Open Government through Participation: Designing Successful Online Consultations


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Some tips how to get your online consultation off to a good start.

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Open Government through Participation: Designing Successful Online Consultations

  1. Open Government throughParticipation: DesigningSuccessful Online ConsultationsTim BonnemannFounder and CEO, Intellitics,
  2. #edem
  3. Today’s Talk1. Public participation and why it matters2. Benefits of online consultations3. Examples4. Design Tips5. Tools
  4. 1. Public participationand why it matters
  5. “Government should beparticipatory. Public engagementenhances the Government’seffectiveness and improves thequality of its decisions.”Memorandum on Transparency and Open GovernmentJanuary 20, 2009
  6. The Idea In A Nutshell...• The goal is for government to make better, more sustainable decisions• One strategy to help achieve that goal is to involve the public and let citizens influence the decision making to some degree• This process is called public participation
  7. Public Participation Defined • Any process that involves the public in problem solving or decision making and uses public input to make decisions • Involves interested or affected individuals, organizations, and government entities • Two-way communication and collaborative problem solving with the goal of achieving better and more acceptable decisionsSource: IAP2, Jim Creighton
  8. Public Participation ROI• Identify better solutions• Build buy-in• Save time, money and energy• Avoid project delays• Reduce risk of litigation• Build community / social capital• Etc.
  9. Decision Making Cycle Define Evaluate problemImplement Identify alternative solutions Decide Develop Evaluate and evaluation criteria prioritize
  10. IAP2 Spectrum of PublicParticipationDesigned to assist with the selection of thelevel of participation that defines the publicsrole in any public participation process. Levelsof participation depend on the goals, timeframes, resources, and levels of concern in thedecision to be made.
  11. Key Questions (Online andOffline) • What are the decisions to be made? • Who are the decision makers? • How will the public’s input influence the decision? • Where in the decision making cycle? • What level of impact?
  12. 2. Benefits of OnlineConsultations
  13. Typical Web Strong Points• Participation wherever, whenever• Broaden reach beyond traditional formats, demographics, geographies• Scalability• Cost• Personalized participation experiences
  14. 3. Examples
  22. 4. Design Tips
  23. 1. Set the RightExpectations • When you invite the public to participate you’re making a commitment that they will have some level of impact, however minimal • Be very specific about how the public’s input will influence the decision • Don’t over promise!
  24. 1. Set the RightExpectations • When you invite the public to participate you’re making a commitment that they will have some level of impact, however minimal • Be very specific about how the public’s input will influence the decision • Don’t over promise!
  25. 2. Do Outreach• As with many things, build it and the won’t come• Important to get the right people to the table• Allow sufficient lead time to let people and stakeholder groups know about your online consultation
  26. 3. Assume People Are Busy• People have lives!• Make it convenient and manageable for them to contribute on their own terms• You are responsible for taking care of both your highly-engaged power users as well as your drive-by participants
  27. 4. Provide Good Learning• Participants need to understand the basic ins and outs of an issue before they can enjoy informed conversations• Provide complete and unbiased information in accessible formats• Harness participants’ expertise to help you improve your materials• Let them teach each other
  28. 5. Set Ground Rules• Online consultations require ground rules• Be transparent• Explain when you have to interfere (e.g. comment moderation)• Stay open to feedback
  29. 6. Summarize Early AndOften • Share what you are hearing • Allow participants to confirm you get what they’re saying • Give participants a chance to catch up on things they may have missed
  30. 7. Keep People In The Loop• Make it easy for participants to follow the consultation• Provide regular updates• Multiple channels
  31. 8. Lead• Consultations don’t run on auto pilot• You know what you want out of a consultation, make sure you get it• Good (daily) facilitation is key
  32. 9. Offer Technical Support• For the average participant, most tools are more difficult to use than you think• Assume a broad range of skill levels among participants• Provide help (e.g. FAQ, video tutorial, help line)
  33. 10. Follow Up• After a consultation is over, follow up in a timely manner• Let the participants know how their input influenced the decision or why it could not be considered
  34. 5. Tools
  35. So What About The Tools?• Tools don’t matter (that much)• Selection greatly depends on the task• Some good ones, some crappy ones — you can make a lot of them work• Even the best tool won’t save you if you get the process wrong
  36. Thank You! / @intellitics+1 (408) 627-0700
  37. Some Rights ReservedExcept where noted, the contents of this presentationare licensed to the public under Creative CommonsAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported(CC BY-NC-SA 3.0). The terms of this license areavailable at