The White House continues to pioneer a new approach to crafting policy by actively seeking public input. The media seems a bit skeptical about how it is going, though, calling it “not so presidential” in part because of the many off-topic comments. However that hadn’t deterred the pioneers!
Background. Back in January, President Obama directed the development of an Open Government Directive that would guide agencies in being more transparent, participative with citizens, and collaborative. That effort began in earnest in late May with the launch of a three-phase effort to develop this policy with broad citizen input.
Phase I, which invited citizens to “brainstorm” on what should be covered by the directive, resulted in more than 4,100 ideas with thousands of citizens voting more than 210,000 times on their favorite ideas . . . but these included off-topic ideas not related to drafting a directive but rather releasing UFO files, JFK assassination files, President Obama’s “real” birth certificate, etc.
Phase II invited citizens to participate in a blog-based “dialogue” on key (on-topic) ideas that surfaced from the brainstorming phase. And there were plenty, including videoing all public meeting and posting them on line, as well as creating a “citizen’s portal” that individuals could customize based on where they lived and their interests.
And now citizens are being invited to participate in Phase III, the “drafting” phase, to jointly craft recommendations that would be used by the White House to actually draft the final Directive.
Progress to date. In each of the three phases, the White House relied on a different technology platform to engage with citizens. This meant that participants had to re-register for each phase. But it also served as a filtering process. While thousands participated in the brainstorming phase, only about eight dozen have registered so far to participate in the final drafting phase.
The White House notes that the Drafting Phase run through midnight, Sunday, June 28th. That wiki-based effort is organized around 16 sets of topics related to transparency, participation, and collaboration. So if you want to participate, do it soon! They recommend engaging earlier so others can review and vote on the best draft under each topic.
Open Government Blogging. Probably the most interesting elements of this process, to date, have been a series of explanatory blog entries posted on the White House site “Open Government Blog” (really the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is coordinating this initiative within the White House). They provide a rich context for what is unfolding:
- Open Government Initiative: Phase II (May 28, by Beth Noveck)
- Wrap-Up of the Open Government Brainstorming: Transparency (June 2, by Beth Noveck)
- Open Government Initiative Discussion Phase: Transparency Principles (June 3, by Beth Noveck)
- Open Government Brainstorm: Collaboration in Action (June 5, by Beth Noveck)
- Transparency: Open Government Operations (June 8, by Robynn Sturm)
- Data Transparency vs. Data.Gov (June 8, by Vivek Kundra)
- Wrap-Up of the Open Government Brainstorming: Participation (June 10, by Beth Noveck)
- Enhancing Citizen Participation in Decision-Making (June 10, by Beth Novek)
- Transparency: Access to Information (June 10, by Michael Fitzgerald)
- Strengthening Civic Participation (June 11, by Sonal Shah)
- Improving Online Public Participation in Rulemaking (June 12, by John Moses)
- New Technologies and Participation (June 12, by Vivek Kundra and Katie Stanton)
- Wrap Up of the Open Government Brainstorming: Collaboration (June 16, by Beth Noveck and Michael Baldwin)
- Enhancing Online Citizen Participation Through Policy (June 16, by Vivek Kundra and Michael Fitzpatrick).
- Prizes as Incentives for Public-Private Partnerships (June 17, by Thomas Kalil)
- Collaboration – Achieving Better Results by Working Together (June 19, by Michelle Heffner)
- Open Government Directive: Phase III Drafting (June 22, by Beth Noveck)