Matt Leighninger, Deliberative Democracy Consortium, shared an update via email over the weekend outlining the approach behind the upcoming “Text, Talk, Act” instant text messaging event.

First, it’s described as an attempt to combine traditional forms of citizen deliberation with newer, more light-weight forms of engagement:

We developed this process because we were looking for a way to involve more young people, with the technology they use most, in a way that captures national excitement and produces meaningful small-group dialogue.

Essentially, what we are doing is combining the strengths of ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ engagement. Thick engagement has been a key element of public participation for a long time, though it has proliferated dramatically in the last twenty years; it happens mainly in groups, either face-to-face, online, or both, and features various forms of dialogue, deliberation, action planning, and policy choicework. Thin engagement has developed more recently; it happens mainly online, and is easier, faster, and potentially more viral – it is done by individuals, who are often motivated by feeling a part of some larger movement or cause.

More importantly, the process does not involve text-enabled group discussion or SMS chat, as I had assumed. Instead, small groups will meet in-person and will rely on SMS to receive guidance and to report back their answers to various polling questions, the results of which will be available online in real-time.

Two pilot projects have been completed, one at a high school in Oregon using Textizen, another one at a college in Rhode Island using the United Americans platform.

Creating Community Solutions has put a special emphasis on the issues related to the mental health of young people.