public participation

Time to Apply for CSC’s 2010 Online Public Engagement Grants    

NCDD member Common Sense California is partnering with UserVoice to launch the first-of-its-kind “Online Public Engagement Grant Program,” offering California cities, counties, school districts, non-profits, and local news organizations a powerful online platform on which to involve their residents.

Yesterday, Common Sense California (CSC) and UserVoice announced the new grant program, which will offer free implementation and training of the UserVoice online platform for public participation efforts around the state. This online grant program follows on CSC’s “Citizen Engagement Grant Program” offered in 2008 and 2009, which provided over $200,000 to governments, school districts and non-profits to engage their local residents directly on policy decisions ranging from public safety to land use planning.

For the 2010 program, CSC is partnering with UserVoice, developers of the preeminent online idea-gathering and prioritization platform. It has been employed by cities from Santa Cruz to Philadelphia on a variety of issues from budgets to infrastructure planning. UserVoice provided the online infrastructure for the City of Santa Cruz’s 2009 participatory budgeting campaign [], which earned it a “Gov 2.0” award. Through the Online Public Engagement Grant Program, at least five (5) grantees will be awarded free use of the UserVoice platform plus implementation training – an up to $10,000 value. Applications will be received on a “rolling basis” with “Phase I” of the grant period concluding on March 8, 2010. New grant phases may be opened as availability permits. (more…)

NCSL’s The Rise and Fall of Town Meetings    

Check out this 66-minute video of the NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) 2009 Fall Forum held on Friday, Dec. 11. “The Rise and Fall of the Town Hall Meeting” video features three legislators talking about the effective use of town hall meetings and deliberation.

One of the legislators featured is NCDD member and Hawaii State Senator Les Ihara. The other speakers included: Representative Sheryl L. Allen (Utah), Representative Ellen Roberts (Colorado), and Katie Ziegler (NCSL).

Senator Ihara’s presentation cites NCDD’s work heavily.  He talks at length about our Upgrading the Way We Do Politics resources, which we created in response to last fall’s town halls on health care reform, and he presents the 7 Core Principles for Public Engagement, explaining that the D&D community worked together to agree on the Core Principles in response to Obama’s memorandum on transparency, collaboration and public participation.  You can view or download Senator Ihara’s powerpoint presentation here.

Here’s the description of the Fall Forum from NCSL:

Town hall meetings have traditionally been a wonderful opportunity for legislators to meet with their constituents, both to hear what is on people’s minds and to tell them about legislative news. However some recent town hall meetings have seen disruptive and uncivil behavior. This session described some recent legislator experiences and examined methods to hold productive and courteous meetings. Presenters provided tips and best practices and also explained how to use a legislator’s “power to convene” to hold collaborative meetings to solve community problems.

Levine Article on Obama’s Failure to Engage the Public, So Far    

peterlevinePeter Levine had an important article published on the Huffington Post yesterday titled The Path Not Taken (So Far): Civic Engagement for Reform. The article outlines the Obama Administration’s failure-so far-to engage the public in our great national challenges.

In his article, Peter writes…

Candidate Obama argued that positive change comes from organized social movements, not from the government alone. Social movements should be broad-based, not narrow groups of people who all agree with one another. They should promote discussion and collaboration across lines of difference-including ideological difference.

As he said in May 2007, “politics” usually means shouting matches on TV. But “when politics gets local, when the person talking to you is your neighbor standing on your front porch, things change.” In that speech, he called for dialogues in every community on Iraq, health care and climate change.

Later, on Obama’s executive order on transparency, participation and collaboration, Peter writes…

“Transparency” came to mean feeding information to organized interest groups, reporters, and a few independent citizens who have deep interests and skills in particular areas. Participation and collaboration have not been part of the agenda since Inauguration Day.

Service and transparency are not nearly “edgy” enough; there is no fight in them. People are angry – from the Tea Partiers to MoveOn. When citizens try to solve serious social problems, they identify enemies. They do not just hold hands and serve together; they strike back at those whom they perceive as threats. “Active citizenship” reduced to non-controversial “service” or downloading government data completely loses touch with the legitimate anger of the American people.

An expanded version of the article is posted here in Peter’s FaceBook and here on his blog.  What do folks think of Peter’s article?  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Feel free to comment here.

Rising Voices to map online transparency & engagement projects    

RisingVoicesLogoIf you’ve run online engagement projects in Latin America, Africa, Asia, or Central & Eastern Europe, this is an important announcement for you…

A group called Rising Voices will be launching a new initiative this month: the Transparency and Technology Network. This is a three-month, participatory research mapping to gain a better understanding of the current state of online technology projects that increase transparency, government accountability, and civic engagement in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, China, and Central & Eastern Europe. The project is co-funded by Open Society Institute’s Information Program and Omidyar Network’s Media, Markets & Transparency initiative, and aims to inform both programs’ future investments toward transparency, accountability, and civic engagement technology projects.

Rising Voices in the process of hiring eight regional researchers who will spend 16 weeks documenting at least 32 transparency, accountability, and civic engagement technology projects. These researchers will also facilitate 16 region and country-specific discussions on Global Voices about relevant topics related to transparency, accountability, and public participation in political processes.

They are also seeking research reviewers to leave valuable comments on each of the case studies and blog posts.  The Transparency and Technology Network website will allow moderated case study submissions by any registered user.

In addition to producing good research to inform the investments of funders like Open Society Institute and the Omidyar Network Rising Voices also aims to build a global network of individuals, groups, and organizations who care about the use of technology to promote more transparency, more accountable governments, and greater civic engagement. If you would like to get involved, follow the instructions on the full post or send an email to [email protected].

See the full post on the Rising Voices website.

You’re Invited: EPA Conf Call on Canadian & U.S. Experiences in Public Involvement    

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Collaboration Practitioners Network is holding an open learning session on January 21 at 1:00 pm Eastern, and everyone in the NCDD network has been invited to attend via conference call.  The session is titled “Canadian and US Experiences in Public Involvement — Learning from our Neighbors,” and leaders in NCDD’s sister organization, C2D2 (the Canadian Community for Dialogue & Deliberation) will be featured presenters.

The dial-in number for the 90-minute call is 1-866-299-3188, and the conference access code is 519-584-6853.  RSVPs are not required, but it’s a good idea to email Leanne Nurse at [email protected] AND Pat Bonner at [email protected] to let them know you will be on the call so they can send you any materials that will be reviewed on the call.

Here are some additional details from Leanne and Pat:

Our first session in 2010 will be something different from our past meetings because, not only will the speakers be from outside the US, many of those calling in will too. When I was in Toronto in October it was my good fortune to engage in conversations with leaders of the Canadian Community for Dialogue and Deliberation [C2D2] and several practitioners from Environment Canada. I suggested that our Network meeting might be a good forum for a US/Canada conversation about environmental public engagement as it’s done in the two countries. Without a doubt, we can learn from one another.

**Anyone who receives an invitation, whether direct or via a forwarded message, is welcome to call in and also to e-mail questions or topics for the speakers to address. These e-mails should reach Leanne Nurse at [email protected] AND Pat Bonner at [email protected] as soon as possible so they can be shared with the speakers.


1. [1 PM]    Convene/Roll Call – Pat Bonner
2. [1:10]     Introductions of Speakers – Pat Bonner
3. [1:13]     Presentations [order not specified yet] and acknowledgement of pre-meeting questions
– Environment Canada – Anik Lalonde-Roussy and Dany Drouin [invited]
– C2D2 – Miriam Wyman and Sandra Zagon
– EPA – Pat Bonner and Leanne Nurse
[ The speakers will take clarifying questions as they present.]
4. [2:00] General discussion and additional questions
5. [2:25]     Announcements and Wrap-up

New IJP2 Issue on the Practice of Public Meetings    

The latest issue of the International Journal for Public Participation (IJP2) is out, and articles are available for free downloading at  The January 2010 issue is a special issue on “The Practice of Public Meetings.” This unique issue highlights the research of a team of communication scholars examining different aspects of one public meeting. The meeting being explored was convened in Omaha, Nebraska in a predominantly African American neighborhood to reveal the local Chamber of Commerce’s plans to improve economic development. One unique feature of this issue is a web video that gives readers the rare opportunity to view the same public meeting data under examination.

The articles in this issue showcase an approach to studying communication called Language and Social Interaction (LSI).  This approach, often used in communication research, provides tools to help scholars look closely at the interactions that occur in public meetings.  In this public meeting, members of the audience challenged the public officials and raised issues of trust, race and community membership. The articles in the IJP2 issue ask questions about how public participation is done in practice, and they disclose how challenges with this meeting are manifested in communication.  Each article in this issue takes a close look at some aspect of the communication that happened during the meeting, including the question and answer session, personal stories, nonverbal communication, discussion of race and community, and framing of the meeting goals. The special issue closes with a summary of findings from the individual articles and implications for future public participation research and practice.

(I learned about this issue from a post by Moira Deslandes to IAP2’s FaceBook group. If you’re on FaceBook, check out the IAP2 group here, and be sure to also visit and become a member of NCDD’s facebook group. As of January 3rd, the NCDD group has over 1650 members!)

Open Govt Workshop at D.O.T. on Jan 11    

I wanted to make sure you all knew about the Open Government Directive Workshop Series — a unique series of innovative events run by several NCDD members. The next workshop, which will be partly an Open Space event, will take place on January 11th at the Department of Transportation in D.C. Over 200 people are expected at this point, and over 30 federal agencies will be represented!

NCDD is a partner, as is NAPA (National Academy of Public Administration). Although the workshop on the 11th is almost full, Lucas Cioffi has offered to make sure that any NCDD member that wants to attend is let in.

This is an inter-agency conference in collaboration with the US Department of Transportation to speed successful implementation of the Open Government Directive. This event will reoccur every six weeks to continue to build momentum at the federal, state, and local levels.

If you’re interested in attending, let me know ([email protected]) rather than RSVPing via the link below. I’ll be keeping track of NCDD members who are planning to attend, and sharing our list with Lucas.

I’ll be helping NCDDers who are attending to coordinate in advance of the workshop to offer a couple of high-quality, resource-rich Open Space sessions on participation (i.e. one on online engagement and one on face-to-face engagement). So if you’re already registered and want to help plan/run these sessions, let me know. I think working together to offer a couple of introductory sessions on participation is a good strategy given the Directive’s emphasis on transparency.

Here are the details…

The Open Government Directive Workshop Series (Jan 11th @ DOT)

What: The Open Government Directive Workshop Series, an inter-agency collaborative event hosted by the Department of Transportation.

When: Monday, January 11, 2010 from 9:00am-4:45pm. There will likely be a wait at the security checkpoint. Security will begin processing attendees at 7:00am. We highly recommend you allow plenty of time for security.

Where: US Department of Transportation Headquarters, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC and streamed live online.

Why: Successful implementation of the Open Government Directive requires a sustained effort by the open government community. This series of workshops builds upon previous conferences sustaining knowledge and sharing innovative ideas among pioneers of the “Open Gov” community.

RSVP by January 7, 2010 here:

*Develop momentum among those already implementing open government practices and those now charged with implementing openness practices because of the Directive.
*Dialogue and share knowledge that will help federal agencies implement and private industry benefit from the Open Government Directive.
*Document and make available existing and effective open government practices in the form of the OpenGov Playbook.

Background Information:
Previously, on November 16th, the first half-day workshop provided a platform for thirteen open government project presentation from agencies such as the EPA, DOT, TSA, DOD, CDC, DISA, NIH, GSA, PlainLanguage.Gov, Department of State, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. (Archived video and slides are available here.)

This workshop (hosted by DOT) will be a full day and include 10 presentations by federal employees engaged in open gov, and three hours of small-group conversations on key aspects of the Open Government Directive.

The agenda will be created by the attendees to maximize the value of everyone’s participation. During the event registration process you will be asked to identify what topics you want to learn about and discuss with peers.

The organizers of this event are Giovanni Carnaroli (Associate CIO for IT Policy Oversight at DOT), Tim Schmidt (CTO for DOT), Lucas Cioffi (OnlineTownhalls), Stephen Buckley (U.S. Transparency), Kaliya Hamlin (, Sandy Heierbacher (National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation), Keith Moore (Open Government TV), and Jenn Gustetic (Phase One).

Please feel free to contact us at [email protected]. We look forward to your participation and continuing commitment.

Open Gov’t Initiative seeks your ideas about assessment    

Below is the latest on the Open Gov’t Directive (received this via email tonight from Chelsea Kammerer of the White House Office of Public Engagement). Chelsea, Beth Noveck, etc. are asking specifically for input on the OSTP blog about what quantitative and qualitative measures they should track on the forthcoming Open Government Dashboard to assess federal agencies’ progress on implementing their open government plans per the Directive. I see this as an opportunity for our community to share what we know about public engagement progress, plans and principles, and to help ensure that agencies’ plans include the incorporation of meaningful public participation in their decision-making process as well as a focus on transparency and open data.

On Tuesday, December 8, the Open Government Initiative published the new Open Government Directive. The Directive is the latest in a long timeline of open government milestones during the course of the last year.  Since the President signed the executive memorandum on Transparency and Open Government as his first executive action, innovators across the government have been working to create a more accountable and effective government. The Progress Report on Open Government for the American People explains what’s been done to date and where we go from here.

Now we need to enlist your continued participation and collaboration with this process to help us continue to succeed in changing the way that Washington works.

Next Steps: The White House Open Government Initiative Dashboard and

  1. Open Government Dashboard: The Open Government Directive calls for the creation of an Open Government Dashboard to measure progress and impact. Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Beth Noveck is looking for your input, including as to the metrics by which we measure success.  Click here to participate.
  2. Future of The Open Government Directive instructs all federal agencies to make available high-value data that promote national priorities and improve the lives of everyday Americans through  Yet the current version of is just the beginning. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra asks for your help in shaping the future of this key open government platform. As part of the Dialogue, you can download the draft plans, submit a new idea, or comment on someone else’s.  We look forward to evolving with you.

Please share these two opportunities with your networks, and stay tuned for upcoming additional opportunities to participate and collaborate in the implementation of the Open Government Directive.

Thank you.

Chelsea Kammerer
The White House
Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Office of Public Engagement

Today’s White House Press Release on the Open Gov’t Directive    

Chelsea Kammerer (White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Office of Public Engagement) sent me the following press release today along with the suggestion to visit to view the Open Government Directive in its entirety along with other useful information such as the Open Government Progress Report to the American People, new agency projects, and our open government platforms such as and

Office of the Press Secretary

December 8, 2009

Administration Launches Comprehensive Open Government Plan
Public Provides Thousands of Ideas to Spark New Administration Initiatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of the Obama Administration’s work to change how Washington does business, the White House Tuesday issued the Open Government Directive requiring federal agencies to take immediate, specific steps to open their operations up to the public.  The Administration also released an Open Government Progress Report to the American People and previewed a number of other openness commitments that are poised to be released during the next two days.

The directive, released by the Office of Management and Budget, sets an unprecedented standard for government agencies, insisting that they achieve key milestones in transparency, collaboration, and participation. (more…)

Audio of this morning’s Open Government Directive webinar    

Here is the audio from today’s announcement about the Open Government Directive in case you missed the webinar or wanted to revisit what was said:

Open Government Announcement 12-08-09

(You can also download a zip archive.)

Open Government Directive to be announced tomorrow at 11am    

Hi, all!  Looks like the White House Open Government Directive will be announced online tomorrow at 11am Eastern. This is the Directive outlining how government agencies and offices can become more transparent, collaborative, and engage the public more effectively.  NCDD members were very active in the Open Government dialogue/consultation process this past May and June. (See this blog post for a summary of activities NCDD and our peers have been active in related to the OGD.)

In an appropriate first for the White House, they’ll be announcing the White House’s Open Government Plan in a live online chat with Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra.  You can watch the announcement, then ask your questions and make your suggestions live.

See for more details on tomorrow’s announcement and chat.

Open Government: Strategies and Tactics from the Play Book    

Lucas Cioffi sent the following announcement to the NCDD Discussion list today. The lead organizers of the event are 3 NCDD members: Lucas Cioffi (AthenaBridge), Stephen Buckley (, and Kaliya Hamlin (

To the Open Government Community,

You are invited to Open Government: Strategies and Tactics from the Play Book. This will be the first in a series around the Open Government Directive and specifically designed to create a community of support for implementation.

Who: Those who are blazing the trail of open government- this first event is for pioneers who have already begun work prior to the Open Government Directive being released.

Why: Successful implementation of the Open Government Directive will require a sustained effort by the open government community. This series of workshops will build upon previous conferences to foster sustained knowledge sharing among open gov pioneers until the open government movement goes mainstream within government.

What: This event will provide space for conversation about effective open government practices that have already been implemented, with an eye toward the upcoming Open Government Directive. Video and slides from all the presentations will be compiled into an evolving resource entitled the Open Government Play Book that to which anyone may contribute.

When: November 16, 2009 from 9:30am-12:30pm

Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Library, Room A5, 901 G Street NW, Washington, DC and streamed live online.

How: (1) 90-minute lightning round of 5-minute presentations by open government practitioners working within government agencies. (Presenters must be government employees at the federal, state, or local level. Full-time contractors who work within government agencies are also eligible. Presentations will last 5 minutes and cover a specific implementation effective practices for making government more transparent, participatory, or collaborative.) (2) 60-minute discussions about the release of the Open Government Directive.

RSVP here:

Please note, this will not be a fancy event. Participants should come for good conversation and to listen and learn from each other.

This event has been planned with the advice from the 60+ members of this Google Group. Lead organizers are Lucas Cioffi (AthenaBridge), Stephen Buckley (, and Kaliya Hamlin (

Report on Online Town Hall Meetings from the Congressional Management Foundation    

online-town-hallsBe sure to check out Online Town Hall Meetings: Exploring Democracy in the 21st Century (2009, Congressional Management Foundation), which tackles the lack of information out there about how the internet might facilitate and enable conversations between citizens and Members of Congress.

The report is based on 20 online town hall meetings facilitated in 2006 with U.S. Representatives and one event in 2008 with a U.S. Senator, with a total number of participants in excess of 600. The “online town halls” were not remarkable process-wise; the Member of Congress and moderator spoke over VOIP (internet phone, like Skype) and constituents typed in questions and comments online (yep – online versions of the typical town hall meeting). But the research is solid, and if you’re looking for data to help you convince a Member of Congress to engage their constituents using basic online technology, look no further.

Researchers found that:

  • The online town halls increased constituents’ approval of and trust in the Member of Congress.
  • The online town halls increased constituents’ approval of the Member’s position on the issue discussed (in this case, immigration was the most popular issue discussed).
  • The town halls attracted a diverse array of constituents-including those not traditionally engaged in politics and people frustrated with the political system.
  • The town halls increased engagement in politics (voting, following elections, persuading others to vote).
  • The town halls increased the probability of voting for the Member.
  • The discussions in the town halls were of high quality (quality of information, use of accurate facts, respect for different points of view, etc.).
  • The sessions were highly rated by constituents; participants wanted to see more of these types of sessions.

What do folks think of these findings (from the Executive Summary)? How can we build on this data to make an argument for higher-quality forms of online engagement?

Notes from yesterday’s White House meeting on open gov’t dialogue evaluation    

As many of you know, a survey was conducted in August by AmericaSpeaks, the League of Women Voters, the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), OMB Watch and, to assess the public experience of participating in the White House’s 3-phase online dialogue process feeding into the forthcoming Open Government Directive (OGD).

Yesterday, I and eight others from our group met with six white house officials to (1) discuss our findings, (2) to get a sense of how the White House plans to evaluate future online consultations, and (3) to discuss how the open government community can contribute to enhancing the quality of future public consultations of the White House or federal agencies by playing an ongoing role in assessment. The meeting took place at 1:00 pm in DC at the White House Conference Center.

In attendance from the White House…

  • Chelsea Kammerer, Office of Public Engagement
  • Beth Noveck, Open Government Initiative
  • Robynn Sturm, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
  • Beverly Godwin, GSA (U.S. General Services Administration) Office of Citizen Services and Communications
  • Brian Behlendorf, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Macon Phillips, Director of New Media for the White House (the man behind

In attendance from our collaborative group…

  • Me (Sandy Heierbacher) and Leanne Nurse (EPA Policy Analyst and NCDD Board member) from NCDD
  • Joe Goldman and Carolyn Lukensmeyer from AmericaSpeaks
  • Chery Graeve and Kelly McFarland from the League of Women Voters
  • Sean Moulton and Chris George from OMB Watch
  • Amy Fuller of

I wanted to share some of my rough notes and impressions from the meeting with the NCDD network. No one had their laptops out, so I was just jotting down written notes, mostly when White House folks talked. So this is by no means a full account of the meeting, nor is anything a direct quote.

After quick introductions around the room, we began the meeting by talking about our findings. Generally, there was appreciation among respondents for the White House’s leadership and innovation in launching the online dialogue process. There was also considerable feedback offered to help improve the process for future use, in the hopes that initiatives such as this, done well, can advance good ideas and open government more fully to the public. (more…)

We Love Kai Degner    

Kai Degner just sent something to the NCDD Discussion list that I wanted to share in the blog. There’s now a great 4-minute video up that captures the energy of his Open Space “Mayor’s Sustainability Summit.”

Kai has been involved in NCDD since 2005, when he wowed us all with his innovative OrangeBand concept which encourages college students to start “conversations that matter” with each other on-the-fly about issues they care about (no tables or meetings needed!). This past year, he ran for city council in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and not only became a city councillor but won the Mayor’s seat as well due to getting the highest number of votes (by far). His campaign was based on smart growth, and on process and citizen engagement.

In his role as Mayor of Harrisonburg, Kai (who, have I mentioned, is not quite 30?!) convenes community dialogues using emergent dialogue methods such as Conversation Café and Open Space Technology. In May, Kai held a successful community-wide Open Space event called the “Mayor’s Sustainability Summit,” involving about 160 people and 120 organizations in an innovative day-long event held in public and commercial spaces throughout downtown Harrisonburg. The cost to the city? $30 for a few supplies (everything else was donated). Visit to learn about Kai’s summits.

In an email to the NCDD network after the event, Kai wrote:

“I’m struck how innovative people find the event to be, which is a wonderful reminder to me that no matter how obvious or useful I see these processes, there are still many folks who have no experience with these other paradigms to have community dialogues and deliberations – and this high profile seat is a way to showcase their utility while also realizing their value for our city.”

Kai just wrote to the NCDD listserv today, saying:

“I write from the Virginia Mayors Institute in Roanoke, Virginia. Yesterday afternoon, I was unexpectedly asked to present for 30 minutes in front of 35 mayors about what “citizen involvement techniques” I’m using as mayor, prompted by the statewide organizer having read about it in my local paper. I shared mainly about the Open Space meetings I’m holding, and was impressed with how engaged and interested the audience was – let that be motivation for you in your communities!”

You can also get a glimpse of Kai in this 2-minute YouTube clip of him presenting about reclaiming debate in the “D&D Marketplace” we held at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin.

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