Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Lesson from the Challenge of Open government

Several Government organizations in Australia, US and UK have been experimenting with engaging Citizens in the process of Government. There's a big gap between expectations and the responses. I'm concerned at the number of people that take the opportunity to 'vent their spleen' with off topic and sometimes quite rude behaviour. Federal computer week has this report analysing the approach the US Government has taken, and what can be done differently. It's worth a read for anyone interested in Gov2.0 initiatives.

Open Government Initiative provides plenty of lessons -- Federal Computer Week
How Lena Trudeau would do things differently the next time the government seeks citizen engagement

* By Brian Robinson
* Jul 15, 2009

President Barack Obama’s Open Government Initiative states its mission simply: create a two-way dialogue between the American people and their government and develop policies that benefit from the diverse perspectives of an engaged citizenry.

An experiment in online policy development

The first work order for the Obama administration’s Open Government Initiative is to develop a formal directive that will establish the ground rules for a more open and transparent government.

One method chosen to help complete this task was itself open and transparent: a three-phase series of public online forums, each featuring a different collaboration tool and each with its own goals.

* Phase I: Brainstorm. Members of the public were invited to share their ideas on how to make government more open. Site visitors could post ideas, discuss and refine others' ideas, and vote the best ones to the top.
* Phase II: Discuss. Blog posts generated online responses and discussions about the best ideas identified during the brainstorming phase.
* Phase III: Draft. Participants could use a wiki — think of a collective word-processing document — to collaborate on policy proposals to address the challenges identified in the discussion phase.

But first, the administration wanted to have a public dialogue about how future dialogues might best take place. The meeting spot they chose for the kick-off confab was online, through a series of three Web-based forums during a six-week period starting in May.

But a funny thing happened on the way to collective enlightenment. People have a lot on their minds, and given a platform to say it, particularly a national one, they will say it, whether it’s on topic or not.

Last week, Federal Computer Week asked three experts to assess the methods and results of OGI’s preliminary experiment in online public engagement.

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