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Speaker: Seeking Democracy 2.0

16 Responses

  • Brent Jackson,

    Call it Online Input or “Oi!” for short.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Call in Online Input or "Oi!" for short.

    Now there's a recipe for misunderstanding.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22753 posts Report Reply

  • David Hume,

    Yeah...that one might be a tough sell, though it does have a nice Uncle Sammish "I want you" poster feel to it.

    If the larger point is about listening, though, then I think it's a good one.

    One of the challenges for us is not giving people the impression that they'll be able to get anything they want if they use some future online participation channel to let government know what they think. There is always going to be priority setting and compettion between ideas in public policy, and sometimes that means some contributors just won't be happy no matter what.

    What we think we can begin to do, though, is start helping people know where they stand if they do contribute. Then, at the very least, people will have some sense that their voice isn't totally lost should they choose to use it.

    Wellington • Since Feb 2007 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I thought your point about the way that the present model for consulation and feedback keeps people separate was a good one. Everywhere else on the internets we're embracing the idea of taking cues from each other - it's why discussion forums like this work, for one - but in the real world, we submit alone.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22753 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Jamieson,

    Another local example is the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's forum on Sustainability Issues. I'd echo the 'Don't mess with us' point - it's got to be meaningful. There's plenty of conventional consultation that ends up a waste of people's time. If ways can be found for web based consultation to increase transparency in decision making, that would be great. And I guess that goes both ways - users need to make the most of the process, unlike the newest registered user at the PCE forums when I checked just now who is a V*agra vendor...

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 99 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    i've been following the development of these types of media out of personal interest, and also reading the stuff published by your collegues over at the Network of Public Sector Communicators blog.

    i'm right on board with the idea of using particular public forums as a means to circulate and evolve ideas without the 'static', process-oriented means we currently use.

    in fact! shortly before breaking for lunch and reading your post i was suggesting that my unit could use blogs as a way to circulate and get feedback on strategic and 'blue sky' ideas we're growing. when an idea starts to really coalesce you can bring it down from the site, and apply the more structured thinking/processes to it.

    will be interesting to see if it is adopted by my department. i'll keep agitating.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    I thought that citizens could use "Oi!" to get the government's attention ... oh well ...

    The main concern I have with online participation is that, as with most online forums, the people who seem to have the most time to push their ideas, tend to be rabid extremists.

    Any self-selecting part of a group is highly unlikely to a reasonable representation of the group as a whole.

    It was remarkable how straight they were with us, basically saying:
    "Don't mess with us on this. We're busy people. If you want us to participate, make it interesting, educational and fun. If we contribute, make sure our efforts don't disappear off into a black hole. Figure out ways to let us know where we stand relative to what other people think, and relative to the final decision. Most of all, ask us meaningful questions, so that we're set up to be successful contributors and you can actually use what we give you."

    This is a great starting point.

    I have been submitting to the NZ Bioethics Council and have found the input process to relatively painless, and the feedback to be surprisingly good.

    I think there should still be the facility to submit ideas, without subjecting them to the scrutiny of other submitters. Some people are not very confident of their ideas (or themselves) and could avoid participating at all, especially if their first attempt is shot down in flames.

    Cheers,
    Brent.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • David Hume,

    If ways can be found for web based consultation to increase transparency in decision making, that would be great.

    Transparent decision making is good. That's definitely and end for this sort of work. But I think we also need to be looking for ways of using the technology to crank up the quality of the evidence-base for decision-making as well.

    There's a couple parts to that problem: 1) Can the collective decide what a quality contributions is (a la Google search) or is it better left to experts? 2) How can those who are in decision-making positions be presented the contributions of the 'crowd' in such a way that it is usable from their perspective?

    Wellington • Since Feb 2007 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • David Hume,

    Brent--you make really good points.

    One thing we know about web communities is that usually, only about 1% of all users actually contribute to the discussion. That's why online participation should be only one of a number of strategies for getting people's views on issues.

    If we're going to ask people for their opinion, then as you say, we need to build in ways that allow the people to put their ideas out there in a way that's comfortable for them.

    Wellington • Since Feb 2007 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    The concern I have is that in large organisations this is just one more communications process/system that will be added to the list. It would require significant buy-in from the organisation (not just the IT department or blue sky senior leadership), let alone the community. Do people necessarily have time for this in their current practices? I’m not so sure. Having dealt first hand with attempts to get people to adopt/use message board/wiki/misc. collaborative/educational tools for government/business/university I am now incredibly cynical about how this actually would work out. People have enough trouble keeping up with internal email communications let alone a new high speed collaborate consultation system that integrates the wider public.

    At the Blend event in Wellington a person asked how the SSC would actually ensure these new tools/processes would be implemented in a meaningful way, suggesting that coercive powers might be required. I agree with this, especially in the state sector where organisations retain control of their IT&T purchasing and processes.

    It is not just a matter of building a system that the public feel comfortable using. It is essential that this system is easy to integrate into the government organisations that use it, that it is not unduly time consuming or costly to use, that all staff know how to use it and do. All this sounds pretty obvious, and it is, but it does not necessarily follow that it is an easy thing to do successfully.

    As an example - David, how many people actually use the SSC promoted Shared Workspace tool in the manner it was designed/intended for? Do people use the collaborative tools it offers, or is it just a glorified filing system? Do you audit usage?

    http://www.e.govt.nz/services/workspace/

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1019 posts Report Reply

  • David Hume,

    Ben--while the Shared Workspace isn't my area, I do have some rough figures for you:

    SW has about 5000 registered users overall, 1500 of which have logged in within the last few months, even with the Christmas break etc.

    As for the rest of your comments, I definitely see where you're coming from. I've also had plenty of experience in trying to get people to adopt intranets, online forums and other webtools. The mistake I always made was that I thought I was promoting a 'system' or a 'tool', and I didn't do a very good job of showing the thing as valuable to how people work and what they were working toward (though sometimes there was no hope for whatever tool in this regard anyway). The other thing was that I was usually in a big hurry to get takeup. I had no patience.

    The opportunity that we've got right now is to take into account both sides of the equation: what do people need to feel comfortable contributing? What do government agencies need to feel comfortable listening? And how do we make sure everyone is getting something out of the exchange?

    We''ve also got a fairly long timeframe. One of the main guiding policy documents for us is the E-Government Strategy. The target we're working toward is our 2020 milestone: "By 2020, people's engagement with the government will have been transformed, as increasing and innovative use is made of the opportunities offered by network technologies."

    So hopefully, by starting the discussion now, we can take the time we need to figure out how to do online participation well. No doubt, though, that we've got a lot to learn.

    Wellington • Since Feb 2007 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • tpeixoto,

    You mentioned the difficulty of evaluation, and I think this is a major point to be approached.

    However, when practitioners of participation (both online and offline) think of evaluation there is a current assumption of conceiving evaluation in quantitative terms (e.g. numbers of people participating) and / or in qualitative (e.g. the quality of deliberation) terms. Even though such dimensions are essential to a good evaluation process, they are only taking into consideration those who participate.

    There seems to be an implicit assumption that, for instance, if not many people have participated in a consultation, such a consultation was a failure. I believe that in many cases this is an erroneous assumption. A step further should be taken when considering evaluating participation initiatives. Approaching participation more as an opportunity and as a “right”, takes participation initiatives to a perspective that encompasses not only those who participate, but also those who do NOT participate. And; in this sense, it is essential to understand the attitudes of those who do not participate towards participation initiatives.

    I explain myself. The fact that I have freedom of speech does not imply necessarily that I am making use of this freedom permanently. Most of my daily talks could take place in Cuba; China or North Korea without any problems. However; the fact that I rarely make effective use my freedom of speech does not mean that I am indifferent to such a right. Actually it is one of the rights that I judge to be most important ones.

    In short, despite the fact that citizens do not take advantage of all opportunities and rights that are offered to them, this does not imply that they are indifferent to them. Maybe citizens are not participating just because they are satisfied with the services; but these same citizens are extremely happy with the existence of such a channel of participation that they may use it whenever they judge it necessary.

    In this sense; an evaluation should take into account the non-participants. For instance; a survey of non-participants could allow you to know that despite a relatively low level or participation, most of citizens judge such an initiative extremely important. Consequently; the implemented initiative is a success to a large public in terms of enhancing legitimacy and trust in governments. You can also find more practical information such as: 1) If participants know about the existence of the initiative 2) Why they are not participating 3) What would make them participate more 4) …

    Briefly, when thinking of evaluation of participation initiatives, think of the non-participants as well, and you might come out with stunning findings.

    EUI - Florence • Since Feb 2007 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Clarke,

    We''ve also got a fairly long timeframe. One of the main guiding policy documents for us is the E-Government Strategy. The target we're working toward is our 2020 milestone: "By 2020, people's engagement with the government will have been transformed, as increasing and innovative use is made of the opportunities offered by network technologies."

    In the previous version of the e-government strategy, that same goal was meant to be delivered in 2012. What happened that derailed it by 8 years?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • ed pointsman,

    From what I can see Clarke, there is no mention of a 2012 goal in the 2003 Strategy: where did you pick this up?

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Clarke,

    From the 2003 version of the Strategy:

    Mission

    By June 2004 the Internet will be the dominant means of enabling ready access to government information, services and processes.
    By June 2007, networks and Internet technologies will be integral to the delivery of government information, services and processes.
    By June 2010, the operation of government will have been transformed through its use of the Internet.

    You're right, I did get the date wrong - it was meant to be 2010, not the 2012 I mistakenly remembered. But I still contend that "By 2020, people's engagement with the government will have been transformed" is functionally identical to "By June 2010, the operation of government will have been transformed" ... with a decade missing, of course.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • ed pointsman,

    Fair enough. Not sure that I agree with the functional equivalence. People's experience (engagement with) of something can be radically different from it's operation. Transforming the latter does not necessarily translate to the former - think of all the relaunched websites that still__suck...

    Also, engagement with government is falling around the world. Voter turnouts in western democracies are in decline (I think we are an exception), so 10 years to __transform that engagement sounds realistic, no?

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

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