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"Can our field present a united front to the new Administration? Let's start by seeing if we can develop a set of principles for public engagement we can all endorse..."

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    I think whatever we create needs to cover online as well as face-to-face engagement, since this administration has already demonstrated how much they will rely on online tools.

    We'll ask some of our online experts to weigh in here about how public engagement principles might differ depending on whether we are talking about online or offline engagement.

    For now, here's something I came across from AmericaSpeaks' Millions of Voices report when looking for general face-to-face principles. It outlines what online deliberations look like as part of a national dialogue:

    Online deliberation engages the hundreds of thousands of concerned Americans who cannot join the face-to-face events, and/or who are part of the trend toward Internet-based political participation. These participants join focused online deliberation groups (each with no more than 50 members) on the official website of the National Discussion.

    Participants are recruited through web, email, and direct mail based on their affiliations with existing organizations, as well as ties to face-to-face events, “invite-a-friend” tools on the web site, and tactical site marketing and promotion. After registering and reviewing background material, members work in small groups, sharing their perspectives on key issues over the course of several days. Groups are monitored for content, conduct and activity levels, using a combination of human observation and automated tracking. Recommendation summaries are collected using customized tools to aggregate recommendations and distill common themes.

    A range of web activities challenge visitors on the web site to consider diverse viewpoints, think critically about choices, assess their views and values and ultimately declare priorities. These activities, in combination, steer thousands of web visitors through the component parts of a deliberative agenda. In addition to the online deliberations on the of?cial National Discussion website, thousands of other people may join online deliberations hosted by af?liate web sites. These deliberations adhere to the same standards and core agenda, and the resulting recommendations are collected and reported using the same tools.

    Development of the web site and deliberation platform for the National Discussion takes about nine months to complete. Online deliberations would occur continuously over the course of the National Discussion, monitored by a small central web team.

    • CommentAuthorTom Atlee
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2009

    Re: "Recommendation summaries are collected using customized tools to aggregate recommendations and distill common themes."

    My comments below apply to face-to-face as well as online deliberative summarization approaches:

    While I suspect the aggregation and distillation approaches are inevitable in mass events, my own experience is that such summarizations often remove the heart and life from the unique expressions that are aggregated, distilled, and summarized.  The process tends to be biased towards the head, reducing diverse passions, stories, and creativity to conceptual common denominators.

    It's like reading a summary of a great poem or Shakespeare or a child's voice.

    I suspect approaches that honor the aliveness of original expressions and diverse voices need to be used to augment the necessary reductionist summaries.  A few ideas:

    • Ensure that any summary is accompanied by a few of the juiciest, diverse examples of the statements that went into it.
    • Solicit stories or examples that exemplify a summary, and pick a few of them to bring it to life
    • Have several different theme teams do their independent summaries of the same statements, providing a thought-provoking contrast to deepen readers sense of what is underneath the summaries.
    • Use an iterative process like Synanim or one in which individuals revise a summary, and their revisions are summarized, until a statement is offered that (say) 80% of the participants do not revise
    • Provide a means for people to vote on unique expressions or proposals re a given question or issue, so that the most popular rise to the top without being diluted.  This was used on sites like and and  However, it is important here to ensure, if there are dozens or hundreds of statements, to present them in random chunks to the voting participants rather than in order of emerging popularity, so that initial popularity dynamics do not bias the final vote.
    • CommentAuthorTim
    • CommentTimeMar 10th 2009 edited
    This is a great conversation to be had, and I don't think we have all the answers yet (I'm going through my bookmarks to see if I have come across any checklists of principles for online engagement or e-participation in the past).

    First, I think the currently seven principles as outlined in draft 2.3 generally apply to both online and offline efforts. At this point I don't see that we need to add language that relates specifically to online.

    Online can bring some specific strengths to the table but also has some weaknesses. Just a couple of examples:

    1. With regard to inclusion, there's still the issue of access (where certain demographics may be underrepresented in online environments). One goal in the context of this project would be to come up with recommendations how this challenge can or should be addressed (or what the implications are if it can't).

    2. With regard to learning, I believe online is largely underutilized and could bring tremendous value to public participation (web-based or e-learning is a field in and by itself that we should look to for guidance). Oftentimes in face-to-face situations there is too little time to thoroughly educate participants about the issues at hand (think healthcare). Online, on the other hand, could potentially offer personalized learning experiences for each individual participant.

    Probably for each one of the principles there's strengths and weaknesses that could be further outlined for online.


    Online dialogue can help before, during, and after the face-to-face deliberations to ensure that limited resources are spent wisely.

    BEFORE: A structured online conversation can effectively seed the face-to-face discussion with great ideas.  This ensures that the participants do not have to start from scratch or spend precious time reinventing the wheel.

    DURING: Citizens who are not able to attend (due to personal or financial obligations) can participate in parallel discussions online.  The best ideas from the online conversations can be inserted right into the in-person deliberations.  This is a way to harness the collective intelligence of our citizenry in real time.

    AFTER: Face-to-face discussions may arrive at a partial consensus.  This consensus should be opened up with structured, online dialogue to perform a "sanity-check" on the results.  This provides an opportunity for additional voices to be heard.

    Other notes:

    1. Tom's point about building randomness into the process can make a huge difference.  Tools like Google Moderator, Salesforce's Ideas, DeepDebate (where I work), and others incorporate random sorting.  Random sorting can prevent information cascading and groupthink which can be present in face-to-face deliberations.  Ideally opinions should be averaged and distilled as little as possible; the analogy is that a photocopy of a photocopy becomes even less accurate.

    2. Anonymity has both advantages and disadvantages and is much more feasible online.  Advantages include providing an outlet for timid voices and also those that challenge authority.  One possible disadvantage is that some anonymous participants might act in an immature fashion.

    3. Online dialogue can be directly tied to external resources through hyperlinks.  These links can point to specific pieces of evidence across the entire Web, creating a much deeper discussion.

    4. Avenues for online participation can be far more inclusive than those that require people to show up at a certain time at a certain place.  This is especially true for single parents, citizens with disabilities, and those with demanding work schedules.

    • CommentAuthorTim
    • CommentTimeMar 20th 2009
    There is an effort getting under way in the UK that deals with principles for online participation/engagement etc.: As per David Wilcox: "The aim is to create a discussion space, and probably an online community, to pull together a set of principles and how-tos that would be helpful across a range of issues from inclusion and adoption of technology, to e-participation and e-democracy."
    • CommentAuthorSusanna
    • CommentTimeMar 25th 2009

    Great points Lucas and others.

    The way I've been thinking about this topic the integration of online tools with face-to-face citizen engagement to achieve an even greater depth and breadth of participation.  This blended strategy will allow participants to interact and arrive at a deeper understanding, by combining the reach of the internet with the power of people listening and sharing perspectives.

    Here is one take at the stages/opportunities to leverage online and mobile technologies for public engagement:

    Educating and Building Awareness. Individual learning opportunities. Social presence. Peer recruitment. Sign ups.

    Informing the Conversation. Refine options for tough choices. Recommend discussion questions. Develop learning materials. Develop values to guide discussion.

    Expanded Face to Face Meetings. Remote-site participation in large central meetings. Community meetings/house parties. Phone meetings.

    Online Deliberation
    . User generated content within structured and informed framework. Small-group online meetings synchronous to face-to-face events. Asnchronous small groups. Build out face to face meeting results. 

    Sustained Participation. Tools for taking action. Stay connected to other participants. Stay informed. Track impacts of public priorities. Track media on the issue.

    Note the use of text and phone tools as one method to engage people who don't regularly use computers. Check Pew for data about the large numbers of people of color who use mobile phones.

    • CommentAuthorTom Atlee
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009

    I want to encourage you folks who are familiar with the online/computer/technological world and its relationship to the D&D world to use this forum to craft a shared/consensus set of principles/guidelines for use by D&D practitioners and convenors.  This is desperately needed and the points given above are a strong indication of really good thinking in this area.  There are probably other sets of guidelines floating around out there.  I challenge you to gather up 6 or a dozen of them and post them here and then start weaving them into a coherent set of 5-9 basic principles.  This is hard work but the result could be invaluable.

    When I did the first integrated version of the principles for this list, I printed out all the lists of D&D and public participation principles that Sandy had gathered up from peer organizations and cut them up , principle by principle.  Then I layed out the pieces on the floor of my room and sorted and stacked them in similar piles.  That's where the first 6 principles came from.  Then I posted them on this forum and people critiqued and added to them and I kept trying to figure out how much I could squeeze everyone's ideas into those principles without making more principles -- because people get overwhelmed with more than 9 pieces of information -- and that generated the two paragraphs further explicating and enriching each principle.  It has been a challenging and amazing process.

    You could go through the same process and it would be SUCH A VALUABLE CONTRIBUTION, you can't imagine!!!  Recruit some other D&D-oriented geeks to work with you (recruit them from the NCDD listserv if necessary).  We urgently need this, and it would radically expand the creative use of technology in D&D and reduce the uses of tech that degrade D&D.  Just think of what a difference it would make!

    You are the ones you (and we) have been waiting for.

    PS:  I'm thinking of putting the following paragraph in the next version of PEP:

    "We believe the use of technology should be generally encouraged whenever appropriate to enhance and not impede these seven values -- and also that these seven principles apply to both online and offline efforts.  However, there is not yet consensus in our field on standards for the use of technology that would warrant the inclusion of specific guidelines in this document."

    That may serve as guidance for you.  In any case, the sooner you get the above project going, the sooner the paragraph in this PS will become obsolete!

    • CommentAuthorTim
    • CommentTimeMar 27th 2009 edited
    I'm going to set up an open conference call this weekend (maybe Sunday?) for a first round of discussions around online D&D principles. I'll send out the invite to the NCDD list.

    Dear All,

    I just spent half an hour typing a response to this conversation, and after I clicked on the button below for "Add Your Comments", I got a messasge saying that the message did not post because I was "not signed-in" (which I was).

    I have something else that I really should have been doing during that half-hour, so I am not going to re-type it and try again.

    I do not like using this "bulletin-board" platform, because it doesn't keep a participant "in the loop" about new things that other people say.  Consequently, the participants are not alerted if someone responds to a previous posting.  So the discussion(s) go on and on and on, without people having any knowledge of that happening.  It is very frustrating to use!!!  Even an email-listserv would be better!

    From now on, if anyone wants me to read or respond to something on the PEP principles, send a notice to the NCDD-listserv, or to me directly.

    --- Stephen Buckley

    P.S.  Summary of my failed attempt at posting:    I agree with Tim and Tom that face-to-face and online dialogue are fundamentally the same.  I don't see anyone here disagreeing with that.  Therefore, there is no real need to dilute the fundamental "principles" with language that is non-fundamental and, therefore, confusing to the reader.  (Good-bye.)

    • CommentAuthorTim
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2009
    I've scheduled a call for tomorrow 2pm Pacific. Please contact me for dial-in info. There's also this backchannel (already open): irc:// #pep_online

    Online tools do not necessarily need to be deliberative in order to add value.

    Let's consider a hybrid model between online and offline engagement:

    • CommentAuthorSnowanna
    • CommentTimeMar 7th 2010

    There's no email notification on this forum, so we'll have to email our networks again when it's time to "check back" and look over drafts.

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