The healthcare reform debates raging across the country in townhalls and on-line, all show that Americans do want to actively engage in their government. Obama’s Open Government Directive, which is still under development, intends to expand public involvement. But various agencies are already jumping in.
The Environmental Protection Agency has long been a leader in engaging citizens. They’ve developed extensive resources and networks that can be of help to others. They are currently helping revamp the main website for public participation in e-rulemaking, regulations.gov. Here, they are encouraging citizen involvement in redesigning the website.
The Office of Personnel Management has posted a draft version of its 2010 strategic plan on line and is asking for both employee and public comment.
The Department of Homeland Security has invited the public to participate in a statutorily required Quadrennial Review of its policies and priorities. Federal Computer Week’s Ben Bain notes that the review covers six areas, such as border security and disaster response. The first on-line dialogue sponsored by this effort ended several days ago, with 10,000 participants. The next dialogue will launch at the end of the month, followed by a third several weeks later.
Federal agencies aren’t the only ones getting excited about increasing citizen participation. A conference held earlier this month brought together over 90 participants committed to “strengthening our nation’s democracy” via a range of efforts, including voting reforms, institutional changes to that way government engages citizens, as well as grassroots organizing. Participants developed a draft set of action items for Obama’s White House as well as the broader democracy movement, which participant Sandy Heierbacher summarized in her blog:
1. Draft Statement of Principles (The preamble which will likely carry the definitions, values and ethics talked about during the conference)
2. Democracy Skill-Building Agenda (How to transfer knowledge and ability to do this work)
3. Health of Democracy Report (The state of this imperfect union)
4. National Demonstration Projects (To show the real world value of what was proposed)
5. Recognize and Support Engagement by Disenfranchised Communities (To ensure full inclusion)
6. Institutionalize Participatory and Collaborative Governance (Embed it in federal, state and local institutions)
7. Ensure Adequate Resources for Public Engagement (Paying for it)
8. Adopt and Electoral Reform Agenda (Self explanatory — more later)
9. Feedback on Consultation Efforts (Evaluation)
10. Mechanism for Sustaining Leadership (Ensuring that this doesn’t disappear in four years)
11. International Exchange (Learning from our global colleagues)
Details and the final report will be posted here where available.