World Bank Group Online Course on Citizen Engagement


This free, 4-week online course is provided by the World Bank Group in collaboration with the London School of Economics (LSE), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and Participedia:

Engaging Citizens: A Game Changer for Development?

Government works best when citizens are directly engaged in policymaking & public service delivery. What conditions are necessary for inclusive and effective citizen engagement? Can it positively improve people’s lives? This course provides an overview of citizen engagement, critically analyzing how it can be leveraged most effectively to achieve development outcomes.


  • Week 1: Citizen Engagement: What It Is and Why It Matters
  • Week 2: Engaging Citizens for Improved Policymaking
  • Week 3: Can Engaging Citizens Bring Better Services?
  • Week 4: Innovations in Citizen Engagement

Starts March 15. Head over to Coursera to register.


Hack4Congress San Francisco: March 21-22


Three weeks ago, the first Hack4Congress event took place at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in Boston, MA. Organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the OpenGov Foundation, this two-day effort “to fix Congress” brought together a wide variety of technologists, designers and policy wonks to work on projects aimed at addressing any of these five areas:

  • Challenge 1: Improving the Lawmaking Process
  • Challenge 2: Facilitating Cross-Partisan Dialogue
  • Challenge 3: Modernizing Congressional Participation
  • Challenge 4: Closing the Representation and Trust Gaps
  • Challenge 5: Reforming Campaign Finance

Now, Hack4Congress will be coming to the West Coast:

Hack4Congress San Francisco
Saturday, March 21 – Sunday, March 22, 2015
At Code for America
San Francisco, CA

From the Eventbrite:

#Hack4Congress brings together political scientists, technologists, designers, lawyers, organizational psychologists, and lawmakers to foster new digital tools, policy proposals and other innovations to address the growing dysfunction in Congress.

In three events (in Cambridge, San Francisco, and Washington DC), civic innovators are invited to spend a weekend working on “hacks” (both technical and non-technical) to improve Congress. Each event concludes with presentations and the selection of the best project.

Winners will travel to DC in May, to present their ideas to a panel of Members of Congress and civic innovators.

For more on the outcomes and winning projects from the first event, check the Hackpad.


Upcoming Knight News Challenge to Focus on Elections


The Knight Foundation just announced details about their next News Challenge, and it’s bound to be interesting. From their blog:

On Feb. 25 we will open the next Knight News Challenge with this question:

How might we better inform voters and increase
civic participation before, during and after elections?

The challenge is a collaboration between Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund, Hewlett Foundation, and Rita Allen Foundation, all of which plan to contribute funds, expertise and outreach as well as helping to review entries. What’s at stake, for the winners, is a share of more than $3 million.

As with past challenges, this one will cast a wide net. We are looking for innovative ideas ranging from new ways that news organizations, civic tech entrepreneurs and others can better inform voters and increase civic participation. Projects could range from bringing more transparency to money and politics, to making voting easy, efficient and fair, to converting election participation into longer-term civic engagement — on the local, state or national level.

With newsrooms and civic organizations gearing up for the 2016 elections, this is a prime moment to explore new ways to engage Americans in the political process and increase participation in our democracy.

Below are just a few examples of areas we’d find worth exploring in this context:

  • Develop methods to extend the reach of citizen juries by offering opportunities to involve the general public more
  • Explore new ways for citizens to co-create voter guides
  • Apply a more participatory approach to the creation of initiatives and ballot measures, both at the state and local level
  • Develop new media formats that allow voters to better get to know the candidates
  • And plenty more…

Needless to say, most of these would benefit from robust online deliberation capacities.

Please get in touch if you’d like to partner on these or any related project ideas. Thanks!


Facilitate ’15

Events, Facilitation

Update 2015/02/09: The event is now free of charge! See you on Friday, February 20th!

Our friend and colleague Lucas Cioffi of QiqoChat is organizing Facilitate ’15, an 1-day online conference on facilitation:


This interactive conference is all about the cutting edge of facilitation.

Meet innovators working in dozens of fields. You can bring your own tool or technique and run an experiment as part of this highly participatory online conference. This is a safe space to experiment and collaborate with peers while exploring the cutting edge.

Active & Experiential Learning

Not only will we talk about the cutting edge, we will actively explore it with all the technologies that you and your fellow participants bring to the table for testing.

You can schedule a session on any topic and use any facilitation technique and any online tool that you have access to! If you do not have a preferred tool, an easy-to-use group video chat tool will be available for each session.

Intellitics is proud to be a sponsor. Use promotional code “intellitics” to get 20% off the regular price.


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!