Feds like you are getting public feedback on their programs and agency initiatives. With so much emphasis on citizen engagement, we wanted to share some recent examples and lessons learned.
A panel of federal employees at the Digital Government Society of North America’s 2012 annual conference discussed some of the innovative ways governments are using technology to promote citizen engagement in public life. Thanks to participatory media, people can share their ideas, opinions and information, which helps solve real problems and facilitate change.
Panelists shared that citizen engagement has a two-fold effect: Citizens get involved and have a better understanding of what is behind government policies and processes, and agencies get timely and relevant feedback on key initiatives. Public dialogues not only build communities of people who are knowledgeable and engaged, they foster strong ongoing relationships between government and citizens. In turn, these relationships will lead to better public policy development by obtaining diverse public views and knowledge.
Here are the panelists and the tools they used:
- Alycia Piazza, GSA: Ideascale for the National Dialogue for Improving Federal Websites.
- Jacob Parcell, GSA: Community-generated wiki for Making Mobile Gov Dialogue.
- Dan Munz, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Built their own web-based crowdsourcing tool.
- Ethan McMahon, EPA: Challenge.gov for the Apps for the Environment contest.
Panelists highlighted some of the best practices they’ve used when planning a public dialogue, including:
- Begin with the end user in mind and know what is it you want to achieve.
- Use intermediaries or catalysts to reach out to their networks and lend credibility to the dialogue.
- Consider challenges and prize competitions to engage the public, bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on problems.
- Tell people what you plan to do with the information up front and show them the results.
Going forward three key challenges were identified:
- How to measure success
- Identify and reach out to stakeholders (beyond the usual suspects), and
- Build the bridge between suggestions and action.
To learn more about the conference read Part 1: Engage the Public to Solve Problems.
You can learn more about Using In-depth Discussion Tools to Engage Citizens through DigitalGov University on-demand training.
Tell us: how has your agency used public dialogues to improve policy decisions? How did you sift through thousands of comments to understand what citizens were telling you?