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Content about Guides

July 30, 2014

1) Don’t ignore your users; bring someone in to represent them

Consultation should be considered from a user’s point of view – which sounds obvious right? But this is all too often forgotten amidst the document creation, planning and bureaucracy. To help solve this, Defra invited Ruth Chambers, Vice Chair of Defra’s civil society advisory board, along to the consultation session. Ruth highlighted the importance of setting out expectations early on and sustaining engagement. She also advised that departments should be honest with stakeholders about changes or challenges to help ensure they are engaged in both the topic at hand and the process.

by Rowena Farr

Working with Defra for the past 18 months, I was pleased to be invited to one of their department training sessions on running effective consultations. Here are some tips I picked up:

1) Don’t ignore your users; bring someone in to represent them

July 21, 2014

In particular, I think there are three alternative infrastructures that point to the future of peacebuilding at the local level. First, digital media tools provide new, creative ways for local peacebuilders to foster alternative discourses and challenge prevailing conflict narratives. These new visions can often compete with existing visions by being bolder and engaging more closely with their audience. Second, networking platforms provide new opportunities for local peacebuilders to foster positive contact between conflict groups, building digital trust networks. Third, online and mobile tools give power to local peacebuilders to counteract calls for violence and make peace viral.

[This blogpost was originally published in Insight on Conflict.]

July 14, 2014

Online civic engagement doesn’t replace your public meetings. It enhances them.  Online engagement prepares you for the meetings by helping you collect better feedback. It also helps you drive more attendees to these meetings. So, send updates to project followers and invite them to your public meetings. Start doing this several weeks out, and send several updates. People are busy and they need reminders.

By: Karin Brandt

America’s cities are changing, and slowly, so is our process for urban development.

Civic engagement platforms are gradually taking foot. But this approach to resident feedback collection is still a bit of a mystery to many planners. What do I look for in a civic engagement tool? How do I use one?

And of course… there are the obvious fears: If I set up a project, will anyone participate?

July 3, 2014

It isn’t easy to innovate in governance. Bureaucracy can be hidebound. The private sector’s lean startup model, with its “fail forward” ethos, is antithetical to government as we know it. Electorates are not tolerant of failure, and voter confidence in government is at an all time low. In a 2013, more people listed government dysfunction as the problem they believe is the country’s most serious challenge. Given these headwinds, it’s not surprising that many officials resist the experimentation and risk necessary to innovate.

However, partly in response to this same citizen disaffection, a new wave of participatory policy reforms is springing up across the United States. This includes New Urban Mechanics in Boston and Philadelphia piloting experiments to engage citizens with City Hall to Participatory Budgeting, a process to enlist citizens as decision makers on public budgets. While the civic experiments differ in form, they reflect common principles in action that offer lessons for policy makers considering their own civic innovations.

June 27, 2014

Agencies' expectations for broad and inclusive participation are on the rise and many are turning to online engagement tools as a key part of the solution. As a result, there are an increasing array to tools to choose from. Go to any planning conference and planners will be talking about their online engagement experiences and technology vendors will be demonstrating their wares. For me, there is an important voice that’s missing: the participants.

Agencies expectations for broad and inclusive participation are on the rise and many are turning to online engagement tools as a key part of the solution. As a result, there are an increasing array to tools to choose from. Go to any planning conference and planners will be talking about their online engagement experiences and technology vendors will be demonstrating their wares. For me, there is an important voice that’s missing: the participants.

June 24, 2014

Sunlight’s Open Data FAQ is intended to help advocates and officials get their most common questions about open data answered without requiring them to even pick up a phone (or compose a message). 

By Emily Shaw

June 19, 2014
  • The Natural Law: You have to control it, or it will control you (plural).  And that will leave (almost) everybody unhappy.
  • To the greatest extent possible, design what you do with the public to use small group activities.
    • Remove opportunities to “act out”
    • Remove barriers to participating
    • Given them something more meaningful to do.
    • Get it in writing

I'm posting this for the use of the people who attend my training session, "Managing the Axe Grinders" at the National Main Streets Conference.  If you'd like a nice flyer/poster of these lessons, send me a note.  And if you'd like to be informed about the upcoming book, Meaningful Public Engagement you can subscribe to this blog or listen in on social media.

May 9, 2014

Lloyd argues that the real public sector challenge is not finding the tools to deliver Digital First services and ways of working, but nurturing digital working among staff. He believes it can be done by ‘trusting each other to use tools sensibly, to share information appropriately and to learn from mistakes in the digital space, rather than to avoid them at all costs.’

by John Glover

“2014 needs to be a key year for digital in government”. That’s the conclusion drawn by Tim Lloyd, the Department for Business’s head of digital communications, writing for the Government Computing website.

May 8, 2014

However even when new ideas have been shown to work in a successful pilot or prototype (or have even been “proven” through extensive research and clinical style testing), i’s not a guarantee that they will scale. A big challenge is the issue of “adoption” i.e. how can you persuade others to apply them other than with scientific evidence and cash – because those are not enough.

Below is a slight reworking of my old blog post that looks at some of the challenges of spreading (or diffusing) good ideas:

by Ian Thorpe

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with colleagues at UNDP who are organizing an event about “scaling up”.

The idea of scaling up successful pilots or innovations has long been one of the holy grails of aid work, and it seems we’re still quite not sure how to do it, or at least how to do it consistently, or how to “pick winners” i.e. ideas that can be scaled successfully.

May 7, 2014

However, oftentimes, lists of  top-rated ideas do not capture such collective patterns in crowd campaigns. Nor is the simple post-and-vote approach designed to do so!  These accomplishments didn’t emerge simply by plucking the ideas with the highest votes. What do you do after idea collection? What begins as ideas need refinement so that various stakeholders can understand and evaluate them. Why?

by Suzan Briganti

Crowdsourcing is based on the idea that under certain conditions, crowds can be wiser than experts. Some collection platforms focus solely on ideas that receive the highest number of votes. But do top-rated ideas really capture the full wisdom of the crowd?

What are the collective patterns in crowd ideas? Totem has been analyzing the collective patterns in crowdsourcing campaigns for three years now, and the results are astonishing. Here are some amazing crowd-discovered accomplishments:      

May 2, 2014

Designing public engagement processes and institutions from the perspective of citizens alone makes them easy for policy makers to ignore. We need to pay more attention to the needs of those making policy in order to design public engagement processes which make a difference. 

April 16, 2014

In the roughly 15 or so years since the Internet became a viable channel through which to provide government service, it was governments themselves that built most of the citizen-facing applications. With the release of open government data and support for programmable interfaces like Open311, we are witnessing an increasing amount of this work being done by independent parties outside of government (and outside of traditional government contract vehicles).

by Marc Headd

In my last post, I made reference to some of the qualities of civic startups – the special and important things about these kinds of small, agile companies that set them apart from other startups.

I think clarifying what civic startups are (and what they are not), as well as what we expect them to achieve is important.

April 15, 2014

Many of our plans of any type are way too vague, too wishy-washy, too unwilling to lay any groundwork to actually get anything done.  We say crap like "encourage more compact land use"  "facilitate entrepreneurial growth"  "support businesses that increase tax base."   And even when, once in a while, we actually set some time or performance benchmarks, like "recruit 13 new businesses in one year" or "create a form-based code," too often those get picked out of the air -- because we know that we're supposed to have benchmarks, but the mealymouth stuff we put in the plan doesn't actually give us any sound basis for setting those goals.  Or -- and this might be even more important -- the process of developing it didn't build the kind of broad support, the cross-party ownership, to get those hard decisions through the political processes.

April 14, 2014

At the same time government has hardly changed since the days of quill, ink and vellum. Separate departments strung along Whitehall operate largely independently of each other. This leads to departments chunking up problems in ways that they can understand, have the mandate and skills to deal with, to policy cycles dictated by parliamentary, media and electoral timetables.

But citizens don’t think like this. They don’t think of government as the stretch of buildings along Whitehall, but as the school their children attend and the hospital they rush their sick relative to. Their daily life and existing work and family commitments are on a totally different schedule (daily, monthly and annually) to the often absurd parliamentary and media timetables. They want to engage when they feel energised to do so, not when it works for government

by 

The democracy revolution is not inevitable and Involve has a central role in helping to make it happen: this post highlights my vision for a democracy fit for the 21st Century and is based on what I said at Involve’s 10th Birthday party tonight. 

April 14, 2014
  1. ‘How do I know that an active minority will not monopolize the process?’
  2. ‘Collaborating takes time and I don’t have much of it. How can I find the time to do this properly?’
  3. ‘Every time I invite the community to consider an important matter they seem to be after blood. How can we have a reasonable and meaningful conversation about such matters (without getting bashed up)?’
  4. ‘Every time I ask what people want I end up with an unrealistic wish-list. Then when I don’t deliver on all of it people feel not listened to, and let down. How can I work with communities without setting up myself up for failure?’
  5. ‘People voted me in because they thought I could be a strong leader for them. How can I look like a credible leader when I keep asking for their help?’

By Max Hardy

I was enjoying a conversation and coffee with a friend the other day. After sharing a few stories with her about my work with executives and elected representatives, she asked, ‘Have you recorded any of this anywhere?’ I confessed I hadn’t.

Of particular interest to my friend were the questions that elected representatives have asked me in relation to collaborating with their communities. Perhaps you’ll find them of interest as well.

April 11, 2014

By Mark Headd

Sustaining civic technology will mean that both government’s IT infrastructure and the civic technology sector that builds on it will need to change.

A pair of recent blog posts caught my eye and highlighted this theme in my head, and motivated me to capture a few thoughts on this topic.

April 8, 2014

When it comes to online community engagement, there are many things to think about. Here are my top 5 nuggets o’wisdom that I hope you’ll serve up with a side of fries and a large Coke!

1. Heat Seeking Missile like Focus

Think about what action you want people to take on your page and make this the focus.

By Tracey Gobey

When it comes to online community engagement, there are many things to think about. Here are my top 5 nuggets o’wisdom that I hope you’ll serve up with a side of fries and a large Coke!

1. Heat Seeking Missile like Focus

March 20, 2014

Digital technology is quickly integrating into our lives: recent data from the Pew Research Center show that 91% of American adults own a cell phone, among which 58% are smartphones. If you are still questioning the pervasiveness of digital technology, simply watch a 2-year-old toddler unlocking your smartphone or tablet and making it all the way to her favorite game (or your emails). Civic participation in comprehensive planning is no exception to this trend: an increasing number of municipalities and government agencies are using digital community engagement tools to reach broader audiences, make the process innovative and fun, and complement traditional in-person strategies.

March 11, 2014

I get asked a lot by people who are interested in helping out open source projects, but have absolutely no programming skills. What can they do? Well, here are a few ideas how non-programmers can contribute to open source projects.

By Duncan McKean. Cross-posted from Opensource.com.

I get asked a lot by people who are interested in helping out open source projects, but have absolutely no programming skills. What can they do? Well, here are a few ideas how non-programmers can contribute to open source projects.

It is worth noting that it is best to contribute to software that you actually use yourself. That way you feel the benefits.

March 11, 2014

Around the world, parliaments, governments, civil society organizations, and even individual parliamentarians, are taking measures to make the legislative process more participatory. Some are creating their own tools — often open source, which allows others to use these tools as well — that enable citizens to markup legislation or share ideas on targeted subjects. Others are purchasing and implementing tools developed by private companies to good effect. In several instances, these initiatives are being conducted through collaboration between public institutions and civil society, while many compliment online and offline experiences to help ensure that a broader population of citizens is reached.

The list below provides examples of some of the more prominent efforts to engage citizens in the legislative process.

by Andrew Mandelbaum

Thanks to Ariana Tuckey for assistance in drafting this post.

March 10, 2014
With cities seeking to involve diverse voices in city-making to get beyond “the usual suspects,” Vancouver urbanists Brent Toderian and Jillian Glover examine how cities in their region are finding new ways to increase civic participation.
 

By Brent Todrian and Jillian Glover

March 7, 2014

What difference do we make for the businesses and citizens who ultimately pay our salaries? And how do we gauge the difference that we make? For the last seven years, MindLab has been very keen to gauge the effect of the work that we do and it goes a long way back. Already back in 2007, while we were in the process of defining how MindLab would conduct its work, we were paid a visit by David Hunter. Hunter is recognised for his work on the gauging of effect and on change theory in the U.S.A. He has also worked with a number of organisations in Denmark. He helped us to develop a theory of change as well as indicators and the tools to with which to measure them. The result was an impressive chart.

 

March 6, 2014

"We are seeing technology-driven networks replacing bureacratically-driven hierarchies," says VC and futurist Fred Wilson, speaking on what to expect in the next ten years. Check out the 21 innovations below.

 

Across the planet, new technologies and business models are decentralizing power and placing it in the hands of communities and individuals. 

"We are seeing technology-driven networks replacing bureacratically-driven hierarchies," says VC and futurist Fred Wilson, speaking on what to expect in the next ten years. View the entire 25-minute video below (it's worth it!) and then check out the 21 innovations below.

March 4, 2014

Every data wrangler has their own list of favorites – the go to tools that they use when they need to work with data.

If you need to clean, transform, or mashup data or if you are working with a data set that will form the basis for an application, here is a list of tools that can make life easier for you.

By Mark Headd

Every data wrangler has their own list of favorites – the go to tools that they use when they need to work with data.

If you need to clean, transform, or mashup data or if you are working with a data set that will form the basis for an application, here is a list of tools that can make life easier for you.