My Twitter commentary yesterday about LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Fix DWP!” online petition site (here, here) got picked up by NextCity correspondent Nancy Scola, who interviewed me for her piece. Here’s the quote:
But engaging the public in a policy battle is a tough thing to pull off, said Tim Bonnemann, founder and CEO of the San Jose-based digital engagement solutions firm Intellitics.
“It’s certainly great from a campaign or an activism viewpoint,” Bonnemann said of the barebones Fix DWP! petition. “People have an easy way to sign their name and press submit, and that’s great for him. But from a public participation standpoint, you want to be sure you provide the public a minimum of information on what you’re asking them to participate in — at least a link to a policy paper. And you also want to close the loop at the end.” On the Garcetti site, “there’s no information on how the support will be used.”
“If you want to consider them participants, and not just a click horde” — the German phrase is klickvieh, said Bonnemann, a Cologne native — “then you want to actually inform them on what’s at stake.”
This goes back to the need for providing “complete and unbiased” information.
Compared to the federal level, there is a lot more potential to do meaningful public participation at the local level (generally speaking). It’s encouraging to see that Garcetti appears to be moving in that direction.
In my view, however, the petition site would benefit greatly from applying less of a campaigning and more of a public participation lens. Both from a content perspective (What are the policy changes at stake?) and a process perspective (How will the input be used? etc.), the site should provide participants with a more robust framework of basic information. In this context, see my 2011 post from around the time We The People launched: White House Petitions: The Need For Robust FAQs
I shared this suggestion with the the Mayor’s office via email yesterday. I’ll share their response should I hear back.