: Online deliberation tools and methods, built on best practices in public engagement, tailored to support libraries in their new roles as facilitators of informed community problem-solving.

In the conversations with regard to reinventing public libraries in the United States as civic hubs, one central theme has been their potential role as trusted conveners and facilitators of informed community problem solving processes. Some libraries are already developing the capacity to fulfill these new roles.

Talking Solutions will work with such libraries to develop and test a widely adaptable, turn-key model for successfully extending their deliberation services online.

We will run a series of rapid prototyping projects in several parts of the country to explore how best practices in online tools, dialogue methods and knowledge management can be readily incorporated as vital elements in the new roles libraries are now taking on.

See it in full and share your feedback in the comments.

And while you’re at it, check out these other excellent proposals that are related to ours (complete as of last night the end of the submissions phase we’ll update the list as more proposals stream in today and tomorrow):

We’ve been getting great inititial feedback from librarians in the Bay Area and beyond and are actively looking for partners. If you’re involved with a library that’s already offering community engagement services or is planning to do so in the future, or if you’re a technology provider with tools that support online deliberation, or if you’re a researcher who’d like to do research on this project, or a civic engagement organization interested in lending additional support to this effort, please get in touch and let us discuss how we might collaborate. Thanks!

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Workshop on Digital Engagement in Participatory Budgeting

Digital Engagement, Events, Participatory Budgeting

I will be leading a workshop at the Participatory Budgeting Conference in Oakland next Friday:

1.4 How to Integrate Technology to Strengthen Your PB Process (Workshop)

This workshop is aimed at PB organizers tasked with or interested in developing a digital engagement strategy that optimally supports their overall program. After this session, attendees will be better able to identify digital engagement opportunities across the entire PB project cycle and evaluate them based on their specific goals, needs and other circumstances.

My goal with this session is to provide people with a mental model that enables them to better navigate the challenges of integrating technology into their work in creative, yet pragmatic and always outcome oriented ways.

If you have any questions you’d like to see addressed, please leave a comment below. Look forward to seeing you!

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Upcoming Research Trip: Participatory Democracy in South Korea

Research

I will be traveling to Seoul, South Korea next month and hope to be spending some time learning about the local participatory democracy scene there.

A few interesting tidbits that have caught my attention so far:

Participatory budgeting appears to have been explored and applied for over ten years now, according to this research paper by Jeongeun Hwang and Daehan Song for the International Strategy Center: Participatory Budgeting in Korea (PDF)

2) Current state of participatory budgeting in Korea
As of May 15, 2011, 120 local governments (out of the total 246) had established ordinances for participatory budgeting (310 out of 16 metropolitan cities, and 117 out of 230 basic municipalities). By August 21, 2012, the number of local governments (si, gun, gu) that adopted participatory budgeting ordinances increased by over 100 percent to 242.11 All but four local governments had the legal foundations for participatory budgeting. Such rapid expansion did not come without criticism. Critics point out that local governments adopted a one-size fits all ordinance rather than one customized to best involve local communities.

The Seoul Innovation Bureau, a “cross-departmental innovation unit” aimed at “using social innovation to improve citizens’ lives” and reporting directly to the Mayor. Among other things, here’s what they do:

Offline, the Seoul Innovation Bureau works with departments across City Hall to host listening workshops with citizens and policy makers to discuss particular topics. More than 6,000 of these have been held — allowing the government to hear from more than 600,000 citizens.

Yobosayo, a giant ear in front of City Hall to symbolize the city’s willingness to listen to its citizens: yobosayo – participatory public artwork for seoul citizens hall (click for more details and pictures… so cool!)

to commemorate the opening of seoul citizens hall in south korea, a competition was organized around the theme of ‘paying attention’ to people’s voices. responding to the organizers requirement for an artwork that would be nicknamed the ‘big ear’, south korean firm lifethings won with their participatory installation piece, ‘yobosayo’. the title of the artwork is a korean word used when calling to get someone’s attention or starting a conversation, similar to ‘hello’. located on seoul plaza directly outside the citizens hall, the interactive sculpture records voice messages of ideas, proposals and messages from the citizens and shares them with others. visitors leave messages in the ‘big ear’ by talking into it, while inside the main building the occupants encounter whispers of messages left by those outside.

The Politics in Korea portal (tagline: “Get Korean legislative information, all in one place”), which also includes opportunities for idea sharing.

Good stuff!

I am particularly interested in the following areas:

  1. Public participation: involving citizens in decision making (in particular: participatory budgeting, open policy making & crowdlaw)
  2. Use of information and communications technology to support public participation (also known as e-participation or digital engagement)

On Monday, October 6, I will be speaking on digital engagement trends and best practices at Yeungnam University in Daegu, South Korea.

I’m lining up meetings for the rest of that week in Seoul. If you’d like to meet up or know someone I should contact, please leave a comment or send an email. Thanks! 감사합니다!

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The Civity Initiative: Improving Community Problem Solving

Radar

A new civic effort out of the San Francisco Bay Area was just announced this morning. The Civity Initiative (tag line: “offering the story of civity to counter civic gridlock”) was founded by Palma Strand and Malka Kopell and aims to improve community problem solving.

From the email:

As many of you know, [we] have been working for the past couple of years on a project to improve problem-solving in communities. We think that by strengthening people’s social networks and building relationships of respect, empathy and trust across social, political, and organizational divides, we can enable people to work together better to address tough civic issues. When that happens, we call it “civity.”

I’d like to announce that The Civity Initiative has officially launched.

Thanks to seed funding from The Whitman Institute, we are kicking off a project in Silicon Valley to pilot “civity conversations” to bring people together on both sides of the tech/non-tech divide, and are in the process of developing a larger dialogue project to address the tensions in San Francisco. In addition, we have created a website at www.civity.org to tell the civity story across the country. I encourage you to check out the site and tell me what you think.

Their website has more details about the first two projects.

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White House Seeking Input on Open Government Portal Relaunch

Open Government, Public Participation

Earlier this week, the White House via the recently launched U.S. Open Government Google group, asked for input regarding an upcoming “refresh” of their Open Government website at whitehouse.gov/open.

Here’s the comment I just left:

Hi Cori,

I’d like to re-introduce the idea of a public participation calendar:

http://www.intellitics.com/blog/2010/01/21/open-government-needs-public-participation-calendars/

The idea is to provide one central and complete list of all ongoing and upcoming (formal) public participation opportunities at the federal level, e.g. agency rulemaking and policy consultations.

Not only would this make it a lot easier for the public to find out about, and participate in, these government decision making processes, longer term it would provide the basis for a much-needed quality assurance process, a more consistent and in-depth assessment of public participation efforts at the federal level (see also the administration’s commitment in the 2nd U.S. National Action Plan regarding “best practices and metrics for public participation”).

Thanks,
Tim

Member of the Board, IAP2 USA (http://iap2usa.org)
Founder and CEO, Intellitics, Inc. (http://intellitics.com)

The idea is now more than five years old. Let’s see if now is the time it finally gets implemented.

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