online & hi-tech

Issue Guide on Building a Community in a “Connected Age”    

Check out the guide “Fulfilling Our e-State Potential: Building Community in a ‘Connected’ Age” on Everyday Democracy’s Issue Guide Exchange.  This issue guide is designed to help citizens deliberate about ways to use e-state technology to help enhance community and civic life.  It’s designed to be used during a one-day symposium and includes an exploration of community, scenarios to help explore e-state opportunities and challenges, an exercise to identify e-state values, and opportunities to identify action steps.

NCDD Confab with Beth Offenbacker next Wed. 3:30 pm    

All NCDD members are welcome to join us on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 3:30-4:00 Eastern for the first in a new series of “NCDD Confabs” — conference calls for NCDD members where we’ll explore dialogue & deliberation’s role in current issues, learn about exciting projects and interesting methods from fellow NCDD members, and just get to know each other a little better.

At this first NCDD Confab call on the 17th, we asked NCDD member Beth Offenbacker from PublicDecisions to talk with us about the upcoming Including the Excluded Online Conference, scheduled for March 2 through 4, so we can learn about the upcoming conference, and about online conferences in general.

UPDATE: We will be encouraging questions, comments and networking over Twitter during the call.  Add the hashtag #NCDDConfab to the end of your Tweet to contribute during the call.  To see what participants are posting, search for the hashtag #NCDDConfab.

The online conference is the latest way people are using technology to bridge geographic distances and save money ordinarily spent on travel costs. How might this new way of sharing best practices assist those of us in the D&D community?

Join us for a great conversation with Beth as she uses the Including the Excluded conference as a case study, telling us:

  • Why online conferences are becoming more popular
  • How online conferences are similar to/different from face-to-face events
  • What technology is involved and how does it work
  • What registrants need to know to have a successful online conference experience

Special Offer for NCDD Members

Of course, Beth will also answer any questions you have about the Including the Excluded conference, and we hope this call will encourage more of you to attend this unique event. NCDD is an affiliate of the conference, and members of the NCDD community (basically, anyone who hears about the conference through NCDD!) are eligible for a special conference rate of just $139 USD (a $40 savings) the full 3-day conference, or just $70 for a one-day pass. By registering, you’re also supporting NCDD, since we receive a portion of each registration fee. Be sure to use the discount code NCDDSpecial when registering at

Please RSVP for the Confab call to me ([email protected]) so we get a head count, and join us on Wednesday, February 17 at 3:30pm Eastern (for a 30 to 45 minutes). The dial-in number for the call is 1-605-475-6350 (it’s a long distance call) and the participant access code is 444839.

Here’s a little more detail about the Including the Excluded online conference:

If you experience challenges with effectively engaging diverse people or groups, you won’t want to miss the Stakeholder Engagement 2010 Online Conference: Including the Excluded.

Held on Tuesday, March 2 through Thursday, March 4, the conference program highlights practical insights and best practices for engaging people. It focuses on individual presentations, case studies and research findings on engaging those

  • who have historically been excluded (for example, those subject to racial or ethnic discrimination), 
  • individuals with physical or mental disabilities, and
  • people who are socially excluded for a variety of reasons (such as people who are homeless or in a country illegally).

All sessions and activities are held on the internet, so no travel is required. Among the many benefits of participating include:

  • Keynote address from John Ott, co-author of The Power of Collective Wisdom one of today’s leading thinkers and practitioners in the field of community change, which will inspire and challenge you with practical strategies and illustrative examples.
  • Insights into today’s state-of-the-art best practices that practitioners and organizations are using to address social inclusion, social/environmental justice and accessibility.
  • Real-world examples and key knowledge that you can apply right away in your work with stakeholders.
  • Access to conference session recordings and presentation materials for at least six months after the conference concludes.

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…)

Article by Tim Bonnemann on Limits of Crowdsourcing    

A commentary was published by NCDD member Tim Bonnemann at Federal Computer Week yesterday, titled The Outer Limits to the Crowd’s Wisdom. His timely commentary outlines the limits of “crowdsourcing” techniques in government decision-making and policy creation. Crowdsourcing, which Tim explains as “the concept of applying open-source principles to fields outside software,” is a popular topic right now in conversations about new public participation requirements in the Open Government Directive.

Tim points out that crowdsourcing projects like the online Open Government Dialogue so many NCDDers participated in, which are useful for such tasks as brainstorming and idea generation, tend to fail to live up to some of the basic principles of public participation, like inclusion and collaboration.

Tim writes, in a nutshell, that “there is more to public participation than crowdsourcing alone can deliver.”

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.

Proposal deadline for next Gov 2.0 Expo is Wednesday!    

Thought a few of you might be interested in submitting a proposal for a workshop, panel, or quick 5-minute presentation at the 2010 Gov 2.0 Expo, which is taking place May 25 to 27 in Washington DC.  Wednesday (January 6th) is the deadline for submitting proposals. Learn more at

Here’s some additional info about the Expo:

Government 2.0 is transformative.

Government 2.0 involves changes in policy and revolutions in technology that fit together to improve government missions – and perhaps even invent new ones. Government 2.0 embodies the spirit of transparency, collaboration, participation, and innovation. It is about empowering government employees to serve citizens better and about opening up the government into a platform that enables citizens to better help their communities. (more…)

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

New Book on Online Deliberation (Free Download!)    

ODBook-site-logoTodd Davies sent an announcement to the main NCDD listserv tonight about the new book he and Seeta Peña Gangadharan edited, titled Online Deliberation: Design, Research, and Practice. This looks like a great resource for the field, and I’m so glad they’re allowing people to download the full book at no charge! You can also order the book from the University of Chicago Press for $25 or download individual chapters here.

Here’s the book description:

Can new technology enhance local, national, and global democracy? Online Deliberation is the first book that attempts to sample the full range of work on online deliberation, forging new connections between academic research, web designers, and practitioners. Since the most exciting innovations in deliberation have occurred outside of traditional institutions, and those involved have often worked in relative isolation from each other, research conducted on this growing field has to this point neglected the full perspective of online participation. This volume, an essential read for those working at the crossroads of computer and social science, illuminates the collaborative world of deliberation by examining diverse clusters of Internet communities.

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.

Re-Post: “Open Policy Making 101″ Checklist    

The following was originally published on November 13, 2009 on Tim Bonnemann’s Intellitics blog. With Tim’s permission, I’m re-posting his great post rather than composing something new (thanks, Tim!).

Over on the recently re-launched Ascentum blog, Joseph Peters (Partner at Ascentum) and Joe Goldman (Vice President of Citizen Engagement at AmericaSpeaks) just published a neat list of ten key questions to consider before launching an online public consultation: Open Policy Making 101: 10 Questions To Ask Before Launching Your Online Public Consultation:

  1. What do you want to know?
  2. What is your commitment to participants?
  3. Who needs to participate?
  4. How hot is the issue?
  5. What type of contribution are you looking for?
  6. What type of data will you collect and analyze?
  7. What are your timelines?
  8. What resources are available to support the process?
  9. How can participants stay involved?
  10. Which online tools should you use?

The document (PDF, 916 KB) lays out these principles in good details. Once again, the recommendations are concerned about good process first and tools second.

Their take on timelines is fairly specific, and I would like to hear if others in this field can either confirm or add to it:

Generally speaking, a process that is open to the general public should be live for four to six weeks to ensure adequate participation.

Finally, here’s their item number ten:

10. Which online tools should you use?

This question is intentionally left until last in this list. Many organizations choose a shiny new tool and decide to use it before carefully considering their overall approach. This ends up having the software drive the process and not the objectives. There are many tools and solutions to choose from, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. The options are endless, but you need to match the tool to your strategy based on the questions you have already answered from the list above.

Exactly. And supporting that mapping process of finding the right tools for the job is something we’d like to see ParticipateDB grow into over time.

National Town Hall on Adults with Autism Coming Up    

I received an email Friday from Dianna Dauber at AmericaSpeaks about their upcoming Advancing Futures of Adults with Autism (AFAA) National Town Hall on November 13th. Dianna told me they’re still recruiting participants for the Chicago site (the Hub) and for the online virtual town meeting site. I don’t believe they’re in need of facilitators at this point.

If you want to experience some innovative online dialogue and you are concerned about autism-related issues, you may want to register as a participant in the “Virtual Town Hall.” In the Virtual Town Hall, participants will be at virtual tables with a facilitator and nine other remote participants, connected to live video webcast of the event from Chicago and a chat room for participants. Virtual Table participants will dial into a toll-free conference call line set up for their table group discussion. A facilitator will lead each table and send their table’s responses directly to the Theme Team.

Phase One of AFAA was a two-day Think Tank that took place in January 2009, where experts in a variety of fields identified key issues and possible solutions to the challenges that adults with autism face. Phase Two is the National Town Hall meeting on the 13th, where Americans will come together across over a dozen cities throughout the nation to create a policy agenda for addressing the needs of adults with autism, and to provide specific steps to provide more opportunities on a local level. Phase Three will be an Autism Congress in Washington, D.C. in 2010, with the goal of advancing the policy priorities that come out of the AFAA National Town Hall meeting with national-level policy makers. (more…)

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…)

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