Archive for the ‘online deliberation’ Category

If you’re in the DC area or interested in relocating, this would be a very cool job!

Director of Online Engagement and Participation, AmericaSpeaks

The Director of Online Engagement and Participation will lead AmericaSpeaks’ initiatives to design, facilitate and organize online participatory processes that provide citizens and stakeholders with a greater voice in governance processes. The Director will be responsible for generating new projects through which AmericaSpeaks may engage the public online, representing AmericaSpeaks in discussions with federal agencies about how to use online methods to create a more open government, managing a group of online associates and partners to deliver online engagement programs, and forming and nurturing partnerships with other online innovators. The Director will also oversee the organization’s online and social media presence.

AmericaSpeaks seeks a candidate with deep experience in the field of online engagement and participation. Candidates should have a proven track record of leading online participatory processes.

AmericaSpeaks is a world leader in the field of citizen engagement and public deliberation. For more than fifteen years, AmericaSpeaks has helped citizens influence many of the most pressing issues facing the public, including the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site after 9/11, the creation of regional plans for the greater Chicago and Cleveland regions, and the development of a recovery plan for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. AmericaSpeaks’ mission is to reinvigorate democracy; we are doing this by developing innovative tools and a rich infrastructure for engaging citizens in our nation’s policy making process. For more information about AmericaSpeaks, visit http://www.facebook.com/l/25ce2;www.americaspeaks.org.

The Director will report to the Vice President of Citizen Engagement. Salary will be commensurate with experience.

Duties and Responsibilities

* Lead AmericaSpeaks’ initiatives to engage citizens and stakeholders in online participatory processes
* Work with other AmericaSpeaks’ staff to attract and develop new projects to engage citizens and stakeholders online, especially with federal agencies
* Form and nurture partnerships with other leaders in the field of online engagement to deliver projects and develop new innovations
* Form and manage a group of consultants who can assist AmericaSpeaks in delivering online engagement projects and online aspects of other engagement projects
* Oversee the content of the AmericaSpeaks website and social media presence, and work with AmericaSpeaks’ communications associate and interns to ensure that content remains dynamic and fresh
* Develop and manage an online innovations agenda for AmericaSpeaks to ensure that the organization remains a leader in the field
* Develop programmatic and budget protocols for the delivery of online deliberations and engagement processes to support business development and the delivery of programs by associates and other partners
* Work with the organization’s communications cluster on the marketing and branding of the organization

Knowledge and Skills Preferred for the Position

* Demonstrated track record of organizing, designing and facilitating online efforts to engage people in crowdsourcing, dialogue or other related online activities
* Familiarity with online current online platforms for engaging the public, like IdeaScale, User Voice, etc. and social media tools
* Familiarity with online organizing practices, including social network and blogger outreach
* Entrepreneurial skills and the ability to develop new business
* Strong preference for candidates who live in or are willing to move to the Washington, DC area
* A commitment and passion for increasing the voice of citizens in policy making and realizing AmericaSpeaks vision
* Excellent oral and written communication skills
* Strong interpersonal and communication skills
* Experience with directing large, complex campaigns or initiatives
* Strong management skills
* Willingness to adjust hours according to the demands of the job and travel
* Proven ability to meet multiple deadlines and balance numerous projects while maintaining a perspective on long-term goals
* Strategic thinking
* Basic web skills such as basic HTML, CSS and image manipulation preferred
* Familiarity with Salsa is preferred
* Familiarity with the field of deliberative democracy is preferred

To Apply
Resumes with a cover letter should be submitted to Joe Goldman at jgoldman [at] americaspeaks [dot] org with “Director of Online Engagement” in the subject line. All attachments should be in PDF or Microsoft Word format and titled as follows “Lastname_Firstname_

For more information about AmericaSpeaks, visit: http://www.facebook.com/l/25ce2;www.americaspeaks.org.

AmericaSpeaks is an equal opportunity employer. We encourage and value a diverse work force, and we seek diversity among applicants for this position.

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[update: corrected spelling of Scott Hefferman’s name. Sorry Scott!]

I am watching live streaming of the National Conference on Citizenship which will probably be archived on their website. The Case Foundation is sponsoring the live streaming of the conference and took this opportunity to debut their  Gear Up for Giving: Social Media Tutorials for Nonprofits initiative.

Click Daly is darling and this is a clever way to get a message out, but darling Daly took a hit from one of the panelists, Scott Hefferman of Meetup who said (good-naturedly as far as I could tell on a webstream), “I hate that puppet. We did not go from being content consumers to content producers. We are not content, we are people!”

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In July, the Secretary of Health and Human Services announced that the federal government expects to initiate a voluntary fall vaccination program against the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. The CDC will help state and local health organizations develop the vaccination program and are working to decide the scope of the program for vaccinating Americans against the novel H1N1 pandemic influenza virus.

In this web-based dialogue the public will discuss, deliberate, and offer input as the CDC considers whether to take a “full-throttle” or a “go-easy” approach to mass vaccination, or a moderate approach somewhere in-between?

WebDialogue registrants are expected to participate on both days of the two-day dialogue. They must be willing to complete a pre- and post-knowledge survey, respond to a poll on the second day, and provide feedback through an evaluation at the conclusion of the dialogue.

Register to participate! Select a dialogue and click on the link below:

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On July 16, 2009 I participated in a virtual conference on Stakeholder Engagement co-sponsored by Public Decisions and Learning Times and held in Second Life on Squirrel Island. Here is the schedule of the day. The session included a small group deliberation on the topic, “Facing the Challenges of Climate Change: A Guide for Citizen Thought and Action” using a discussion guide prepared by Public Agenda. I was one of the “deliberators” on stage.

I have to admit that I was rather surprised at how smoothly the day went. My head has been spinning with possibilities.

One idea is to use Second Life to demonstrate a deliberative forum.

It is almost universally accepted in the National Issues Forums world that people attending the training sessions (called Public Policy Institutes) have to experience a forum to really understand deliberation. But the experience isn’t always a smashing success. Participants (because they are all attending the training to learn about public deliberation) are likely to be pre-disposed to speak more civilly, hold similar values and perspectives, and be less likely to engage in bad behavior than a passionate, strong-willed, opinionated, closed-minded person. (I haven’t actually seen a lot of bad behavior in the forums that I have moderated, but the Gadfly Hall of Fame – compliments of Pete Peterson of Common Sense California – would indicate that it is possible!)

Role playing different parts usually comes off silly and rarely adds to the experience. The role player usually finds it difficult to remain in character and their performance becomes a parody of different perspectives. They state opinions that they don’t really hold and then giggle or engage in some other behavior that lets you know they are not being authentic. Plus, they become labeled as “that guy” and spend the remainder of the training session overcoming the impression.  But Second Life could actually provide an opportunity for a staged deliberative forum. People could literally take on a different avatar that they could discard after the forum. The limited body language could actually be a benefit. It’s something I’m playing with.

In the meantime, I’m in conversation with Learning Times and Public Decisions about an international Stakeholder Engagement Online Conference.

Save the date and stay tuned.

2-4 March 2010
Presented by PublicDecisions and Learning Times

Showcasing best practices for stakeholder engagement . . . Demonstrating leading edge tools . . . Highlighting emerging technologies.

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Earlier this semester, students in my Library School course on Community Engagement gathered tools for online engagement that I, along with Charles Knickerbocker and Silona Bonewald presented to the National Association of Planning Councils conference. I’m summarizing some of these tools here for the benefit of Patricia Wilson’s Commmunity Engagement Course at UT and anyone else who might be interested. (Also, I’ve thrown my back out and can’t present to her class in person so I hope this will suffice.) Since Patricia will be moving through this material in a one hour class, I’ve added a * after the web sites that should be opened and explored during the class. I’ve also set them to open in a new window which can be obnoxious, but is useful if you are clicking through web sites in front of a room full of students.


Before adopting any technology, it is important to think about what are you trying to accomplish. Keeping that in mind, my class created some scenarios, then recommended a tool and possible applications. These scenarios were inspired by a webinar we attended that was led by Steve Clift, an early adopter of technology for public engagement, founder of e-democracy and an Ashoka Fellow. We also used the IAP2 model to determine if the tool was best suited to 1) inform, 2) consult, 3) involve, 4) collaborate, and/or 5) empower. Read through the scenarios below.  As you think about these scenarios, consider:

  1. What are some likely tools address the challenge posed by the scenario?
  2. What are some possible applications of the tool?
  3. Who might use the tool?
  4. What are the strengths?
  5. What are the weaknesses?
  6. What is the level of public engagement as defined by the IAP2 spectrum?

Scenario 1: New to the community

You have just moved to a new community. You are unfamiliar with every aspect of the community but, in your old community, you were an active member. You helped plan the annual fair each year, volunteered at the hospital, tutored school children, and taught Sunday school. It is only your first week in this new community but you’re itching to get involved. You grab your computer and start searching online for some ideas. Where might you start? What technology tools will you use?

Scenario 2: Combating vandalism

You enjoying jogging through the local park every morning but lately have noticed an increase in vandalism along the trails. You have already contacted several individuals in the local government…Nothing has been done. Weeks have past and the situation is getting worse. You seek a public arena in which to voice your deepening concern. You would like to reach as wide an audience as possible. How might you utilize different tools from the technology tools list to reach the large audience you seek?

Scenario 3: Environmental hazard

You live in a small industrial town whose main employer is a large factory. However, you’re concerned that the factory’s chemical runoff is endangering local wildlife and, potentially worse, affecting the local water supply. What tools can best assist you to gather support, document any evidence/effects and subsequently present your case to a governing body?

Scenario 4: Tolerance and enlightenment

A group of students in a conservative town wants to form a Gay/Straight Alliance at their local high school, but are afraid to go public without a plan for presenting relevant facts & figures, involving fellow students, and getting the administration on board to approve. What are some tools the students can utilize to achieve their aims?

The basics about possible technologies

There are two great resources for a snappy introduction to the various technologies that communities might use to collaborate and form connections. Tim Davies, a UK blogger about e-democracy has created some terrific one-pagers that he freely shares through scribd* and Common Craft* has a number of short, light and informative videos. I suggest that you print out the one-pager for the technology that interests you and then watch the companion video.

Here’s an example of one of Tim’s one-pagers on blogging with wordpress, the tool I’m using to write this post.

One Page Guide to Blogging with WordPress*

EXERCISE: While you’re checking out Tim’s one-pagers on Scribd, sign up for your own scribd account. Scribd lets you share documents online. You can add tags, invite others to view. Viewers can easily download the document, share it with others through e-mail or over a dozen social networking sites, or even embed the document in their web site. They can even add it as a favorite so that they can easily find it later. The site even recommends similar documents that might be of interest to you. When would this be a useful tool? How might you use this as a student?

And here’s the Common Craft video about Blogs.

EXERCISE: Break into pairs and each pair take a different tool to explore. Download the one-pager here and see if there is a Common Craft video that correlates with the tool by doing a search here. What are some potential applications of the tool?

Hyperlocal Blogging or Placeblogging

Speaking of blogging, here’s our first application of a technology – hyperlocal or placeblogging. Sometimes the things that we care about, the things that affect us most directly in our own home town and our own block are not reported in the newspaper, but they are still important to us. At my parent’s neighborhood meeting the other day, the Chief of our volunteer fire department explained how they would respond to a fire in the neighborhood and how the scant number of fire hydrants puts the neighborhood in a vulnerable position. That’s pretty important news if you’re more than 500′ from a hydrant as 90% of the neighborhood is. It wouldn’t be reported in the newspaper – even in a small town like Salado. But some industrious civic-minded soul could set up a blog for free that would only report on things that people in the neighborhood care about. But don’t just take it from me. Here’s a video by Placeblogger’s Lisa Williams who also blogs about her community at H2oTown.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “Lisa Williams on placeblogging on Vimeo”, posted with vodpod

“A Zogby survey released in February 2008 foujnd that 70 percent of Americans say journalism is important to maintaining community quality of life, but that nearly as high a number – 67 percent – say the traditional media are out of touch with what citizens want out of their news.” (See Fanselow, Julie. “Community Blogging: The New Wave of Citizen Journalism.” National Civic Review Winter(2008): 24-29.)

So why not give ordinary citizens the opportunity to report on what’s happening in their community?

The NY Times has their reporters hyperlocal blogging about the communities where they live. Here’s one example from Maplewood.

Another interesting use of hyperlocal blogging is for communities and grantors to share information with each other. The Northwest Area Foundation uses blogs as a key component of its Horizons program*. The Foundation gets a front row seat learning about what is working and what the communities need help with, and the communities in the Horizon Project share information with each other. They provide a grid of ways that people in communities can report on the progress they are making in their community and about a dozen screencasts on how to blog, why to blog and wordpress basics. Here’s one on why to blog by Griff Wigley, the founder of a community blog called Locally Growh Northfield whose early foray into community blogging has landed him a career as a blog coach.

EXERCISE: Check out some of the local blogs. What kind of stories do you see? How are they organized – one or more authors, groundrules for comments? What territory do they cover?

Social Networks for Participation and Collaboration

What if you wanted to enable people to set up their own blog, have conversations, share videos and photos. Two easy to use sites are NING.com* and Wetpaint.com*. I’ve used wetpaint for Texas Forums* several years. I call it my sandbox. It’s where I can dump things that I am working on and easily share them with others without worrying about it looking nice. I use it as a “not ready for prime time” website.

A couple of years ago I set up a wet paint site for a group of people in the American Library Association to see if we could frame Privacy as an issue for public deliberation using the National Issues Forums model online. They used the Privacy Framing site* to upload materials on how to frame issues, developed core questions to ask stakeholders, posted the results of their interviews, clustered their results into three approaches and created a discussion map that they will be testing at ALA this summer. COOL!

Ning is another option with lots of bells and whistles, and is very easy to set up. In just a few minutes in one of my classes online, a student set up a Ning site for librarians interested in community engagement* as a demonstration.

EXERCISE: Divide the class into two groups. Have one group set up a wetpaint site and have the other group set up a Ning site. Populate the sites and explore the tools. What are the relative advantages and disadvantages to each?

Where else to go…

Since my back is giving out and it’s time to find food, I’ll send you to a couple of other resources (i.e., really smart people who really know this stuff).

The social media game:* This game was first developed for a workshop led by Beth Kanter and David Wilcox in the UK in 2007. As is the nature of social media gurus, they are very generous with their creations so the game has been remixed. Check out the non-profit game* – lots of how-to videos and links to additional resources that will probably fit your interests.

Beth Kanter is one to follow.

Ok, sorry to poop out on you, but most anything I’ve left out will be in the social media game. I’ve got more resources I didn’t have time to post, but I’ll be back.

Look back over the scenarios. What tools could you use to help address some of the concerns and interests expressed in those scenarios?

Hope you had a great class, sorry I couldn’t be with you, but I look forward to hearing from you.



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Steve Clift, founder of e-democracy.org hosted two-part webinar on Citizen Media and Online Engagement on February 5. The archive will be available for people who donate any amount between now and March 1, 2009. Donate here and you will receive a link to listen to the archive.

The first part of the presentation highlighted interesting citizen media and online engagement projects. Technology has dramatically shifted the power and control over who gets to tell the story about their community and what stories get told. People are using blogs, twitter, text messages, Flickr and YouTube to report what is happening in their local neighborhood.

In addition to Steve’s presentation, the Knight Foundation has funded a number of projects that provide great resources for citizen journalists, such as:

  • the University of Maryland’s J-Lab which helps communities start citizen news ventures, and
  • Knight Citizen News Network that guides both ordinary citizens and traditional journalists in launching and responsibly operating community news and information sites and that assembles news innovations and research on citizen media projects.

Part two of e-democracy’s workshop focused intensively on the secrets of starting an online Issues Forum (or learning from what we do to help your own project). Each section is roughly 50 minutes and well worth the donation!

Check out the slides for Citizen Media and Online Engagement and Issues Forums Webinar.

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This is a perfect opportunity for people who are concerned about how information is collected, disseminated and used (particularly in the context of healthcare) to get involved and share their ideas.


Please log on today to register your opinions on how we can use information technology to improve healthcare, while safeguarding privacy. Thousands of experts, advocates and citizens are participating. Ensure your voice is heard too. The results of this online dialogue will be compiled into a report to the Federal CIO Council and the incoming Administration.

More about the project:

Beginning today and through Nov. 3, just before a critical presidential election, you can join a unique experiment in 21st century democracy. The National Academy of Public Administration, on behalf of the Federal CIO Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and the General Services Administration, will host an online national dialogue that demonstrates a fundamentally different approach to the work of government.

This national discussion will engage a diverse group of voices in tackling one of the key issues confronting the nation’s health care system: How can we use information technology to improve the way patients interact with the healthcare system, while safeguarding their right to privacy? Participants will have an opportunity to discuss challenges, generate breakthrough ideas, and recommend principles that will be presented to the next Administration.

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