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Articles in "Research"

I’ve been wanting to post about this paper for a while. At the intersection of technology and citizen participation this is probably one of the best studies produced in 2013 and I’m surprised I haven’t heard a lot about it outside the scholarly circle.

For industry proponents who have been early adopters of online consultation, they have encountered problems and learned important lessons that have shaped their desires for future use of online platforms. As with any new technology, online engagement can be seen as a big change and for many early adopters, attempts at online consultation have been problematic or less successful... A secure platform is extremely valuable for industry proponents.

An interesting finding is the weak link between the duty to “keep a watch on the actions of government” and most types of participation (i.e. political activism and electoral participation). I cannot help but speculate about the extent to which these findings may help to explain why generally it is relatively easier to engage citizens in participatory processes (e.g. participatory budgeting) than have them monitor the outcomes of these same processes (e.g. oversight of budget execution).

This case study was aimed at the following question: What impact does allowing anonymity have on the quality or quantity of participation on a site?

Through analysis of a technology social news site,, we addressed this question by comparing two datasets of TechCrunch articles and comments.

So, if these stories have a common theme, it is that listening takes great effort and skill. If it didn’t, everybody would be doing it well.

When citizen participation is limited to town halls and public meetings, it's easy to assess who the participants are - just scan the seating area and you'll probably see the few regular attendees.  We recently did an audit of our registered CivicIdeas users to get a better sense of the composition of participants. What we’ve learned is that a wider demographic spread is actively participating in online community engagement. 

Copying and pasting boilerplate legislative language is as old as law itself. In fact, legal precedent is built on throwbacks, edits, and remixes. The modern day copying and pasting feature has served as a technological blessing in legal matters that require a high level of repetition, such as producing demand letters for common legal claims, or, for one of Sunlight’s favorite exercises of individual rights, completing a public records or freedom of information request. However, when copying and pasting enters more nuanced areas of law, such as contract or legislation drafting, significant complications can arise. Without the proper edits or engaged collaborative thinking required in policy drafting, the ever tempting copy/paste model falls short. Below we explore just how borrowed open data legislative language thus far has been and examples of where it’s been the least helpful.

Here’s a warm invitation from a team of top deliberative democracy scholars and practitioners (David Kahane and Kristjana Loptson from Canada and Max Hardy and Jade Herriman from Australia) to join in an important exploration they’ve embarked on together…

The most under-appreciated characteristic of the government procurement process as it exists today is that it’s current design is largely intentional. Much like the federal and state income tax systems, we imbue a number of values deemed important into our procurement processes in the hopes of fostering favorable outcomes.

The added complexity borne by all participants doesn’t guarantee the intended results.

Probably the most overarching value we imbue in the procurement system is risk aversion – in fact, much of the complexity and cost of the current system (for both governments and vendors) can be attributed to the desire to reduce the risk assumed by governments when partnering with outside firms.