Civic Engagement

Administration Launches Comprehensive Open Government Plan

Exciting news:

­­WASHINGTON – Dec 8 at 11:00am ET, U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra will launch the administration’s comprehensive Open Government Plan, furthering the President’s commitment to increasing transparency and accountability in Washington and ensuring greater access and information for the American people.

This announcement will be streamed live on http://www.whitehouse.gov, and will be followed by a web forum where individuals will be given an opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions about the administration’s Open Government Plan.

WHO: U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra and U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra
WHAT: Administration Launches Comprehensive Open Government Plan
WHERE: Watch it live and participate at http://www.whitehouse.gov/live
WHEN: Tuesday, December 8
11:00am ET

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Promising Practices Presentation at eCitizenship Institute

­On November 12 and 13, the ­Center for the Study of Citizenship hosted an institute, “eCitizenship: New Tools, New Spaces, New Strategies,” in collaboration with the American Democracy Project–itself a collaboration of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the New York Times. I gave one of the plenary addresses based on our Promising Practices in Online Engagement paper. Other presentations were given by Jose Vargas of the Huffington Post, David Smith of the National Conference on Citizenship. 34 AASCU campuses were represented by 110 faculty, administrators, and students.

Watch my full presentation >>

Twitter and Inclusiveness

The unique ways in which Twitter is being used as a communication tool are simply amazing. The use cases go far beyond simple status updates, from customer support to conference feedback. And the Twitter universe keeps growing, with new users and apps on a daily basis.

What still amazes me though, is how many people don't care about Twitter. Denver - where I live - is not New York or parts of California, where I assume the ratio of Twitter-user per capita must be more substantial. And the same is probably true for the tech industry in general, at tech conferences, meetups, barcamps etc. But when I'm around friends, many tech-savvy thirty-somethings, none of them care about Twitter. It's not something they use as part of their job or for networking purposes and they use Facebook to keep up with friends - so why bother updating another social media site? And they are just one example of many groups that are generally not on Twitter, and most likely will not be in the (short term?) future.

This has a serious impact on the effectiveness of using Twitter as a channel for feedback or dialogue. The hashtag sign is probably one of the most straight-forward, immediate discussion boards on the web and mobile - a wonderful back-channel at conferences or venue for chatter during TV shows. But it's limited to the Twitter audience while leaving everyone else wondering about the strange # sign. I've been to a few non-tech conferences that embraced a Twitter hashtag for conference communication and the Twitter conversation barely included a handful of people.

As someone working in the realm of civic engagement, I love the opportunities Twitter offers for public participation. For example to have a message board at events to collect instant feedback or ideas. Or to host a mobile dialogue, using a hashtag to discuss elements of a proposed masterplan right on-site in the neighborhood. Technically, Twitter allows us to do that. But using Twitter would leave the majority of voices out of the conversation, without even talking about the fact that plenty of Twitter users don't tweet from their phones.

With Twitter not only being a great communication tool, but also a wonderful exchange format with an open API, the question is: Can we use other channels of communication to broaden the user base while taking advantage of Twitter's unique ease-of-use and interactivity?

Text messaging has reached widespread adoption, with 65% of users 50 years or younger texting, up to 85% of those in the group between 18 - 29 years old. Twitter is not anywhere close to that. (I have experienced the unexperienced-ness of the 89% of those 65 years and older who don't text, but let's ignore that for now...).

Would adding a mobile option that is integrated into Twitter make those #hashtag conversations more inclusive?

That's what we would like to explore further. We built a prototype of such a platform at http://GuerrillaTweets.com. It allows users to mobilize Twitter accounts and hashtags, while participants can text in responses without the need of a Twitter subscription or smartphone. It's a second step towards inclusive, mobile dialogues (with Twitter's hashtags being the first one), but far from the last. And we'd love to hear your feedback and ideas. 

Promising Practices in Online Engagement

Exciting news, we just released our new report on Promising Practices in Online Engagement: The Internet's revolutionary impact on information-sharing and network-building is having an increasingly powerful impact on public life. So far, the deliberative democratic potential of the medium has been less fully explored than has its application to electoral and interest group politics. This report highlights multiple approaches to how the Internet can help build capacity and momentum for inclusive, collaborative and boundary-crossing problem-solving, both locally and at the national level.

Read the full report >>

Core Principles for Public Engagement

NCDD, IAP2 and the Co-Intelligence Institute have been leading a dynamic, collaborative online process aimed at developing a set of Core Principles for Public Engagement that most people and organizations in this field can support.  Dozens of practitioners and leading organizations have contributed to the creation of the Core Principles:

1. Careful Planning and Preparation
2. Inclusion and Demographic Diversity
3. Collaboration and Shared Purpose
4. Openness and ­Learning
5. Transparency and Trust
6. Impact and Action
7. Sustained Engagement and Participatory Culture

The Core Principles document will soon be officially submitted to the people working on Obama's open government directive­.

Visit the NCDD website for more detail and to see the long list of supporters in the field >>

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