On Monday night, the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Northern California chapter hosted a Mini-Symposium on “The Future of Public Participation” in San Francisco, CA.

I had been asked to give a brief talk about social media in public participation. Having recently spent a considerable amount of time and effort monitoring and tracking various e-participation initiatives in the US, I decided to share a few of my observations. I picked five example projects that have relied primarily on using off-the-shelf web 2.0 and social media tools:

  1. Rebuild the Party (UserVoice)
  2. Change.gov: “Join the Discussion: Healthcare” (IntenseDebate)
  3. Change.gov: “Open for Questions” (Google Moderator)
  4. Open Government Dialogue, Phase I (IdeaScale)
  5. #MyIdea4CA (Twitter)

It is important to note that a lot of the insights I present are still a work in progress and are often based on incomplete information. Due to the short time I had available at the event I wasn’t able to go into a lot of detail.

Aside from showing the data and interpreting the results from these specific projects, I was equally interested in drafting what might at some point become a general scorecard system that could be applied to e-participation projects of all kinds, shapes and forms. As I mentioned before, there are quite a few common metrics or key performance indicators that are necessary in order to monitor a project’s success. A standard evaluation framework could be incredibly useful for both conveners as well as tool providers. For example, such a framework could inform an Open Government project directory and knowledge base (and of course, a collection of case studies and project reports would in turn also help improve any framework).

Here are the categories I started out with to describe each project:

  • Title
  • Host
  • Objectives
  • Duration (start and end date)
  • Type (e.g. brainstorm, discussion etc.)
  • Tool(s)
  • Key participation metrics (e.g. number of participants, number of ideas, total word count etc.)
  • Challenges
  • Impact

So without much further ado, here are Monday’s slides:

I’m aware that there’s already work being done in this area and I’ll link to those efforts in one of the next posts on this topic.

What I’d like to work on next:

  • Get more specific regarding the public participation goal (as defined by IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation)
  • Sanity check some of the assumptions or perceived results (e.g. by way of interviews with the conveners or organizers)

As always, feel free to chime in with comments or suggestions.