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.


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!


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!


Meet Intellitics At NCDD 2014


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


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


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”.


Top Posts September 2014


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!


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


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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