Using Social Media to Enhance Civic Engagement in U.S. Federal Agencies

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This report was created by Yasmin Fodil and Anna York for their Harvard Kennedy School masters thesis, and looks at the use of social media to enhance civic participation in the United States and the …

This report was created by Yasmin Fodil and Anna York for their Harvard Kennedy School masters thesis, and looks at the use of social media to enhance civic participation in the United States and the United Kingdom in order to make recommendations to U.S. federal agencies on how to move forward.

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  • Hi Sandy,
    I just noticed your comment! Thank you! I am starting to work more deeply in civic engagement (here's our new website: http://bonnieandyasmin.com), and I would love to have some materials and/or attend any trainings that are available in the DC area. Can you help point me in the right direction?
    Thanks and best,
    Yasmin
    co-founder, http://bonnieandyasmin.com
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  • This is a VERY helpful resource! Thank you for making it available online. I just added this to the NCDD forum (http://ncdd.org/bb) where we are beginning a conversation about online engagement leading into our fall events.

    Sandy Heierbacher
    Director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD)
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  • 1. Using Social Media to Increase Civic Engagement in U.S. Federal Agencies<br />A Report for the Federal Communication Commission’s Broadband Taskforce, Civic Engagement Team<br />Prepared By Yasmin Fodil & Anna YorkMaster of Public Policy Candidates, May 2010Harvard Kennedy School of Government <br />Archon Fung, Academic AdvisorFord Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship, Harvard Kennedy School of GovernmentAsh Center for Democratic GovernanceCo-Director, Transparency Policy Project<br />Mayor Bill Purcell, PAC Seminar Leader Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of GovernmentDirector, Institute of Politics<br />MARCH 2010<br />ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS<br />We would like to thank Kevin Bennett of the Federal Communication Commission’s Broadband Taskforce, without whose dedication and helpful direction this project would not have been possible.<br />Our advisors, Professor Archon Fung and Mayor Bill Purcell were always encouraging and patient throughout this process, and provided helpful feedback during the year. Julie Wilson and Jee Baum were also generous in their assistance as we developed our methodological approach.<br />We would especially like to thank those practitioners in the field who took the time to speak with us at length about their experiences in online engagement. Several also generously helped us make contact with others – in particular Justin Kerr-Stevens, Steve Ressler, Dominic Campbell and Jeffrey Levy gave us great assistance in this regard. <br />Finally we are grateful to the Ash Institute at the Harvard Kennedy School for providing the financial support for our research.<br />We hope you enjoy our work! <br />CONTENTS<br />Executive Summaryi<br />Introduction1<br />Methodology4<br />findings7<br />Review of the Literature7<br />The Opportunity15<br />A Citizen-Centered Framework19<br />System-Level Findings20<br />Agency-Level Findings26<br />Project-Level Findings31<br />Citizen-Level Findings35<br />Recommendations38<br />System-Level Recommendations38<br />Agency-Level Recommendations38<br />Project-Level Recommendations39<br />Citizen-Level Recommendations40<br />Conclusion40<br />Bibliography41<br />AppendicesI<br />Appendix A: Open Government DirectiveII<br />Appendix B: National Broadband Plan MandateVIII<br />Appendix C: List of IntervieweesXI<br />Appendix D: U.S. Interview ProtocolX<br />Appendix E: U.K. Interview ProtocolXII<br />Appendix F: Mapping Online Engagement XIII <br />Appendix G: GuidanceXVI<br />Digital Engagement Readiness GuideXVII<br />Digital Engagement Strategy PlannerXVIII<br />Using Social Media to Enhance Civic Participation the 2.0 WayXIX<br />Roles in Digital Engagement ProjectsXX<br />Appendix H: Findings and Recommendations Summary TableXXI<br />Appendix I: Recommendations in ActionXXIV<br />EndnotesA<br />EXECUTIVE SUMMARY<br />Civic engagement is a critical element of our democratic process. It has many potential benefits for public policy professionals, including:<br />
    • creating public value in the form of better public decisions that capture local knowledge,
    • 2. increasing the capacity of a society to understand the decision making process in government to help solve complex or “wicked” policy problems,
    • 3. increasing support for public decision in the form of increased legitimacy of policy solutions and decisions potentially conceived across ideological lines.
    The emergence of sophisticated online tools and platforms that support large-scale, multi-party dialogue, collaboration, data amalgamation and ranking suggest a new low-cost technical capacity for increased civic engagement via the internet, which also lowers the barriers to participation for citizens. <br />The opportunity provided by the development of these new tools as well as the stated commitment of the Obama Administration to increase civic engagement is clear. However, many of the ‘digital engagement’ projects initiated at the federal level have focused on using social media to communicate with citizens in a broadcast mode. There is still significant untapped potential to use social media to engage citizens in a deeper participatory process. <br />Our findings suggest that there are actions that the U.S. federal government can take at four levels that will help create conditions that foster increased civic engagement: <br />Systemic conditions create the context for successful engagement<br />Systemic conditions refer to the political, policy and legal contexts in which agencies’ digital engagement efforts take place. Systemic conditions are important because they give agencies permission to engage in this work, create a sense of urgency to move forward, and provide a common context for agencies to work together. <br />Key systemic conditions include the issuing of executive level directives, lowering of legal, security, and policy barriers, and the appointment of whole-of-government coordinators and networks. <br />The United States has made a significant amount of progress at this level, specifically through the Open Government Directive and the Open Government Working Group; however, to enhance capacity at the systemic level agencies should: <br />
    • recognize that executive level directives are a necessary but insufficient condition for success,
    • 4. support the further development of the government-wide support, such as that which is coordinated through the General Services Administration (GSA),
    • 5. push for a policy/engagement centered network (possibly through the Open Government Working Group).
    Engagement as a practice must be integrated into the agency’s organizational structure and culture <br />At the agency’s organizational level of analysis, our findings suggest that support at the agency’s executive level is a critical factor in driving uptake and improvement in digital engagement. Similarly, cultivation of and support for committed individuals across the agency has been reported to accelerate growth in agency capacity. <br />Finally, the organizational structure and culture of an agency should reflect the role of engagement in shaping policy formation and implementation, in order for citizen participation efforts to be successful. <br />The United States has made progress in the realm, but where gaps exist agencies should: <br />
    • identify and support executive level leaders –both inside and outside of the agency,
    • 6. provide opportunities for personal access, training, and experimentation with social media to staff throughout the agency,
    • 7. create cross-functional teams (public affairs, legal, communications, policy, etc) to manage online engagement efforts,
    • 8. invest in the development of engagement skills among policy officers, in addition to supporting technical capacity.
    Online strategy should be driven by engagement goals <br />At the level of individual engagement projects, we have identified four factors that define a successful project. First engagement objectives must be well defined, and guide the selection of social media tools. Second, these nominated objectives must be closely connected to metrics that are appropriate for gauging the level of success in relation to engagement goals. <br />Finally, two kinds of feedback loops must be built into digital engagement projects: an internal feedback loop that allows agencies to learn from accumulated experiences with engagement, and an external loop that connects citizens’ engagement efforts to agencies’ policy settings and implementation. <br />Projects in the United States are primarily focused on communicating through social media. In order to deepen engagement, project managers should: <br />
    • design projects around clearly specified engagement goals, and choose technical tools based on these goals,
    • 9. create metrics that align with the organization’s mission and engagement goals,
    • 10. ensure each engagement project includes a feedback mechanism for agencies to absorb lessons from the project evaluation,
    • 11. be prepared to appropriately respond to citizen input before engagement begins.
    Fostering relationships based on interest and trust increases the likelihood citizens will invest in deeper engagement <br />Taking the interests of key constituent groups into account when designing projects and fostering an on-going relationship between individuals and groups can facilitate access to existing communities willing to engage and can deepen the level of engagement. <br />In order to create the conditions necessary for success at the citizen level agencies should: <br />
    • invest in the development and maintenance of an on-going relationship with online communities of interest,
    • 12. research the interests and capacities of communities targeted for engagement, and understand where key constituent groups are likely to engage online.
    Civic engagement is an important element of our democratic process, and online tools may provide a unique opportunity to engage. However, it is important that agencies not only focus on using tools because they exist; they need to think through how these tools can support deep engagement, and create conditions that allow citizens to participate in a meaningful and impactful way. For more support please consult APPENDIX G: Guidance for a set of tools we have created to assist agencies in the implementation of these recommendations. <br />INTRODUCTION<br />Once again, political attention has turned to fostering new opportunities for including citizens in the business of government.<br />Steadily declining confidence in public institutions – including government – in addition to the emergence of increasingly complex or ‘wicked’ policy problems has prompted policy makers to consider whether better policy solutions might be generated by involving those who are impacted by the decisions governments take.<br />At the same time, a new generation of internet-based tools has emerged, creating an unprecedented platform for collaboration, already transforming many aspects of our lives. These ‘Web 2.0’ tools – which include social networking platforms, blogs and wikis – are characterized by the new ability they give users to sort, describe, create and change data and information. This in turn has enabled a new approach to communication and human interaction, based around online networks and communities of interest that can collaborate in a ‘many-to-many’ mode.<br />While individual government agencies at local, state and federal levels have been working on disparate social media and ‘Government 2.0’ efforts since the emergence of these technologies at the beginning of the decade, it was the 2008 Presidential election that drew widespread attention to the deployment of social media for political and civic purposes. In particular, the social networking site my.barackobama.com turned social media into a powerful tool for fundraising, community building and voter turnout.<br />In November 2008 the LA Times called Barack Obama the first ‘social media President,’ in anticipation of his efforts to transform this campaigning tool into a mechanism for governing.’ The President moved to promote the role of collaboration and citizen engagement within government in his first official communication as President, a memo on “Transparency and Open Government” released on his first day in office.<br />In declaring his administration will be transparent, participatory and collaborative, the memo required the Chief Technology Officer coordinate recommendations for an ‘Open Government Directive’ to instruct agencies and departments on specific actions to be taken toward these objectives.<br />The Open Government Directive has signalled the Obama administration’s expectations with regard to digital engagement. Signed by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Peter Orzag on 8 December 2009, the Directive sets specific deadlines for action by agencies in the areas of openness, transparency and participation. In particular, agencies are expected to provide a Open Government Plan within 120 days “that will describe how [they] will improve transparency and integrate public participation and collaboration into [their] activities.”<br />The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed into law on February 17, 2009 provides for over seven billion dollars to fund the development of broadband technologies throughout the United States. The Broadband Initiatives funded in the Act are intended to accelerate broadband deployment in unserved, underserved, and rural areas and to strategic institutions that are likely to create jobs or provide significant public benefits. <br />The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been tasked with creating a National Broadband Plan to support this work. The Plan is required to include advice on how nation-wide broadband deployment can be utilized by federal agencies to increase civic participation.<br /> <br />All of this provides a rich context in which to address the question of how US federal agencies can use social media to increase civic participation. The political and policy impetus now exists for agencies to consider their digital engagement strategies. However, recent experience in the United Kingdom has shown that nationally-led recommendations for action are not enough to push forward an initiative of this kind. <br />Moreover, digital engagement efforts here in the US are building off of a base of technological and organizational initiatives with a strong service and/or efficiency orientation. There remains much untapped opportunity to both broaden and deepen citizen engagement through newly positioned federal agency initiatives.<br />Our aim here to provide specific recommendations to federal agencies for action at the systemic, organizational, project and citizen levels to maximize the likelihood their digital engagement efforts will succeed in increasing civic participation.<br />This report does not seek to address related but important questions regarding access to broadband and the ‘digital divide’. It should be noted that a large part of the work done by the FCC’s Broadband Taskforce tackles issues relating to both the physical and social infrastructure needed to improve access to the internet in the US and ensure there is equality of opportunity among all citizens. <br />A NOTE ON HOW OUR WORK FITS WITH THE NATIONAL BROADBAND PLANThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began the process of drafting the National Broadband Plan with a Notice of Inquiry in April 2009. A Taskforce was formed to conduct hearings and research to inform all aspects of the plan which covers three central areas: infrastructure, access and national priorities. Civic engagement and government performance is one of the six national priorities featured in the final Plan which was released in March 2010.We conducted some in late 2009 initial research which informed the early FCC’s work, specifically around social media. In doing this, we were advised by many in the field that the product that what would be most useful to agencies would be a document that could help implement the vision of online civic engagement contained in the broadband plan.To that end, we interviewed practitioners here and in the UK, and created a set of specific recommendations to support agencies using social media to enhance civic participation at the systemic, agency, project, and citizen levels.We have designed this report to be used by agencies in conjunction with both the National Broadband Plan and the Open Government Directive.Our report sits within this context, and assumes that the Broadband Taskforce’s recommendations regarding infrastructure and access will be actioned.<br />METHODOLOGY<br />Our approach to this project has been shaped in large part by a lack of comprehensive data sets that track the outputs or impacts of social media deployment by federal agencies on civic participation indicators. <br />While some (limited) data sets about general internet usage are available no comprehensive studies have yet been completed that track the outcomes or outputs of digital engagement, and only limited metrics have been developed to collect data on this basis across government. <br />Our research is focused on a qualitative approach to understanding how federal agencies can increase civic participation using social media. Our approach comprised of the following components:<br />Literature review: We reviewed academic literature and current policy documents on the principles and theory of civic engagement; the context and principles of Web 2.0 and social media; the intersection between social media tools and civic engagement; and current official formulations of engagement and participation<br />Interviews with practitioners in the United States <br />Interviews with practitioners in the United Kingdom <br />Qualitative analysis: creating a framework to combine research on civic participation, social media and government innovation <br />We have prepared our recommendations specifically for an audience of US federal agencies – including executive leadership, policy makers and project managers. While our findings cover various actors in digital engagement from the systemic to the citizen level, our aim has been to provide agencies with guidance on steps they can take to improve their chances of success in this work.<br />
    • A NOTE ON HOW THE UK EXPERIENCE CAN INFORM U.S. FEDERAL AGENCIESThe US Open Government Directive was in many ways foreshadowed by the UK Government’s 2007 Power of Information Review and the subsequent Power of Information Taskforce on implementation. These undertakings, in conjunction with the Making Public Data Public Initiative, led to several significant developments at the national level of digital engagement, including:the 2009 appointment of the new Director of Digital Engagement in the Cabinet Office, tasked with coordinating across government to implement the Taskforce’s findings,the launch of data.gov.uk to make government data publicly availableGiven the concurrent – and in some areas, precedent - nature of the UK’s national-level digital engagement efforts, we chose to concentrate our comparative studies on this context in an attempt to garner insights relevant to US federal agencies.
    The following research flow chart illustrates how we used our data and information to inform our findings, recommendations and guidance: <br />Our review of the relevant literature covers both academic work and current policy statements that help us appreciate how ‘participation’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘engagement’ are understood both by scholars and current digital engagement practitioners.<br />There are three main values informing a desire to increase civic engagement<br />Literature regarding the values that motivate a participatory approach to public decision-making now spans almost forty years worth of critique of liberal democratic tradition. Authors ranging from Jürgen Habermas to Carole Pateman and Benjamin Barber have criticized what they see as a technocratic approach to policy-making that legitimates decisions by experts that may not otherwise have enjoyed the consent of the broader population. <br />These theorists suppose that without avenues for citizens to participate in policy decisions, the benefits of local knowledge may be lost in sacrifice to the interests of a central authority. Indeed, Peter Bachrach and Aryeh Botwinick are among those that argue inclusive decision-making leads to a fairer outcome for those otherwise excluded from these processes.<br />Others argue in favor of participation as a means to increase the social awareness that can lead individuals to learn how to act in the collective good. Robert Putnam’s work on social capital provides an argument for civic engagement as an educative process whereby the social networks and associations central to quality public life can be formed and developed.<br />A third main line of support for civic participation comes from those such as Frank Fischer who argue than a deliberative process of engagement can offer a means of breaking through intractable policy problems. By this argument, the involvement of citizens in a dialogue that entails learning, processing and creating new information and analyses increases the likelihood that creative and well-supported solutions to difficult problems can be found.<br />The various normative assumptions that inform support for participation can thus be understood in terms of Mark Moore’s strategic triangle, which provides a framework for guiding public strategy. Applying this analysis to the various theories of participation shows that an engaged citizenry can offer:<br />public value – in the form of better public decisions, and/or fairer decisions<br />increased capacity – in terms of the capacity of a society to solve complex or ‘wicked’ policy problems; and/or in terms of participants’ capacity to understand decision-making context and to contribute to the common good<br />support – in the form of increased legitimacy of public decisions, or bi-partisan ‘buy-in’ for policy solutions conceived across ideological lines<br />The extensive literature on civic participation and engagement also acknowledges several potential barriers to achieving effective engagement, which include:<br />prohibitive costs (both in terms of establishing and running a participatory process, and regarding the opportunity costs forgone by participants who choose to engage)<br />assumptions regarding highly a highly motivated and capable citizenry<br />the potential for participatory processes to increase conflict or exacerbate divisive positions<br />The elements of a participatory project’s institutional design will ultimately impact which of these potential benefits and costs are directly addressed by civic engagement. Project design decisions such as who to involve in decision-making, how to involve them and what kinds of decision-making mechanisms will be used should be made in relation to the particular goals of an engagement effort in mind.<br />‘Increasing’ civic participation can refer to quantity and quality<br />Sherry Arnstein, argues in her classic article from 1969 establishes a “ladder” of participation that ranks participatory actions on a scale with respect to the extent to which citizen power is exercised. Her typology covers eleven stages of involvement from non-participation to citizen control (via stages including information, consultation and partnership).<br />By her own admission, Arnstein’s typology is overly simplistic, but it provides a helpful framework for understanding the notion of ‘deepening’ engagement.<br />In his 1972 book “Participation in America: Political Democracy and Social Equality,” Sidney Verba defines political participation as “those activities by private citizens that are more or less directly aimed at influencing the selection of government personnel and/or the actions they take." He begins to create a typology of participatory acts by disaggregating: <br />
    • Voting
    • 15. Campaign Activity
    • 16. Cooperative Activity (citizens acting together to influence decisions)
    • 17. Citizen-initiated contacts (citizens acting by themselves to influence decisions)
    Graham Smith, author of “Beyond the Ballot Box: 57 Innovations in Democratic Governance” takes as similar framework and describes several types of formal methods for involving citizens in the political decision making process: <br />
    • Electoral – aims to increase voter turnout
    • 18. Consultative – aims to inform decision-makers of citizen’s views
    • 19. Deliberative – aims to bring citizens together to deliberate on policy issues, the outcomes of which may influence decision makers
    • 20. Co-governance – aims to give citizens significant influence during the process of decision making (i.e. participatory budgeting, community policing, etc)
    • 21. Direct democracy – aims to give citizen’s final decision-making power (i.e. referendums)
    According to Smith, there are two means of enhancing civic participation: <br />
    • Increasing participation – basic growth in numbers of citizen’s participating. You can increase participation by looking at the:
    • 22. Selection Mechanisms – to what extent is the project open to all, or is there a selection mechanism such as election, random selection, self-selection, or appointment? Is the selection mechanism fair? Is it inclusive? To what extent are politically marginalized groups engaged?
    • 23. Deepening participation – “any change which allows a more direct, sustained and informed participation by citizens in decision-making”
    • 24. Form of involvement – to what extent are citizens able to set the agenda? To what extent are they informed about the issues? To what extent do they have the opportunity to debate and discuss issues?
    Social media has the potential to change online communication from a broadcast to an interactive mode<br />The term ‘Web 2.0’ most commonly refers to online applications that support interactive networking, collaboration, co-production and participation. Tim O’Reilly popularized the term in his 2005 essay “What is Web 2.0” in which he outlined the core principles of 2.0 web software and platforms.<br />Much has been written about the potential for Web ‘2.0’ technologies to overcome some of the main barriers to participation, and to increase the reach of participatory efforts. <br />Fundamentally, ‘2.0’ principles refer to changes in the way both software developers and end-users approach the internet – in contrast to ‘1.0’ approaches, which feature the online publication of fixed news or information, broadcast to a largely passive audience or readership, a ‘2.0’ approach is based on user interaction with the information or data supplied online, thereby creating what O’Reilly terms ‘an architecture of participation.’<br />By running software applications entirely through a web-browser, users can interact with online data in more sophisticated and deeper ways than simply retrieving information. In O’Reilly’s terms, the web becomes a ‘platform’ on which users can sort, describe, create and change data. <br />In a 2008 paper released by the IBM Center for The Business of Government, Change and Kannan provide a helpful definition of ‘2.0’:<br />Instead of the content being published and controlled by a website administrator as in Web 1.0, content is created and controlled in a peer-to-peer setting by Internet users. Rather than users being just consumers of information, they also become the producers of the content.<br />The collaborative nature of 2.0 technologies lends them to the development of online communities or networks. The category of technologies broadly defined as ‘social media’ supports these online communities by providing the ability to support networked or ‘many-to-many’ communications that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. <br />Yochai Benkler has described this capability and the objective of social media as one of ‘social production whereby information is produced and consumed in a networked economy ‘characterized by decentralized individual action carried out through widely distributed, nonmarket means.’ Similarly, Clay Shirky has developed the idea of ‘small world’ networks as a mechanism by which to increase the scale of participatory infrastructure.<br />According to Don Tapscott, author of ‘Wikinomics’, user-generated media and social networking ‘are really only the tip of the iceberg. A new mode of production is in the making.’ Tapscott argues that the online community is now in an ‘age of participation,’ armed with ‘weapons of mass collaboration.’<br />Josh Bernhoff and Charlene Li argue that social media and 2.0 technologies have precipitated a ‘groundswell,’ described as ‘a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.’ According to these authors, there is an observable trend of people connecting with and depending on each other online which is increasing, and is changing the expectations people have of institutions, and the ways they should be able to interact with them.<br />The collection of data regarding the impact of social media on government is only just beginning<br />The 2008 National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS) conducted by the University of Maryland reports that over the five years preceding the survey, US citizens involved in social networking and virtual community activities has doubled to over 30 percent of the population.<br />For younger generations – those in their teens and 20s – the percentage of online participants is even higher. A full 64 percent of online teens are involved in the creation of online content. <br />These figures reflect a trend in increased penetration of Internet and broadband services across the US, as well as rising levels in the technological readiness of citizens. <br />As technology is more fully integrated into citizens’ lives, expectations about the opportunity to interact online are similarly increasing. According to the 2008 Cone Business and Social Media study, undertaken by a private strategy and branding company, 85% of Americans believe a company should interact with its customers via social media. Further, 56% feel a stronger connection with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.<br />While it would be premature to assume a direct relationship between consumers’ attitudes toward industry use of social media and citizens’ views of government use, there is growing evidence to suggest at least some analogous support. For instance, Digital Communities’ survey following the 2008 Presidential election found that 50% of citizens who engaged in online networks during this period were more likely to vote than the general population.<br />Data from overseas governments’ experience in social media also suggests a growing connection between governments’ online presence and citizen engagement. Upstream traffic to UK government websites from social networking sites and forums recently surpassed the traffic government sites received from news and media sites for the first time, according to Web analyst Hitwise Intelligence. In November, traffic from social media made up 5.43 percent of the government’s upstream traffic, surpassing the flow from news and media sites, which came in at 5.15 percent.<br />This evidence strongly suggests a need for governments to keep up with online and social media trends in order to remain relevant, and maximize opportunities to increase engagement and participation.<br />Less tangible, however, are the potential benefits of increasing citizen engagement with government. According to the UK’s Young Foundation, specialists in social innovation, there is some empirical evidence to suggest that increased citizen engagement with the state results in improved outcomes. However, evidence for this hypothesis is ‘thin and uneven’, largely because such initiatives are generally small-scale and under-evaluated.<br />The Foundation cites stronger evidence that suggests increased engagement improves citizen satisfaction with services and the degree to which people feel they can influence decisions (and, subsequently, improves levels of trust in government).<br />In February 2010 ForeSee Results released one of the first quantitative assessments of online ‘open government’ efforts, which concludes that perceived transparency of federal Web sites drives trust in government. Using the model established by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the study surveyed 3,600 citizens on their reactions to a sample of 14 government websites. On a 100-point scale, the aggregate transparency score designated for these websites was 75. <br />According to the study, citizens who believe a site is highly transparent are:<br />46 percent more likely to trust the overall government<br />49 percent more likely to use the site as a primary resource<br />37 percent more likely to return to the site.<br />There are clear limitations for extrapolating the results of a study based on a relatively small sample of websites compared to the number of government sites – a total which is in perpetual flux and numbers in the hundreds. However, these results suggest there may be measurable benefits for agencies willing to invest in engaging their constituencies online.<br />‘Participation’ and ‘engagement’ have particular connotations in government policy<br />In the federal government context, Beth Noveck has identified a movement toward ‘collaborative democracy,’ which she defines as “a new approach for using technology to improve outcomes by soliciting expertise… from self-selected peers working together in groups in open networks.” According to Noveck, the cost savings associated with the deployment of technology can open institutional hierarchies into ‘collaborative knowledge ecosystems,’ and have the effect of changing the culture of government from centralized expertise to one in which social problems are solved collectively.<br />Noveck’s conceptions of participation and engagement are particularly significant given her role as the creator of Peer-to-Patent, one of the first federal government efforts to involve citizen directly in decision-making through an online platform. She currently occupies the position of Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government with responsibility for the Open Government Initiative. Two of her articles are particularly informative in understanding the principles behind the Administration’s commitment to participation and engagement.<br />In “The Democracy of Groups” Noveck argues that ‘self-constituting groups’ of volunteers can create value greater than what an individual expert may be able to accomplish alone. Similarly, in “The Electronic Revolution in Rule-Making” she is critical of the model of the ‘insulated bureaucrat’ and calls for an opening of government processes to include ‘on-going communities of interest and expertise’.<br />There is, therefore, an important overlap between the principles of participation, collaboration, openness and transparency informing current federal policy. Put simply, when agencies follow a policy of openness by reporting data in a transparent manner, opportunities are presented for citizens to participate in the business of government by collaborating with each other and with government to discover new solutions to existing problems.<br />THE OPPORTUNITY: USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO<br />EHANCE CIVIC PARTICIPATION<br />
    • The emergence of sophisticated online tools and platforms that support large-scale, multi-party dialogue, collaboration, data ranking, and amalgamation suggest a new technical capacity for increased civic engagement via the internet.
    • 25. Further, declining public confidence and trust in government, in addition to the increasing complexity of public policy problems suggest there is significant potential value for public agencies to improve and expand their activities in this area.
    • 26. The idea of a spectrum of participation outlined in the literature review is helpful for understanding that federal agencies can derive value from online participation through broadening (i.e. increasing the number of participants) and/or deepening (i.e. increasing the level of engagement).
    • 27. In order to establish the extent to which federal agencies are currently capturing this value, we have developed a basic framework that maps online engagement efforts against two variables. The horizontal axis measures engagement – specifically, the extent to which technological tools and platforms that support collaboration and interaction are used for two-way dialogue. The vertical axis acts as a basic measure of a project’s impact, defined by the extent to which citizen feedback, comments and input are incorporated into policy decision-making or implementation.
    • 28. Together, these two variables create a basic two-by-two framework in which current federal agency online engagement efforts can be plotted and compared. For example, most federal agencies’ twitter feeds are used in a broadcast manner, to send out links to press releases and other news-related items rather than as a means to engage in conversation with citizens. On this basis, these twitter feeds rank low on the ‘impact’ scale, despite the use of ‘2.0’-type tools.
    • 29. An initial analysis of the ‘engagement’ channels made available by federal agencies uncovered a high number of ‘low impact’ uses of both broadcast and interactive online tools. The majority of US federal agencies use their twitter feeds and Facebook pages in this way. While this can be an effective ‘brand management’ strategy, and a worthwhile investment by agencies’ public relations units, it does not meet the characteristics of engagement featured in our definition. The two-by-two below illustrates the most visible ways in which federal agencies are currently approaching online engagement.
    • 30. Key criteria for assessing impact:are agencies responding to or absorbing citizen input?is citizen input changing agency policy or practice?KEEP OPPORTUNISTICtargeted email campaignsdatabase of press releasesemail newslettersKEEP OPPORTUNISTICagency twitter feedsagency facebook pagesDEVELOPKey criteria for assessing engagement:are ‘2.0’ tools that support dialogue and collaboration being used?are citizens creating, ‘mashing’ or responding to agency data or information?
    There are, however, several notable examples of agencies in both the US and the UK that have deployed interactive technologies ways that have enabled new approaches to citizen engagement. Using a basic ranking scale based on the two variables described above, we have mapped the projects most frequently mentioned in initial survey conversations with practitioners in the field who were asked to nominate the most successful examples of government agencies’ online engagement projects. The results are mapped on the figure below: <br />ImpactEngagement1&473689&111025<br />These findings suggest the potential for government agencies to tap into significant value by shifting their online engagement efforts to the upper right quadrant. Currently, much effort is focused on using basic interactive tools in a low-impact mode that focuses on pushing information out. However, the examples cited in this analysis demonstrate new ways in which civic engagement can be approached, using the same tools and platforms.<br />In seeking to answer the question of how US federal agencies can use social media to increase civic participation, we have thus chosen to narrow the focus of our interviews and field research to better understand what specific steps agencies should take to move their engagement efforts into this quadrant of under-utilized opportunity.<br />The idea that there is opportunity for agencies to deepen their engagement using social media platforms has been the guiding principle informing our research. Given that we were able to identify some federal-level projects that appeared to fulfil the criteria of ‘deeper’ engagement, our interviews were focused identifying the conditions that agencies need to have in place to achieve this. The hypothesis we were testing was that in seeking to employ social media tools to deepen civic participation, policy makers must carefully consider several critical factors to guide decisions about which tools are most appropriate, specifically:<br />
    • the agency’s objectives for engagement/participation,
    • 31. the particular ‘publics’ or constituencies targeted for engagement,
    • 32. current barriers to engaging the target audience,
    • 33. the agency’s mission/mandate,
    • 34. the systemic conditions supporting this work.
    While the principles of open data, transparency and collaboration are certainly related, our central focus has been on this specific area of inquiry, noting that significant progress has already been made by government in these related areas. <br />A CITIZEN-CENTERED FRAMEWORK<br />The findings from our interviews and literature review fall into four levels of activity where actions can be taken to increase the likelihood that digital engagement efforts will boost civic participation.<br />Placing the citizen at the center of this analysis, we have developed a framework of concentric spheres in which value can be added to digital engagement efforts: <br />-302895282575<br />Systemic conditions create the context for successful engagement <br />Systemic conditions refer to the political, policy and legal contexts in which agencies’ digital engagement efforts take place. Systemic conditions are important because they give agencies permission to engage in this work, create a sense of urgency to move forward, and provide a common context for agencies to work together: <br />Systemic ConditionsPurposeIssue of executive level directivesCan generate the urgency needed to jumpstart agencies’ involvement and help nurture a culture of experimentationLowering of legal, security and policy barriersCan significantly reduce the challenges agencies experience on a day-to-day basis in the deployment of online engagement toolsAppointment of whole-of-government co-ordinators and networksCan facilitate information sharing, trouble shooting and best practice dissemination.<br />Executive level directives can jumpstart agencies’ involvement and nurture a culture of experimentation<br />US interviewees have reported that the Open Government Directive is having a positive impact on generating a sense of urgency around agencies’ online participation efforts. <br />In agencies where individuals or small groups had already been pushing the use of online platforms to increase civic participation, the issue of the December 2009 Directive has suggested the emergence of a permissive environment where innovation in this area will be encouraged. As one interviewee stated, the Directive has ‘given people the wherewithal to go to their bosses and say: “we need to do this, now.”<br />In a broader sense, another US-based interview subject pointed to the power of the Directive as a signal from the executive that a wholesale shift in agencies’ approach to citizen participation is expected. In this sense, the Open Government Directive is seen as an important driver for change – ‘it tells agencies – “it’s just the new way of doing business.” ‘<br />In general, subjects pointed to the importance of executive level leadership in allowing a level of risk taking associated with shifting engagement practices in agencies, as well as the capacity of executive level leadership to influence senior managers involvement in this work. Interviewees have reported that the urgency associated with this requirement has spurred an increase in activity and attention to digital engagement efforts. The issue of the Directives has marked ‘a rapid change from having to convince agencies that this was a good idea to agencies now asking the “how do we do this?” question.’<br />However, experience in the UK suggests centrally-issued recommendations are not sufficient to drive an increase in civic participation through social media and other digital platforms.<br />UK subjects generally spoke positively of the central government’s 2007 Power of Information review and subsequent 2009 Power of Information Taskforce. However, there was general acknowledgement among most UK interviewees that the recommendations contained within these reports were not yet successfully translated into the day-to-day engagement activities of most agencies.<br />One subject stated that the reason for this disconnect could in part be attributed to the fact that the former Minister driving much of this work in government did not have direct responsibility over a portfolio agency. Without this direct channel between high level policy and agency level implementation ‘nobody has every mainstreamed [the Taskforce recommendations]. Nobody has picked it up, put it in the right place and taken it seriously.’<br />This experience suggests that high-level directives offer a necessary but insufficient condition for agencies to succeed with online engagement. <br />Lowering legal, security and policy barriers can significantly reduce the challenges agencies experience on a day-to-day basis in the deployment of online engagement tools.<br />Interviewees commonly reported that agency-wide policy, security and privacy settings associated with IT platforms can generate a heavy workload for officers interested in using common platforms such as YouTube, Facebook or Twitter in an official federal government capacity. <br />In the US, the General Services Administration (GSA) has begun to play the role of central negotiator for template policy and security agreements that agencies can readily customize, while recognizing that agency functions and structure require variation in policy and security settings. ‘[The GSA] has been in this space for a long time. [They] can have a role now helping to figure out policy issues and breaking down barriers in applying new media.’<br />The potential of this role was first explored with the GSA’s negotiation of a Terms of Service agreement with YouTube that paved the way for the launch more than 85 government channels on the platform. To support agencies’ capacity for engagement and consultation in the development of their Open Government Plans, the GSA has since negotiated a series of agreements to facilitate the use of a platform called ‘IdeaScale’. Policy and legal instruments including the Paperwork Reduction Act clearance, terms of participation for the user, terms of service with the provider, a persistent cookie waiver, the privacy impact assessment and agency privacy policy were all negotiated by the GSA, opening an opportunity for other agencies to more quickly and easily adopt the use of this tool. Within a week of its launch of the GSA’s site, IdeaScale was adopted by over 20 other federal agencies.<br />The need for revision and update of policy guidance was illustrated by a UK subject who noted that at the time Facebook and Twitter were starting to be used by agencies, there was no guidance contained within the UK Civil Service Code of Conduct to guide online communications.<br />The collaborative development and inclusion of “Principles for Online Engagement” in the UK Civil Service Code of Conduct, was an important step toward developing a professional environment where government officials can feel secure in their use of these platforms.<br />Making this approach a model for future projects is likely to significantly reduce the processing time and resources needed to launch freely accessible tools across a number of agency sites.<br />High-level designated co-ordinators and whole-of-government networks can facilitate information sharing, trouble shooting and best practice dissemination.<br />Interviews in both the US and the UK raised the role of coordinating senior officials and/or high-level networks as a means of supporting wide adoption of online engagement efforts.<br />As discussed above, the GSA is currently filling a co-ordination role in the negotiation of security and other policy instruments. Within the GSA, the newly created position of Director, New Media and Citizen Engagement, Bev Godwin, sees the critical work of her role in terms of offering co-ordination, support and training to agency official undertaking online engagement. <br />In the UK, the Head of Public Participation reports to the Director of Digital Engagement within the Cabinet Office, who is tasked with addressing the recommendations of the Power of Information Report. <br />In our interview with Tiffany St James, the current Head of Public Participation, she described her role as ‘helping agencies figure out how to engage with the public online, in a collaborative fashion.’ The main support she offers agencies in this area comprises:<br />collecting data and information about best practices from other national-level governments around the world <br />developing digital engagement strategy templates and audits for agencies to use in their planning <br />presenting findings and support tools to the directors of communications who are engaging in this work <br />creating in-depth training courses for agency officials throughout the government <br />coordinating engagement activities across the government <br />In addition to the creation of these specified roles tasked with responsibility for co-ordinating and supporting the development of agencies’ engagement capacity, several interviewees pointed to the role of both formal and informal professional networks in disseminating skills, experiences and information.<br />The US Federal Web Managers’ Council, formed in 2004, has provided an informal mechanism for senior government web managers to collaborate in an interagency setting. Originally established to recommend policies and guidelines for agencies’ compliance with the 2002 E-Government Act, the Web Council has evolved into a community of practice that aims to improve online government content and provide opportunities for the public to access government services online.<br />Similarly, the Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council was established in 1996 and – unlike the Web Managers Council – was codified into law by the E-Government Act in 2002. The Council now serves to develop recommendations for IT management policies and standards, and functions as a forum for resources, information and best practice sharing across agencies. <br />However, several subjects have noted that while there are established networks for technical officers (in the US) and communications professionals (in the UK), the same networks do not currently exist for policy professionals involved in civic engagement efforts, primarily because government departments have different job descriptions, titles, and functions. “There isn’t the equivalent director of policy [within agencies]. There isn’t an equivalent structure [as in Communications units] so you can’t get to the leaders of policy making leaders in government.”<br />In the US, a new high-level Working Group established January 2010 under the Open Government Directive, may go some way toward including policy experts in the information circles forming around online engagement. While the Directive mandated that each executive agency nominate a senior officer to the Working Group, agencies were left to choose which officer would most appropriately represent their agency on the Group.<br />As a result, membership of the working group is currently mixed between technical, policy and executive managers. This network has the potential to serve as a conduit for collaboration and sharing on policy and engagement focused issues, or to establish a specialized sub-network to fulfil this function. <br />However, according to one interviewee, the mix of nominations also reflects how new the task of online engagement is to many agencies, and that some organizations are having trouble finding the right person to ‘own’ these responsibilities. In fact, our subject said: ‘you can’t have one person in charge of “collaboration”. Every program manager needs to be thinking about the implications of engagement for their area.’<br />Summary – Systemic Conditions<br />Our findings in the area of systemic conditions have identified three potential areas where action can be taken to increase the likelihood of agencies succeeding in efforts to increase civic participation through online engagement. Our research has pinpointed the current gaps in the fulfilment of these conditions in the US.<br />Systemic ConditionsCurrent GapsExecutive level directivesUS & UK have both made significant gains in Executive/national level policy and directivesLegal, security and policy barriersGSA beginning to fill the gap in negotiating model procurement, policy, security and legal agreements accessible to all partiesCo-ordinators and whole-of-government support networksGovernment-wide networks need to include policy and engagement-oriented officers<br /> Engagement as a practice must be integrated into agency structure and culture<br />At the agency or organizational level of analysis, our findings suggest that support at the agency’s executive level is a critical factor in driving uptake and improvement in digital engagement. Similarly, cultivation of and support for committed individuals across the agency has been reported to accelerate growth in agency capacity. Finally, the organizational structure and culture of an agency should reflect the role of engagement in shaping policy formation and implementation, in order for citizen participation efforts to be successful.<br />Agency ConditionsPurposeCommitted agency leadersCan foster the conditions needed for innovation and ensure the range of individuals needed for engagement to succeed are involved.Individual familiarity and comfort with online platformsCan foster a commitment to digital engagement in the workplaceAgency structure and culture that reflects integrated engagement practicesCan produce online engagement efforts that align with mission goals and prevent engagement projects being ‘siloed’<br />Committed agency leaders can foster the conditions needed for innovation and ensure the range of individuals needed for engagement to succeed are involved. <br />A consistent theme among interview subjects in agencies identified as leaders in digital engagement was the role of agency executives in driving (or at least supporting) online innovation and experimentation.<br />According to our interviews, high-level leadership is important for two reasons. First, the integration of new technical platforms and engagement practices requires a commitment to innovation on the part of agencies seeking to engage online. Advocates at the political and executive leadership levels can provide the permission needed to enter unchartered territory, as well as the cover necessary to protect officers conducting public engagement ‘experiments’ online. <br />The UK Foreign Office cites the appointment of a new Secretary David Miliband – who had been known as the government’s “blogging Minister” – as a critical factor driving the expansion of its digital engagement practices. On his appointment as Secretary, Miliband granted permission to the agency’s digital engagement team to experiment with six new blogs. Within six months of the project’s inception, permission to start a blog was granted to all officers within the agency. “We are lucky that we have a foreign secretary who backs this… the work we do would be far less easy without his support.”<br />Second, since effective engagement requires buy-in from agency officers across a variety of specialist technical and policy areas, top-level leadership can drive involvement from the individuals necessary to make an online engagement project work.<br />In the case of the US EPA, it was reported that the organization’s entry into digital engagement practices was originally motivated by the Deputy Administrator’s request to begin a personal blog on the agency’s website. <br />The inception of this tool, intended as a means of communicating with agency stakeholders, had two important impacts on the organization. First, the blog demonstrated to officers throughout the organization the potential of social media to successfully engage stakeholders in dialogue. Second, in establishing its first blog, the EPA was forced to address organizational policies regarding communication, security, privacy and engagement procedure and practice. <br />Other interviewees at agencies where digital engagement efforts are relatively well advanced confirm the advantages of a supportive leadership: “having buy-in with the principals of an agency is just crucial for whether or not you are able to really affect some systematic change.”<br />Providing access for individuals to experiment with online platforms can foster commitment to – and technical comfort with – online platforms.<br />In addition to the critical role of agency leadership, our findings also suggest that agency officers are more likely to initiate or participate in online engagement efforts when they have had experience with social media tools in their personal lives. <br />Many agency ‘mavens’ who have driven the introduction of digital engagement within their organization have done so following personal success with basic tools such blogs and social networking sites. One interviewee articulated a common theme among many digital engagement leaders: “Experiences with social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook become important to your personal life and they are quite transformational, which translates into the workplace.” <br />Given the role of change agents or innovation ‘champions’ in organizational change, this finding suggests agencies can benefit from providing employees with opportunities to experiment and familiarize themselves with social media platforms in a private capacity – for example, by enabling access to social networking tools, or offering workshops in social media basics.<br />An agency structure and culture that reflects integrated engagement practices can produce online engagement efforts, which align with mission goals and prevent engagement efforts being ‘siloed’. <br />Many interviewees stated that to be successful, engagement must not be seen as an additional or ‘adjunct’ function that can be appended to regular organizational policies and practices. Instead, engagement efforts must be integrated into all aspects of an organization’s functions that relate to the agencies’ public interface. <br />However, the need for engagement roles and responsibilities to be integrated across core agency functions was more often illustrated in its absence than in actual practice. One interviewee observed: “[Here] in the UK you have tech people and teams driving… this stuff, but the problem is that you have a focus on the tools and not the concepts behind what they are trying to do. Someone who is working on a website is traditionally responding to a request. Quite often they forget that you have to do public policy, some internal change management and skill up staff.”<br />Cross-functional teams that sit across individual operational units provide the various expertise necessary to introduce new technological platforms, effectively communicate with agency constituencies and appropriately respond to citizen input and feedback. The various operational areas needed to fulfil these objectives suggest the need for digital engagement responsibilities to sit within overarching organizational divisions. Currently, our analysis shows digital engagement responsibilities are most commonly assigned to IT or Communications divisions. <br />For example, the new media team at the US FCC has cited its position within the Office of the Managing Director as critical to its success. “It allows us a lot more ability to work at more extensive lengths across the agency rather than just being associated with the media relations and communications. Engagement is much more than just communications… What makes the work successful is that we have a lot of people at the table helping us think about what the best way to execute is.”<br />Similarly, US EPA has cited the early involvement of legal, IT, executive and public affairs specialists in the development of its first digital engagement efforts as a key reason for its early successes.<br />This interaction does not happen organically, and our findings indicate that teams that are positioned in areas that sit across an entire agency are more successfully integrated than teams located entirely within a communications or IT office.<br />Similarly, agencies must develop capacity across each of the specialist skill areas required for successful online engagement efforts. Interviewees frequently reported the recruitment of social media ‘experts’ to supplement skills in IT or communications divisions, but have not typically identified the recruitment or development of officers with specialized citizen engagement skills. An exception identified in this report, the UK Foreign Office, has reported a higher rate of success with projects that have been designed by teams that incorporate both critical skill sets. In preparing this report, we have found no examples in the US that have replicated this model. <br />A UK interviewee noted that two particular risks are associated with agencies where a single operational unit has full responsibility for all engagement efforts. First, the entire process is at a higher risk of being more easily ignored by the rest of the organization. Further, in this kind of structure it is more likely that the specific engagement effort will ‘spin off’ in a specific direction that is not helpful for the larger organization.<br />In contrast, the UK’s Foreign Office’s approach to digital engagement was to involve the entire organization. For example, instead of forming designated ‘social media’ budgets, the agency provided training and support to all officers to ensure engagement practices were incorporated into all current campaigns. This was considered appropriate within an agency where most of the 16,000 staff members are trained communicators. <br />This example is illustrative of the mutually reinforcing tendency of an integrated approach to engagement. On the one hand, where an engagement effort is seen as clearly aligned with an organization’s mission, it is more likely to be successfully taken up across each of the organization’s functional areas. In this case, the Foreign Office understands its mission in terms of outreach, and social media engagement efforts were successfully grafted onto these existing activities. Conversely, where engagement efforts are clearly linked to an agency’s mission, the chances of the project ‘spinning off’ in a direction unhelpful for the entire organization are greatly reduced.<br />Summary – Agency Conditions<br />Our findings in the area of agency conditions have identified three specific areas where action can be taken to increase the likelihood of success in efforts to increase civic participation through online engagement. Our research has pinpointed the current gaps in the realization of these conditions in US federal agencies.<br />Agency Conditions Current GapsCommitted agency leadersLeadership support varies widely across agenciesCommitted individuals within agencyVery few examples of fully integrated engagement effortsAgency structure and culture reflections integrated engagement practicesCapacity building favors technical over policy and engagement skill development<br />Online strategy is driven by engagement goals<br />At the level of individual engagement projects, we have identified four factors that define a successful project. First engagement objectives must be well defined, and guide the selection of social media tools. Second, these nominated objectives must be closely connected to metrics that are appropriate for gauging the level of success in relation to engagement goals. Finally, two kinds of feedback loops must be built into digital engagement projects: an internal feedback loop that allows agencies to learn from accumulated experiences with engagement, and an external loop that connects citizens’ engagement efforts to agencies’ policy settings and implementation. <br />Project ConditionsPurposeWell-defined engagement objectivesCan guide the adoption of appropriate technical toolsWell-defined metrics and analyses aligned with engagement goalsCan provide data-driven analyses to support resource allocationInternal feedback loopsCan provide opportunities for agencies to learn from project experiencesExternal feedback loopsEnsure agencies respond to and/or incorporate citizen contributions and feedback<br />Well-defined engagement objectives that further mission goals should guide appropriate tool selection. <br />The objectives of any engagement effort must be clearly defined in order to provide a sound basis for project design and implementation. This finding has been developed more by its observable absence than by current practice, with the majority of online engagement efforts examined in this study being driven by the availability of technical tools such as social networking sites or blogging platforms rather than explicitly stated engagement goals. <br />As we have noted in our review of civic engagement literature, participation and engagement efforts can be directed toward a wide range of outcomes including the collection of feedback, the facilitation of public deliberation, the recruitment of ‘many eyes’ to solve public problems or the shared responsibility of decision-making. We have also noted that the various social media tools and platforms can support each of purposes in a different manner. <br />However, with digital engagement projects frequently designed and managed by IT divisions, the technical capability of specific tools are often driving engagement objectives (in cases where these are, in fact, actually defined at all). According to one of our interview subjects “the problem is that there is a focus on the tools and not the concepts behind what [agencies] are trying to do.”<br />Another subject reflected on the experience of an agency that initiated an open wiki as its first digital engagement project: ‘There are lots of tools you can use based on your engagement objective, and I don’t think people really think about what is their objective – they say they just want public opinion…. That’s not going to get you anything. You really need to think about what your objective is and what outcome you want, and then pick the tool. Don’t pick the tool first, which is what they did.’<br />Well-developed metrics are necessary to provide data-driven analyses of resource allocation. <br />Without clearly defined metrics, agencies are unable to identify the variables that have influenced a project’s relative success or failure, which in turn makes replicating successful efforts particularly challenging. In the case of agencies newly adopting social media platforms in an engagement effort, a lack of metrics deprives innovators of the data to support expanded efforts.<br />Metrics most frequently associated with the measurement of online performance are generally quantity-related measures - such as the number of page views or inbound/outbound links for websites, comments for blog posts or followers and fans for Facebook and Twitter. These generally do not relate to goals that are defined in terms of the quality of responses, or the targeting of specific online communities. <br />A common response across almost all of our interview subjects when asked about appropriate metrics for digital engagement was an acknowledgement that these measures are currently underdeveloped.<br />Two potential areas for project-specific metrics were suggested in our research. First, several interview subjects noted that digital engagement metrics should closely reflect the overall goal of the engagement effort. “The outcome for [digital engagement efforts] are really the outcomes of [an agency’s] campaigns, and actually they are no different to the outcomes that we were looking to achieve offline. The ultimate goal is to engage audiences, influence opinion and ultimately, change behaviour.” <br />A second suggested area for metrics to cover is the engagement itself – most particularly, did the agency succeed in engaging in a two-way conversation. Was a decision taken, was input received or was content co-generated.<br />Interviewees also noted the importance of having clear metrics as a means of demonstrating success and building support for future efforts. “The more that [digital engagement can be] demonstrated to be valuable from a policy perspective, the more the government will continue to drive it forward.”<br />Internal and external feedback loops can provide opportunities for agencies to learn from project experiences and ensure agencies respond appropriately to citizen participation<br />Feedback loops are an essential element of digital engagement projects for two reasons. First, they allow agencies to learn from projects and assimilate those learnings into future projects. Second, they provide officials with a mechanism to integrate feedback, input or contents received from citizens into their policy implementation and decision-making. Agencies need to be able to aggregate, assess and respond to feedback and incorporate the outcome of engagement efforts into their work. <br />Interviewees at the US EPA suggested internal feedback loops could also help in the development of appropriate metrics for future projects. “Record what you’re doing as you do it. Then go back and ask everyone involved what they thought – what worked for them, what didn’t.” <br />This kind of active learning process can also present an opportunity to familiarize agency staff with collaboration tools such as wikis and blogs. These platforms can be used as a communications tool for the internal assessment of projects, while at the same time giving staff a chance to experiment with social media platforms.<br />Agencies that take feedback seriously cannot simply ask for feedback, and leave citizen input on the shelf. One interviewee noted that few digital engagement efforts acknowledge that “engagement is something that runs through the policy lifecycle” and few agencies have established a means of managing the input received from citizens. “The challenge is around what to do with the feedback – if you ask someone a question, and they give an answer, they expect you to do it. That’s a big challenge.”<br />Summary – Project Conditions<br />Our findings in the area of project conditions have identified three specific areas where action can be taken to increase the likelihood of successfully increasing civic participation through online engagement. Our research has pinpointed the current gaps in the realization of these conditions in US federal agencies.<br />Project ConditionsCurrent GapsWell-defined engagement objectives that further mission goals, with technical tools that follow from these engagement objectives.Generally poorly defined engagement objectives and technology-driven strategyWell-defined metrics and analyses aligned with engagement goalsAppropriate metrics and analyses don’t existOpportunities for agencies to learn from project experiences and experimentsFeedback loops generally poorly definedand respond to and/or incorporate citizen contributions and feedbackFeedback loops generally poorly defined<br />Fostering relationships based on interest and trust increases the likelihood citizens will invest in deeper engagement <br />Engagement in policy and civic matters can be a demanding ask of citizens, and requires a baseline level of competence in digital and media literacy as well as reasonably high levels of motivation and trust.<br />Citizen ConditionsPurposeKnowledge of the interests of key constituent groupsCan facilitate access to existing online communities willing to engageFostering on-going relationships with individuals and groupsCan facilitate the deepening of engagement<br />Understanding the interests of key constituent groups can facilitate access to existing communities willing to engage<br />Many of our interview subjects noted that recruiting citizens with which to constructively engage can be as challenging as the internal agency changes needed to conduct successful citizen engagement.<br />Some interviewees suggested that much of the responsibility to actively engage lies with citizens who are “not doing a good job of getting involved when opportunities are presented.”<br />However, other interviewees noted that their own experience has demonstrated specific steps agencies can take to increase the likelihood that the invitation to engage will be taken up. The most common insight is that agencies should spend more time researching exactly who their target audiences are, and find out where these audiences are already gathering online. The most fundamental piece of advice offered by several interviewees is to “go to them”.<br />This is often the underlying motivation for agencies seeking to set up Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. An growing volume of research on the demographic groups using common social media platforms can assist agencies trying to target key constituent groups. <br />However, our findings suggest full advantage is not being taken of the resources available through these platforms. Most significantly, many agencies are experiencing a mismatch between the issues they seek to engage citizens on and the issues of resonance to these individuals and groups. One interviewee noted, for example, that “many agencies are asking for feedback on very broad policy issues, but the ideas they are getting back are very localized.”<br />Interview subjects who have successfully addressed this challenge have suggested two strategies. First, agencies should spend time on these platforms getting to know their fans, followers and friends – most particularly, the opportunity should be taken to ask them what they care about, with the assumption that nominated issues will likely garner more interests. As one subject put it: “all of our better projects are highly targeted.”<br />Second, agencies should then develop points of entry to engagement opportunities appropriate to the interests and makeup of the target audience. <br />One interviewee related their experience with an online public comment tool that elicited a disproportionate number of responses from lawyers, in the agency’s opinion due to the high number of fields the form required responses for. Responding to this experience, the agency noted: “It’s important to have lots of different ways to input… Our goal is to increase the audience base of people who are interested in happenings at [the agency] and to get as many people involved as possible… That’s really the core of what we are doing, so having a lot of different avenues to participate is what we are interested in.” <br />Fostering on-going relationships online can facilitate the deepening of engagement<br />Interviews in both the US and the UK uncovered the need for agencies to actively develop relationships with online communities before seeking deeper levels of engagement. For example, one subject noted: “You do want to involve people, but you can’t just open up a policy without any background information on the issues… You need to start raising awareness of what those key issues are before you completely open yourself up to being rewritten.”<br />Engagement projects focused on a ‘high stakes’ outcome or a complex set of issues require higher levels of investment from citizens. Agencies must therefore cultivate on-going dialogue and lower-level engagement with online fans, followers and friends as a means of developing the trust and background knowledge citizens need to make this investment. <br />One agency, for example, cited experience with an online multimedia project that asked citizens to nominate a personal behavior-changing goal and share their contributions via videos posted to YouTube. Initially, the project succeeded in signing up a higher than expected number of participants. However, no efforts were made by the agency to regularly engage with the participants’ discussion on the YouTube channel. As a result, over a number of months “the group languished and bad behavior began on the page.” Instead of going back to the group and asking participants to extend their personal goals and recruit others, the agency took the decision to close the project down.<br />Summary – Citizen Conditions<br />Citizen ConditionsCurrent GapsUnderstanding the interests of key constituent groupsPoor understanding of citizen priorities and interests; mismatch between citizen interest/capacity and complexity of issuesFostering on-going relationships with individuals and groupsInadequately developed citizen-agency relationship,<br /> <br />RECOMMENDATIONS<br />SYSTEMIC LEVEL RECOMMENDATIONS<br />The United States has made significant progress under the Obama administration in terms of creating Executive/national level policies and directives, negotiating model procurement policy, and legal agreements which are accessible to the rest of government, and creating government-wide networks which include senior-level stakeholders from U.S. federal agencies. In order to continue this good work, agencies should: <br />Recognize that executive level directives are a necessary but insufficient condition for success,<br />Support the further development of the General Services Administration’s supporting role, and<br />Push for a policy/engagement-centered network (possibly through the Open Government Working Group<br />AGENCY LEVEL RECOMMENDATIONS<br />
    • Using social media to increase civic engagement is a new objective for the U.S. Federal Government. Accordingly, only a few Federal Agencies have fully-developed ageny practices that aligned with the conditions for success we found in our research. Leadership support varies across agencies, there are only a few examples of fully integrated engagement efforts, and capacity building favors technical over policy and engagement skill development. There are certainly best practices to be found at U.S. Federal Agencies, however, this trend varies widely across agencies. In order to foster the development of conditions for success at the organizational level, agencies should:
    • 35. Identify and support executive level leaders – both inside and outside the agency
    • 36. Provide opportunities for personal access, training and experimentation with social media to staff throughout the agency
    • 37. Create cross-functional teams to manage online engagement
    • 38. Invest in the development of engagement skills among policy officers, in addition to technical capacity
    PROJECT LEVEL RECOMMENDATIONS<br />Most of the project found using social media in U.S. Federal Agencies are about using new technologies to better communicate with the public. Therefore, there are often poorly defined engagement objectives and a strategy that is driven by the tools available. Furthermore, feedback loops are generally poorly defined. In order to strengthen the conditions at the project level, agencies should: <br />Design projects around clearly specified engagement goals, and choose technical tools based on these goals<br />Create metrics that align with the organization’s mission and engagement goals<br />Ensure each engagement project includes a feedback mechanism for agencies to absorb lessons from the project evaluation<br />Be prepared to appropriately respond to citizen input before engagement begins <br />CITIZEN LEVEL RECOMMENDATIONS<br />U.S. citizens and agencies are just beginning to interact online, and much work needs to be done in order to better understand citizen’s priorities and interests, create better matches between citizen’s interests and capacities and the complexity of the issues, and better develop the relationships between citizens and agencies. In order to create better conditions at the citizen level, agencies should:<br />Invest in the development and maintenance of on-going relationships with online communities of interest<br />Research the interests and capacities of communities targeted for engagement<br /> <br />CONCLUSION<br />Using social media to deepen engagement with citizens is largely unexplored territory, and there are many challenges ahead, such as how to increase the capacity and interest of participants, what to do when divisive conflicts arise, and how to ensure that those participating reflect the views of the broader population. Further research that addresses these questions would be an invaluable addition to the field. <br />However, these challenges should not deter agencies from exploring the full potential of emerging social media tools for increasing civic participation. The strength of our democracy depends on the quality of governance and the confidence that citizens have in it, and increasing civic engagement is one way that we can impact both of these critical goals. <br />We hope that our work has provided agencies with new frameworks for approaching online engagement to take advantage of these new opportunities and give citizens a meaningful opportunity to participate. <br />BIBLIOGRAPHY<br />Bibliography Sections <br />Social Media, New Media, and Technology <br />Civic Participation <br />Civic Engagement through Internet Technology <br />United States Policies, Recommendations, and Guidance for Using Social and New Media <br />International Policies, Recommendations, and Guidance for Using Social and New Media <br />Case Studies <br />Public Media <br />1. Social Media, New Media, and Technology <br />Selwyn, Neil. Reconsidering Political and Popular Understandings of the Digital Divide. New Media and Society, 2004. <br />West, Darrell M. Comparing Technology Innovation in the Private and Public Sectors. Brookings Institute, June 2009. <br />Benkler, Yochai. The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. <br />Livingston, Sonia Lievrouw. The Handbook of New Media. New Media and Society, 2002. <br />Walters, Jonathan. Understanding Innovation: What Inspires It? What Makes it Successful?. Governing Magazine, December 2001. <br />2. Civic Participation <br />Abelson, Julia, et al. Deliberations about deliberative methods: issues in the design and evaluation ofpublic participation processes (social science and medicine. 2003<br />Arnstein, Sherry R. “A Ladder of Citizen Participation.” American Institute of Planning Journal. P. 216-224. Location: Print, 1969 <br />Bernier, Roger H., PhD, MPH. Consequential Public Engagement: Co-Creating Advice Which Influences Public Health Decision Making. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 2008. <br />Collin, Phillipa. Young People Imagining a New Democracy: Literature Review. Whitlam Institute, University of Western Sydney <br />Fagotto, Elena and Fung, Archon. Sustaining Public Engagement: Embedded Deliberation in Local Communities. Everyday Democracy and the Kettering Foundation, 2009. <br />Fung, Archon. Survey Article: Recipes for Public Spheres: Eight Institutional Design Choices and Their Consequences. . <br />Rowe, Gene and Frewer, Lynn. Public Participation Methods: A Framework for Evaluation. Science, technology, human values.<br />Smith, Graham. Democratic Innovations: Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation (chapters 1, 4). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009<br />Verba, Sidney. Participation in America. New York: Harper & Row, 1972. <br />Catt, Helena & Murphy, Michael. What Voice for the People? Categorizing Methods of Public Consultation. Australian Journal of Political Science, 2003.<br />3. Civic Engagement through Internet Technology <br />Center for Democracy and Technology. Online E-Government Handbook. 01 Nov 2009. <http://www.cdt.org/egov/handbook/civicengagement.shtml><br />Center for Digital Government. Renovation Nation: Improving Government Service Delivery in Smart and Sustainable Ways. <br />Chang, Ai-Mei & Kannan, P.K. Leveraging Web 2.0 in Government. 2008, The IBM Center for the Business of Government . <br />Clift, Steven. E-Government and Democracy: Representation and Citizen Engagement in the Information Age - A Report to the UN. 2003: self published. <br />Coleman, Renita; Lieber, Paul; Mendelson, Andrew L; and Kurpius, David D. Kurpius. Public Life and the Internet: If you build a better website, will citizens become engaged?. New Media and Society, 2008. <br />de Gennaro, Corinna. The Internet and the Public: Online and Offline Political Participation in the UK. Parliamentary Affairs. <br />Dhavan V. Shah, Jaeho Cho, and William P Eveland, JR, and Nojin Kwak. Information and Expression in a Digital Age: Modeling Internet Effects on Civic Participation. Communication Research. Vol 32, No 5. October, 2005. <br />Fountain, Jane E. Electronic Government and Electronic Civics. 2003; KSG Working Paper Series. <br />Freed, Larry. E-Government Satisfaction Index (American Customer Satisfaction Index). ForeSee Results, July 28, 2009. <br />Gil De Zuniga, Homero; Puig-l-Abril, Rojas, Hernando. Weblogs, traditional sources online and political participation: an assessment of how the internet <br />is changing the political environment. New Media & Society, 2009. <br />Hindman, Matthew. The Myth of Digital Democracy. 2009; Princeton University Press. <br />Holzer, Marc. Restoring Trust in Government: The Potential of Digital Citizen Participation. UN Public Administration Network & American Society for Public Administration. <br />Novek, Beth. Wiki Government (Chp 2,5). 2009; Brookings. <br />Pasek, J, Romer,D. Realizing the social Internet? Online social networking meets offline civic engagement. 2009; Routledge. <br />Sandler, Todd. Government 2.0: Building Communities with Web 2.0 and Social Networking. Center for Digital Government . <br />Sandler, Todd. Opportunity in Crisis: Consolidation, Collaboration & Cooperation in Local Government. Digital Communities. <br />Smith, Aaron; Lehman Schlozman, Kay; Verba, Sidney, Brady, Henry. The Internet and Civic Engagement. September 2009, Pew Internet and American Life Project. <br />Toregas, Costis. The Politics of E-Gov: The Upcoming Struggle for Redefining Civic Engagement. 2001; National Civic Review. <br />West, Darrell M. Improving Technology Utilization in Electronic Government Around the World, 2008. August 2008; Brookings Institute. <br />West, Darrell M. State and Federal Electronic Government in the United States, 2008. August 2008; Brookings Institute. <br />Freed, Larry. E-Government Satisfaction Index. July 2009; ForeSee Results. <br />Gibson, Rachel K; Lusoli, Wainer; <br />Ward, Stephen. Online Participation in the UK: Testing a Contextualized Model of Internet Effects. British journal of politics & international relations, 7 (4), 2005, pp. 561-583. <br />Gronlund, Ake. E-Democracy: In Search of Tools and Methods for Effective Participation. Journal of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis. <br />Heeks, Richard. Understanding and Measuring E-Government: International Benchmarking Studies. Development Informatics Group 2006. <br />Kersten, Gregory E. E-Democracy and Participatory Decision Making: Lessons from E-Negotiation Experiments. 2003: Journal of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis. <br />Knight Foundation. Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age. 2009. <br />Komito, Lee. E-Participation and Governance: Widening the Net. <br />Netchaeva, Irina. E-Government and E-Democracy: A Comparison of Opportunities in the North and the Soutn. 2002; International Communication Gazette. <br />Norris, Pippa. Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty and the Internet Worldwide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. <br />Norris, Pippa. Will new technology boost turnout?. . <br />Rheingold, Howard. Using Participatory Media and Public Voice to Encourage Civic Engagement. 2007: John D and Catherin T MacArthur Foundation. <br />Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody. . <br />Sunstein, Cass . Republic.com. 2001; Princeton University Press. <br />Trechsel, Alexander et all. Evaluation of the Use of New Technologies in Order to Facilitate Democracy in Europe.<br />Woo-Young, Chang. Online Civic Participation and Political Empowerment: Online Media and Public Opinion Formation in Korea. 2009; Media, Culture and Society. <br />4. United States Policies, Recommendations, and Guidance for Using Social and New Media <br />DPRA, USA Services. “Government-wide Assessment of Citizen Services Activities, Final Report,” June 15th, 2007. <br />Federal Web Managers Council. “Examples of Agencies Using Online Content and Technology to Achieve Mission and Goals.” Federal Web Managers Council. November 2008. Federal Web Managers Council, November 1st, 2009.<br />Federal Web Managers Council. Putting Citizens First: Transforming Online Government. <br />Godwin, Bev. Government and Social Media (presentation). GSA (Office of Citizen Services). <br />Godwin, Bev. Matrix of Web 2.0 Technology and Government. Federal Web Managers Council, July 2008<br />Godwin, Bev. Your Government & New Media (blog entry). May 2009; .<br />Goodwin, Bev; Campbell, Shelia; Levy, Jeffrey; Bounds, Joyce. Social Media and the Federal Government: Perceived and Real Barriers and Potential Solutions. Federal Web Managers Council, December 2008.<br />Meskell, Darlene. Increasing Citizen Engagement in Government. GSA Office of Citizen Services and Communications . <br />Phillips, Macon. New Media Across Government (YouTube video). USGovernment (YouTube channel). <br />President Barack Obama. Transparency and Open Government. January 2009<br />Smudde, Robert. Removing Barriers to Citizen Engagement. General Services Administration, Office of Citizen Services, March 2009. <br />White House (various). White House Open Government Blog. Ongoing. <br />Federal Web Managers Council. Best Practices for Government Websites. <br />5. International Policies, Recommendations, and Guidance for Using Social and New Media <br />Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce. Towards Government 2.0: An Issues Paper. January 2009<br />OECD. Guide to Measuring the Information Society. 2009. <br />UK Minister for Digital Engagement. Digital Engagement: Update on Power <br />of Information. <br />UK Power of Information Taskforce. Power of Information Taskforce Report. Feb 2009: UK Power of Information Taskforce.6. Case Studies <br />Bittle, Scott; Haller, Chris; Kadlec, Alison. Practices in Online Engagement. Public Agenda. <br />OECD. Citizens as Partners: Information, Consultation and Public Participation in Public Policy-Making - Country Case Studies. 2001. <br />OECD. Focus on Citizens: Public Engagement for Better Policy and Services. 2009. <br />Smith, Graham. Beyond the Ballot: 57 Democratic Innovations from Around the World. May 2005; Power Inquiry. <br />Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg: “The Power of Information”, June 2007 for the review: http://www.uk-legislation.hmso.gov.uk/advice/poi/power-of-information-review.pdf and UK Cabinet Office for the Power of Information Taskforce: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/reports/power_of_information.aspx<br />7. Public Media<br />Center for Social Media. Public Media 2.0: Dynamic, Engaged Publics. Feb 2009<br />Goodman, Ellen P. Public Service Media 2.0. 2008<br />APPENDIX<br />APPENDIX A – OPEN GOVERNMENT DIRECTIVE<br />APPENDIX B - NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN MANDATE<br />NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN MANDATE: THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT OF 2009The Federal Communications Commission was tasked with creating a National Broadband Plan as set forth in section 6001 of the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009 per the following statute:TITLE VI BROADBAND TECHNOLOGY OPPORTUNITIES PROGRAMSEC. 6001. (k)(1) Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this section, the Commission shall submit to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate, a report containing a national broadband plan.2) The national broadband plan required by this section shall seek to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability and shall establish benchmarks for meeting that goal. The plan shall also include—(A) an analysis of the most effective and efficient mechanisms for ensuring broadband access by all people of the United States;(B) a detailed strategy for achieving affordability of such service and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure and service by the public;(C) an evaluation of the status of deployment of broadband service, including progress of projects supported by the grants made pursuant to this section; and(D) a plan for use of broadband infrastructure and services in advancing consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purposes.APPENDIX C – LIST OF INTERVIEWEES<br />Interviewees <br />
    • Robert Brooke, Parliamentary Staff
    • 39. Dominic Campbell, FutureGov
    • 40. Bev Godwin, General Services Administration
    • 41. Ian Green, UK Cabinet Office (via email)
    • 42. Stephen Hale, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
    • 43. Justin-Kerr Stevens, UK Department of Health (Consultant)
    • 44. Ingrid Koehler, Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government
    • 45. Jeffrey Levy, Environmental Protection Agency
    • 46. Michelle Lyons, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Consultant)
    • 47. Dan Muntz, General Services Administration
    • 48. Mark O’Neill, Department for Culture, Media, and Sport
    • 49. Tiffany St. James, Cabinet Office of Digital Engagement
    • 50. Kay Morrison, Environmental Protection Agency
    APPENDIX D – US INTERVIEW PROTOCOL<br />Thank you for taking the time to meet with us. First, we will introduce ourselves. <br />Its now XXam/pm. How much time do we have? <br />[A bit of background on the project… ]<br />We are going to ask you a series of questions – the first are identifying question, the second are about specific social media projects you’ve worked on, and the third about the general context for the use of social media and “gov20” in the UK. <br />To help with the context, here is a sheet showing the different types of social media and the different types of participation we are talking about. <br />
    • Intro questions
    • 51. Can we quote you in our report?
    We are going to ask you a series of identifying questions. <br />
    • Name
    • 52. Organization
    • 53. Position and responsibilities (including staff numbers etc)
    • 54. Background (years of service, how they came into this position/field)
    • 55. As an expert in the field of social media, we would like to ask you a set of questions to help us better understand the context of this work.
    • 56. (Generally) how would you describe the current use of social media by government in the United States?
    • 57. What agencies are using social media?
    • 58. For what kinds of purposes?
    • 59. Specifically relating to civic participation? (What kinds of participation – where on the spectrum?)
    • 60. Why has there been such a push to increase civic engagement?
    • 61. What are some of the accepted principles around why this is important?
    • 62. Why specifically through social technology?
    • 63. What do you see as the future of the open government directive?
    • 64. Where will main growth be?
    • 65. What will be the biggest challenges to full implementation?
    • 66. What kind of support is available to federal agencies seeking to implement a digital engagement strategy? (or similar)
    • 67. What kind of guidance is available to agencies and practitioners in this field to help them match engagement objectives to social networking/digital tools?
    • 68. What do you see as the relationship between online and offline engagement?
    • 69. What kinds of benefits or advantages do social networking platforms offer federal agencies in relation to their engagement goals?
    • 70. What are the different kinds of engagement being used for each of these constituencies?
    • 71. Who are the main constituencies of the federal agencies doing this work? Do you see them as different groupings? (citizens, consumers, collaborators etc)
    • 72. Who were the first practitioners/early adopters?
    • 73. What was the early response from the public and/or media?
    • 74. What types of projects or initiatives do you think haven’t worked well in the US?
    • 75. Why? What would you have done differently?
    • 76. What is the role of the 3rd sector/non-profits etc in this field of government’s work?
    • 77. As a catalyst/critic/supporter/connector etc?
    • 78. What kinds of recommendations would be useful for us to provide given our perspective from an academic institution?
    • 79. More about tools, civic engagement, for specific levels of leadership, etc?
    • 80. Closing Section
    • 81. We have some closing questions and logistics to run by you.
    • 82. Do you have any data or additional materials that we should look at as it relates to this project?
    • 83. Can we get a copy of your bio?
    • 84. Can we send you our notes from this discussion and any further questions we didn’t get to cover?
    • 85. Do you have any questions for us?
    • 86. Is there anyone else we should speak with?
    APPENDIX E – UK INTERVIEW PROTOCOL<br />
    • The protocol used in the UK interviews is the same as the U.S. protocol except for the following sections on context and ecosystem:
    • 87. Context and ecosystem – UK generally
    • 88. The aim of this section is to situate the specific work of the subject’s organization or project within the context of ‘Gov 2.0’ and social media in the UK. We want to understand how this field has developed and where the likely new developments will occur.
    • 89. (Generally) how would you describe the current use of social media by government in the UK?
    • 90. What agencies are using social media?
    • 91. For what kinds of purposes?
    • 92. Is this generally seen as successful/growing area or not?
    • 93. Specifically relating to civic participation? (What kinds of participation – where on the spectrum?)
    • 94. Why did government start using social media?
    • 95. In response to non-govt organizations (eg MySociety etc)?
    • 96. In response to popular demand/increased internet uptake?
    • 97. How was the use of social media platforms rolled out in government?
    • 98. Who were the first practitioners/early adopters?
    • 99. What was the early response from the public and/or media?
    • 100. What types of projects or initiatives do you think haven’t worked well in the UK (if any)?
    • 101. Why? What would you have done differently?
    • 102. What is the role of the 3rd sector/non-profits etc in this field of government’s work?
    • 103. As a catalyst/critic/supporter/connector etc?
    • 104. What do you see as the main future directions for the use of social media by government?
    • 105. What areas need to be improved (if any?)
    • 106. Where will main growth be?
    • 107. Where are the biggest successes and failures and how will these be built on?
    • 108. If there was one thing you could change/improve about the current system what would it be?
    APPENDIX F – MAPPING ONLINE ENGAGEMENT<br />Project name (including agency)DescriptionRating: engage-mentReasonRating: High impact Reason1. (US) EPA online townhallOn February 23 2010 EPA officials answered questions on how to reduce carbon footprints, and engaged viewers in discussion on the 2008 Definition of Solid Waste Rule. Participants were invited to watch video online while either emailing or phoning in with questions.3Dialogue established through combination of broadcast tools (video, email) rather than social media5Input incorporated into formal rule-making consultation process2. (US) CDC H1NI deliberationThe CDC held two 2-day web dialogues in conjunction with 10 face-to-face town hall meetings as a means of hosting a public deliberation about options for distributing H1N1 vaccines (options being ‘go easy’, ‘moderate effort’ and ‘full throttle’.) Deliberation took place in August and September 2009.6Discussion forums used in addition to broadcast tools including information posts and data surveys7Participants invited to contribute to a specific policy decision3. (US) TSA evolution of security blogThe ‘Evolution of Security’ blog is sponsored by the TSA to facilitate an ongoing dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process. The blog commenced in January 2008 and currently seeks comments from the public under the subtitle: “Terrorists Evolve. Threats Evolve. Security Must Stay Ahead. You Play a Part.”5Comments-enabled blog with frequent responses from agency bloggers 4.5Depends on content. Purpose is general but specific policy and implement-ation responses to blog comments have been seen4. (UK) No 10 petitionsAn online petition was initiated in November 2006 by No 10 Downing Street in conjunction with non-profit MySociety with the purpose of allowing citizens to submit petitions in an electronic form as an alternative to the long-term tradition of paper petitions. Around 300 petitions are submitted per week in an effort seen as helping Government understand the concerns of citizens.3Traditional broadcast platforms used5Petitions are routinely sent to the relevant government department for response which is corroborated and published by Number 10.5. (UK) Redbridge conversationHeld over 2 months in mid 2008, Redbridge Conversation aimed to involve all citizens living or working in the borough of Redbridge to participate in a dialogue about the long-term improvements and possible funding options they’d like to see Council pursue in the future. In addition to a series of face-to-face events, online discussion forums, blogs and as well as an electronic funding model provided opportunities for citizens to provide input.6Social media platforms providing for comment aggregation, voting and ranking used in addition to more traditional broadcast tools6Consultation results remain accessible online for Council members to report progress against6. (UK) Foreign and Commonwealth Office Bloggers: ‘Global Conversations’The UK FCO now hosts over 30 separate blogs under this project that invite comment on posts by FCO officials including the Foreign Secretary, various Ambassadors, High Commissioners and FCO program officers.5Comments-enabled blog with frequent responses from agency bloggers5Depends on content. Purpose is general but specific policy and implement-ation responses to blog comments have been seen7. (UK) BBC Royal Charter reviewOver 3 separate consultation periods from December 2003 to April 2006 input was sought from citizens regarding the review of the BBC Charter. Participants were invited to provide comments and feedback on a Green and White Paper consultation process over an online platform.3Broadcast tools and platforms used6Participants invited to contribute to specific policy-making process8. (US) PTO Peer to PatentIn June 2007 the US Patent and trademark Office opened the patent examination process for online public participation. An online platform enables the public to submit prior art and commentary relevant to the claims of pending patent applications and connects an open network of community input to the legal decision-making process. The initial stage of the project ran for two years from mid-2007.5Interactive features include threaded discussions, e-mail alerts, RSS feeds, social bookmarks, video clips, tagging and ratings6Participants invited to contribute to a specific policy and decision-making process9. (US) TSA IdeascaleIn response to the December 2009 Open Government Directive, the TSA was one of the first agencies to develop an online consultation forum using the ‘Ideascale’ platform which allows participants to offer ideas on Open Government, discuss them, vote and rank ideas. The platform will be open until April 2010 and several executive level agencies have since adopted a similar approach.7Ideascale platform features many interactive features including wiki-style editing, rating, ranking, and discussion forums6Participants invited to contribute to specific policy-making process10. (US) OSTP White House Open Government DialogueBetween May 21-28 2009 the White House Open Government Dialogue provided a platform for citizens to submit, discuss and refine ideas as well as vote and rank submissions on how the administration’s commitment to transparency, collaboration and participation should be fulfilled. Dominant themes and ideas were then directed into a deeper ‘Discussion’ and ‘Drafting’ phase for the development of specific recommendations to government.6Open Government Dialogue platform features many interactive features including rating, ranking, and discussion forums5More of a general dialogue with less specifically defined policy objectives11. (UK) COI – Improving Government OnlineThe UK Cabinet Office’s Central Office of Information hosted an online consultation, seeking input to a review of COI guidance about government website quality. 7Several interactive and social networking tools deployed through blogs, Uservoice, Netvibes and Twitter6Participants invited to contribute to formal review process<br />APPENDIX G - GUIDANCE<br />Through our research, it has become evident that there is a gap between the way a citizen-centered engagement ‘ecosystem’ should work and how digital engagement is often working in practice.<br />We have created a set of simple tools to help agencies implement our recommendations, which are aimed at helping them increase and deepen civic participation through their use of social media.<br />The tools we have developed take the form on single page worksheets, designed to help you think through the strategic and technical questions you will face as you plan your online engagement.<br />The worksheets include:<br />
    • Digital Engagement Readiness Guide - This worksheet is designed to help agencies take stock of how ready they are to implement an engagement project. The questions on this inventory were designed based on a series of interviews with experts in the US and the UK. This worksheet provides the following benefits: 1) allows executives, agency heads, project managers, and citizens understand what roles they can each play in deepening online engagement 2) helps agencies identify where assets already exist in order to take advantage of them 3) help agencies understand where there are resource or capacity gaps and work toward filling them
    • 109. Digital Engagement Strategy Planner - This worksheet is designed to help agencies identify the engagement goals specific to the project they are planning to undertake.
    • 110. Using Social Media Tools to Enhance Civic Participation - Unlike a static website, social media platforms allow users to co-create and publish content in alongside your own data. The level of interactivity or engagement enabled by these tools is determined by how your agency uses them. The following table illustrates ways to use common social media tools in a ‘broadcast’ or ‘1.0’ manner vs a more interactive or ‘2.0’ style.
    • 111. Roles – This document provides a brief overview of the different job roles in online engagement projects
    DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT READINESS GUIDE<br />EXECUTIVE LEVEL OFFICIALS: How is your system structured to support enhanced civic participation? What executive level directives exist that support engaging citizens online?Are there any legal and access barriers hindering this work?What procurement guidelines exist around using social media tools for engagement?What government-wide coordinators and organizations exist that can support agencies in this work?What security guidelines exist to help deal with vulnerabilities in using tools?AGENCY LEADERS: How is engagement integrated into your organizations structure and culture?To what extent is this a priority in your organization?Who are the most committed individuals towards civic engagement through social media in your agency? How have they expressed their commitment?To what extent do people throughout the organization have personal experience with using social media?PROJECT LEADERS: How is your online strategy driven by your engagement goals? What are your engagement objectives?How will you know if you are successful, and what metrics will you use to measure your objectives? How do they further your organizations mission?How do your available tools follow and support your engagement objectives?How will you develop lessons learned from this project, and apply them to other projects?How will you integrate the results of this engagement into your organization?How will you respond to and incorporate citizen feedback?How will this project be staffed? Do you have the right skills and capacities at the table to meet your objectives? Do you have existing staff working on this, or will you have new resources to put towards it?CITIZENS: How ready, willing, and able are your constituents to engage with your agency? What data and records do your constituents have available to them to prepare for this work? - OPEN GOV What evidence to you have as to the capacity of your constituents to engage in this work?What are the rules of engagement?What is your targeted groups interest in/investment in this issue? What are their priorities in general? Does your agency have a pre-existing relationship with this group?<br />DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY PLANNER<br />
    • STEP I: ISOLATE A PROBLEM OR QUESTIONWhat problem are you trying to solve through digital engagement? STEP II: SET YOUR ENGAGEMENT GOALSSome examples include: All/most/many of my constituents will have the information they needWe will get useful feedback on our policy that will lead to a higher quality product and will result in support from the communityCitizens will have the opportunity to interact with an inform policy, deepening the democratic processTapping into a low-cost and high quality source of information and creating a high quality product Delegating the task of making decisions to the people that it will impact most Experimenting with a new form of policy making STEP III: DETERMINE YOUR TARGET AUDIENCEDo you need experts in a particular field or general citizens? Do they have access to data and records? Are they interested in/impacted by the issue? Is there a pre-existing relationship between the agency and constituent group? STEP IV: ARTICULATE YOUR CAPACITYWhat are your staffing and funding resources? (i.e. one full time person vs a part time person)How long are your resources available for? Does this period coincide with the period of planned engagement? Is this a long term engagement or a short term engagement?STEP V: SELECT YOUR TOOL Use a blog, twitter, or facebook to share information over a long period of timeCreate a blog and ask people to comment on your posts Set up an ideascale project to allow citizens to deliberate over a particular policy or course of action.
    USING SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS TO ENHANCE CIVIC PARTICIPATION<br />TOOL1.0 use of tool (Sharing Information)2.0 use of tool (Feedback, collaboration, deliberation, decision-making)BlogsUsing blogs to share information, without any opportunities for readers to provide comments or feedbackEnabling comments on blogsDiscussing confusing policies, and giving constituents opportunities to provide feedback WikisUsing wikis without the opportunity for people to participate Creating structured assignments and projects for people to participate in. People are either invited specifically based on their expertise, or the project is open to all, with clearly defined timelines and deliverables, a mechanism to vote, and an outline of how decisions will be made. Micro-blogging (Twitter)Using twitter to post press releases or other bits of information without retweeting or having conversations with peopleKeeping up with relevant keywords and individuals and communicating with them via retweets or @ replies Responding to @ replies Social networking (Facebook)Using facebook to share messages and information without the opportunity for people to commentEnabling comments on posts Enabling wall comments Data mashupsReleasing data in a non-machine readable format (i.e. as a PDF, etc)Releasing relavent information in a machiene-readable format that anyone can use and analyze, creating additional value from the information Media-sharing (video, photos, podcasts)Releasing rich media on social media sites (youtube, flickr, itunes, etc) without the opportunity to comment on them Releasing rich media while giving people the opportunity to comment. Allowing citizens to create content in collaboration with or for the agency, and publishing it on social media sites. <br />ROLES IN DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT PROJECTS<br />Engagement leader - Translates engagement goal into concrete strategy using digital tools and platforms. Develops metrics to assess the impact of engagement efforts.<br />Community manager - Researches relevant online communities and builds bridges between agency and constituencies by developing on-going communications<br />Social media developer - Turns engagement goals into a user experience by configuring and deploying social media tools, providing usable data and (where necessary) developing new software<br />Digital mentor - Helps non-technical officers understand how to use online tools and platforms for the achievement of engagement goals<br />Community communicator - Provides new content for the project’s online platforms including updates, reports, interviews and blog posts in order to create a unique ‘tone of voice’ for the project<br />APPENDIX H - RECOMMENDATIONS SUMMARY TABLE<br />CONDITIONPURPOSECURRENT GAPSRECOMMENDATIONS -AGENCIES SHOULDSYSTEMIC LEVELIssue of executive level directivesCan generate the urgency needed to jumpstart agencies’ involvement and help nurture a culture of experimentationUS & UK have made significant progress in Executive/national level policy and directivesRecognize executive level directives are a necessary but insufficient condition for successLowering of legal, security and policy barriersCan significantly reduce the challenges agencies experience on a day-to-day basis in the deployment of online engagement toolsGSA beginning to fill the gap in negotiating model procurement, policy, security and legal agreements accessible to all partiesSupport the further development of the GSA’s roleAppointment of whole-of-government co-ordinators and networksCan facilitate information sharing, trouble-shooting and best practice disseminationGovernment-wide networks need to include policy and engagement-oriented officersPush for a policy and engagement centered network (possibly through the Open Government Working Group)AGENCY LEVELCommitted agency leadersCan foster the conditions needed for innovation and ensure the range of individuals needed for engagement to succeed are involvedLeadership support varies widely across agenciesIdentify and support executive level leaders both inside and outside agencyIndividual familiarity and comfort with online platformsCan foster a commitment to digital engagement in the workplaceVery few examples of fully integrated engagement effortsProvide opportunities for staff throughout the agency to personally access, train and experiment with social media Agency structure and culture that reflects integrated engagement practicesCan produce online engagement efforts that align with mission goals and prevent engagement projects being ‘siloed’Capacity building favors technical over policy and engagement skill developmentCreate cross functional teams to manage online engagement; Invest in developing engagement skills, as well as technical capacityPROJECT LEVELWell-defined engagement objectivesCan guide the adoption of appropriate technical toolsGenerally poorly defined engagement objectives and technology-driven strategyDesign projects around clearly specified engagement goals, and choose technical tools based on these goalsWell-defined metrics and analyses aligned with engagement goalsCan provide data-driven analyses to support resource allocationAppropriate metrics and analyses don’t existCreate metrics that align with the organization’s mission and engagement goalsInternal feedback loopsCan provide opportunities for agencies to learn from project experiencesFeedback loops generally poorly definedEnsure each engagement project includes a feedback mechanism for agencies to absorb lessons from the effortExternal feedback loopsEnsure agencies respond to and/or incorporate citizen contributions and feedbackFeedback loops generally poorly definedBe prepared to appropriately respond to citizen inputCITIZEN LEVELKnowledge of the interests of key constituent groupsCan facilitate access to existing online communities wanting to engagePoor understanding of citizen priorities and interests; mismatch between citizen interests/capacity and complexity of issuesResearch the interests and capacities of communities targeted for engagementFostering of on-going relationships with individuals and groupsCan facilitate the deepening of engagementInadequately developed citizen-agency relationshipInvest in developing on-going relationships with online communities<br />APPENDIX I – RECOMMENDATIONS IN ACTION<br />Systemic level recommendations in action<br />The Open Government Working Group<br />http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/documents/open-government-directive/working-group<br />A new high-level Working Group was established under the Open Government Directive in January 2010. The Directive mandated each executive level agency nominate a senior representative from their organization, but did not require these nominees come from a specific functional area.<br />As a result, the current representatives on the Working Group come from technical, policy, legal and executive areas from within their respective agencies. It is therefore the first government-wide network dealing with citizen engagement that includes policy, communications and engagement specialists.<br />As the Working Group beds down its structure, role and functions over the coming months, further consideration should be given to how the Group can continue to support policy officers who are leading engagement activities within their respective organizations.<br />General Services Administration – Supporting Agencies Online <br />http://www.gsa.gov/Portal/gsa/ep/contentView.do?contentType=GSA_BASIC&contentId=28995&noc=T<br />To help agencies comply with the Open Government Directive and engage the public on the development of their Open Government Plans, the GSA has helped agencies access a free web dialogue tool called ‘Ideascale.’<br />Ideascale provides an online platform for citizens to post ideas or responses to a specific question, then collects them in a format that support voting, allowing the most popular ideas to rank at the top of a collated ranking.<br />After negotiating a set of policy, security and privacy settings for the agency’s access to Ideascale, the GSA then made these agreements available to other agencies in a template format, facilitating the early uptake of this platform across many agencies in a short period of time. The tool was then provided to agencies under IdeaScale’s free Citizen Engagement License (http://www.ideascale.com/help/185.html).<br />By making a single tool available government-wide, the GSA is seeking to simplify the public engagement process for both agencies and citizens by building uniformity and consistency in the channels government provides for citizens to engage with various agencies.<br />Agency level recommendations in action<br />Supportive leadership at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office<br />www.fco.gov.uk/<br />The UK’s Foreign Office is ‘responsible for promoting British interests overseas’ and has offices in over 170 countries throughout the world. There are over 30 FCO bloggers stationed throughout these offices, 30 of which are on the official FCO blogging platform, and including the Foreign Secretary David Miliband. <br />This was not always the case at the Foreign Office. Digital engagement team at the UK’s foreign office increased dramatically when David Miliband became the head of the organization. The key lever for change here was the change in leadership that created a context for Social Media to flourish. Foreign Secretary Miliband came to office known as the “blogging minister,” having been an active blogger in his former posts. Almost immediately after he arrived he met with the e-media team where they pitched him a series of ideas they had under development. He removed the barriers for the team, and allowed them to implement many interesting projects. According to the Foreign Office, “the risks of doing this is much less than anything else [our ambassadors] do.” However, none of it would have happened without the support and encouragement of a leader who believed in the power of social media. <br />Providing opportunities to familiarize and experiment with social media at the Federal Communication Commission <br />http://reboot.gov <br />The FCC recently launched reboot.gov, a site designed to solicit feedback on the next stage of FCC development as it restructures its agency and functions. Before launching this site externally, the FCC created an “internal reboot” that was designed to provide a channel for the engagement of all staff. This was the first thing action of new media team after it was established at the FCC. The goal was to ask how the organization should set its reform agenda. Many of the staff had been with the Commission for over 20 years, and tapping into this expertise allowed the agency to get important feedback, but also provided a safe way to experiment with a new technology. <br />The technology used was a blog with comments enabled (anonymous), a forum that required a user name, and an anonymous feedback module that went directly to the managing director. <br />Several of the discussions on reboot led to policy changes within the organization, which reaffirmed the value of this practice for employees. The project was an effective way to build community at the FCC and model the practices that the new media team wanted to implement with the broader community. <br />Project level recommendations in action<br />Measuring support at the UK’s Central Office of Information<br />http://www.coi.gov.uk/index.php<br />The UK Central Office of Information (COI) is tasked with issuing guidance for all government websites. In March of 2009, they decided to undergo a review of this process, and open the review up for public consultation. The consultation, known as “Improving Government Online,” began on March 27th, 2009 and lasted for three weeks. <br />If success had been measured through the number of people participating, this would surely be a failure, as only 44 people participated. However, the theory behind the COI’s strategy was that there are many people outside government who have expertise in this area, and that the agency could produce a higher quality product by soliciting their input. And by those metrics, the engagement worked - after the consultation project was completed, the COI made many changes based on these collaborative recommendations, which arguably increased the quality of their guidance. <br />More information about how quality was evaluated can be found here: http://coi.gov.uk/guidance.php?page=282 <br />http://basiccraft.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/evaluation-of-%E2%80%98improving-government-online%E2%80%99-review/ <br />Learning from mistakes at the Environmental protection agency: pick five for the environment<br />http://www.epa.gov/pick5/<br />Every year the EPA hosts a national celebration for Earth Day, which for the past few years has included an online component. According to Jeffrey Levy, each year is another chance to improve on what they’ve done in previous years. This past Earth Day was no exception, when “Pick Five for the Environment” was launched - a campaign to get citizens to nominate five things they can do for the environment in the coming year. <br />Part of this campaign included a website, and facebook page and a youtube channel. However, by August, it was clear to the project leaders that the youtube site languishing and being used for ill purposes. The site lacked a community manager for this project, and the project staff saw this as a potential problem which led to the ineffectiveness of the site. <br />Having understood this, the EPA decided that the site needed to be dealt with, and someone needed to fulfil the community manager role in order for the project to work. Once they realized the project wasn’t meeting its goal of engaging people, the figured out what needed to be changed, and began taking steps to do so. <br />Citizen level recommendations in action<br />Go to where your constituents are – new data tracks social media use <br />http://www.pewinternet.org<br />The Pew Internet and American Life Project fielded its first survey about the role of the internet and email in people’s lives in March 2000. Since that time, the project has continued to regularly release research relevant to policy makers, technology leaders, executives and engaged citizens.<br />For example, its February 2010 report “Social Media and Young Adults” tracks the changing trends and demographics among social media users. According to this recent study, blogging among teens and young adults had declined, in contrast to a modest rise among adults 30 and older. This shift coincides with a dramatic increase in the number of teens (73%) and young adults (72%) using social networking sites. <br />These reports can be a valuable resource for agencies as they identify, target and map their engagement constituencies. Clearly identifying where these target audiences are already engaging online can provide guidance to agencies about where they should provide points of entry to formal engagement efforts.<br />Peer-to-patent: deepening engagement by fostering a specialist community <br />http://www.peertopatent.org/<br />One of the first social media projects directly linking citizen input to federal government decision-making, Peer-to-Patent has opened the patent examination process to public participation.<br />Run by New York’s Law School in collaboration with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the project provides incentives for patent applicants to post their applications to the online platform, where members of the community are invited to advise instance of prior art, as well as additional information such as descriptive industry terms.<br />The ongoing operation of the project thus relies on the engagement of a relatively expert community, far more specifically defined than ‘the general public.’ On average, a reviewer spends six hours working on an application. Understanding which segments of the online community are likely to participate in this kind of activity allows the project designers to build in appropriate incentives and target online community development effectively. <br />ENDNOTES<br />