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On May 15, the LBJ Library and the LBJ School of Public Affairs co-hosted a summit on Open Government. If you weren’t able to join us in person or virtually, worry not. The entire fascinating day is available online for your viewing pleasure. It will be time well spent!

Commencement 2009 05/23/09
Speaker: Bill Bradley
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Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of Transparency 05/15/09
Speaker: Bill Bradley
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Open Government on the Internet – Panel Discussion: Texas and Transparency 05/15/09
Speaker: Panel Discussion
Panel on Texas and Transparency: The Hon. former State Representative Sherri Greenberg, LBJ School of Public Affairs; The Hon. former State Representative Talmadge Heflin, Texas Public Policy Foundation; Fred Zipp, editor, Austin American-Statesman Read More
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Open Government on the Internet – Panel Discussion: Transparency and Application Development 05/15/09
Speaker: Panel Discussion
Panel discussion on Transparency and Application Development:
Conor Kenny, OpenCongress/Sunlight Foundation; Damien Brockmann, billhop.com; Eric Gundersen, President of Development Seed Read More
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Open Government on the Internet – Panel Discussion: Technology and Transparency in the Federal Government 05/15/09
Speaker: Panel Discussion
Panel discussion Technology and Transparency in the Federal
Government: Kshemendra Paul, Federal Chief Architect, Office of Management and Budget; Clay Johnson, Sunlight Labs; John Wonderlich, Director of Policy, The Sunlight Foundation Read More
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Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of Transparency 05/15/09
Speaker: Susan Combs
Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs talked about efforts in Texas to increase transparency and the challenges the state faces. Introduction by LBJ School Professor and former State Representative Sherri Greenberg.Read More
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Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of Transparency 05/15/09
Speaker: Silona Bonewald
Silona Bonewald, founder and director of the League of Technical Voters, discusses her work with government transparency and the challenges and benefits of an archive of all federal web site content. Read More
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Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of Transparency 05/15/09
Speaker: Vivek Kundra
Federal Chief Information Office (CIO) Vivek Kundra speaks to the Conference from The Archer Center, a part of the University of Texas System, from Washington D.C. on the work the Obama administration is doing to use technology to increase government transparency. Read More
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Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of Transparency: Introduction 05/15/09
Speaker: Gary Chapman
LBJ School Professor Chapman, organizer of the Open Government Conference, talks about government transparency and the role the Internet will play in the future. Read More
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LBJ Students Discuss Open Government 05/08/09
Speaker: LBJ Students
Four students from Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs Professor Gary Chapman’s policy research project (PRP) on government transparency on the Internet discuss the Open Government on the Internet conference taking place May 15, the issue of government transparency, and the LBJ PRP experience… Read More
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July 26 marks the anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s tribute to Lady Bird Johnson for her environmental conservations efforts.

Join the Wildflower Center on Sunday, July 26 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in honor of Claudia Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson and all she has done for our nation’s treasured environment. Admission will be free for visitors during extended hours this Sunday and visitors will receive free seed packets.

This sounds like a very fun day for the whole family. Here’s a sample of activities:

  • Docent-guided tour of gardens
  • Make Eco-pots to take home and plant
  • Origami crafting in the McDermott Learning Center with artist Joan Son
  • Book signing with authors of “Lone Star Wildflowers” and “Hummingbirds of Texas”
  • Kathi Appelt reads her children’s novel, “Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers.”
  • All Day Lady Bird achievement and art exhibit including a seldom-displayed Norman Rockwell portrait
  • Lady Bird videos in the auditorium
  • Premier of 2009 Franz Sculptured Porcelain Collection of Blooming Bluebonnets in the store.

Tech Ethics

For the first session of the No Better Time Conference, I helped facilitate a session with my colleague, John Stephens.

Tech ethics: The values questions raised in a digital democracy

Description: Many attribute the dramatic increase in youth engagement to shifts in the way democracy worked in this past presidential election, particularly the Obama campaign’s more technological orientation.

Workshop Goal:
This session will examine timeless questions – who controls information, who participates in policy making, how do we ensure equal voice and opportunity, what happens when we skip the relationship-building aspect of strengthening public life – in a new, techno-democracy.

Our workshop began with these questions:
A.     What does the dramatic increase in youth engagement (heavily tilted toward online and new communication media) mean for face-to-face democracy-building?
B.    Where are the digital divides – age, economic disparity, language – and how do we overcome them?
C.    Who controls information exchange? Extremes: no control, free expression and flame wars, “unfair” claims OK  vs. Need general rules for the road, and OK for content creators to retain some/significant control over flow of information
D.    New media, journalism, and the tension between accountability and openness/privacy. Recent example: Iran protests and Western journalists inability to confirm images/reports as accurate, but went ahead and used them.
E.    Are the technology advocates in sync with the deliberative democracy advocates?

Of course, we built on these questions and, in come cases we reframed the questions.

Some of the themes:

There is the ease of voluminous feedback (due to technology) but how do we process this? What does a senator or representative do with that amount of information? There is a tension between too much information and the ability to do something with that information. We need to consider what it looks like to try to manage the communication coming into an elected officials office.

Having access to more technology may or may not translate to activism.

Grassroots are engaging in online campaigns, but they also need to think about how that information is being used. Congressional leaders are not feeling as though they are coming through citizens in authentic ways. Therefore it is very important for grassroots organizations to put a face on their message even if it comes through technology – using YouTube, for example. But elected official still needs to know the source, to authenticate the sender.

Citizens are not just voters. Office holders are not just recipients of information. Media is not just the emitter of information. We need to move beyond seeing citizens as a mass to be moved on behalf of the organization.

What are the dark sides of technology?

  • More is not necessarily better even though technology. When postcards are
  • More people are practicing journalism, but we don’t have standards.

Question that wasn’t part of the original discussion: What about the power of technology to capture stories and histories that haven’t been told? And when those stories are captured, what obligation do we have to make those stories technologically accessible to others?

Technology can give more people more voice in other ways than is out there, but you must still consider the audience and whether or not you will have any impact. It DOES make a difference to be able to speak / write in an impactful, thoughtful and deliberative way.

With the demise of the newspaper, there is a loss of the canon. When that is not there on the local level, what do we do? How do we know what to trust? It may even be gone on the international level as in the case of the information that is coming out of Iran. Without trained, trustworthy journalists on the ground, how do we decide what to trust?

But lets consider, the lack of media trust. What came first? Did loss of trust in the media became the impetus for the growth in citizen media? We don’t trust the information we are getting from the media. People will decide what to trust.

How do we marry the best of the new technologies with what we value about the best of deliberative democracy?

Mike Mansfield noted three types of representatives:

  • The representative who represented their local constituents
  • The educator who tried to let the constituents know how they voted and why
  • The Statesman

Elected officials have spent energy trying to make sure that the information and the communication they are getting is coming from their constituents. But the technology could make it possible for us to think about how our elected officials could become part of a deliberative body and reflect the concerns of their citizens, but also to deliberate what is in the best interest of the entire country.

At 11:30, we did a round robin asking each person to weigh in on:

Where are we in our thinking?

Those of us in communication departments need to teach people how to engage online. Comments in newspapers are flaming and horrible so that the question becomes, “who wants to be there?” How do we elevate the level of online discourse? People are already self-proclaimed journalists. We ought not to be flaming each other!

I am thinking about things I’ve never considered. Although we have more digital sources, some things remain true. We have to think about tailoring our message, for example. “How do I make the message interesting? Who is my audience?” Face-to-face or online, we still have to think about some of the same issues – trust, is another issue!

We have spent 80% of our time on worries, but let’s also think about what we can dream about.

AH! But I swing in the opposite direction! For my doctorate, I looked at whether or not the drastic predictions about the telephone came true. The complexity of what we are talking about is so complex that we probably can’t being to predict where we will be in five years. We must look at the ethical and literacy issues. This is much bigger than I thought.

I’ve ntoiced a tension between availability and spread of technology. The purpose of more is so that more people can participate. I love that, but the recipients are still skeptical about source of information and need to screen comments which then is the opposite of democracy.

How do we teach the strategies and rather the technology? How are we meeting people where they are? There is a question about creating a norm around citizen journalism, but that undermines the value. A lot of the things we see as solutions cycle back and become problems.

Looking back on my experience as a Congressional assistant – a positive position might mean that an elected official could have a monthly live webcast to talk about issues and then to get feedback from different constituents. It could be a give and take, not just a means to manipulate constituency.

Because I teach, I think in those terms We have to be careful to not prejudice one technology or information means over another. Students must have strategies for evaluating technologies like twitter just as we try to prepare them for other information literacy and evaluation of other forms of media.

I see opportunities to incorporate some of these conversations into our work with Congress. We can help them to reach out and engage more deliberatively.

I’m still concerned about accountability. I will feel like it’s important to know that a site is credible.

What is our contribution to the broader themes of the conversation? How will our discussion help produce a more deliberative system?

  • How can we help elected officials? What do we know about what they need? Is it really a conversation or government 2.0 if the Representative only follows one person? Staff sizes have not increased even though amount of citizen input has.We need to let elected officials know that they appreciate what they are doing. Majority of communication from constituents is to ask for something, not to say thank you.
  • If grassroots campaigns and form letters are not effective, how do you reconcile that with the need to make it easy for people to engage? To think that the volume is the way to effect change is incorrect. Legislative staff will say that change comes from personal stories. Groundswell is important, but “individually sentimented” conversation is important.
  • Even in discussing technology, we need to focus on strategies, not the technology itself. Even if we are talking about technology, it is just one tool. People DO still buy newspapers.
  • In academia, we have a bias against popular media. We need to change that as educators. It is out there and we need to teach students how to use it effectively.

90 / 9 / 1 Rule:

  • 90% of the people in a collaborative environment are “readers”
  • 9% are editors
  • 1% are posting new ideas

“The world is arranged for those who are extroverts.”

To what extent is the deliberative democracy world arranged for extroverts? In some ways, the online world can help blur that divide for people who may be comfortable engaging online in ways that they wouldn’t in person.

If we buy into that 90/9/1 rule, there are situations in which that might be fine – for example in generating ideas. We need to be consicous of this reality and acknowledge that platforms A, B or C may be limited in the way people can become engaged.

Inclusivity is very important and the “tech filter” leaves out so many people. This is still an issue we must address.

John Stephens, University of North Carolina and I led a conference session at nbt09

Tech ethics: The values questions raised in a digital democracy
Many attribute the dramatic increase in youth engagement to shifts in the way democracy worked in this past presidential election, particularly the Obama campaign’s more technological orientation.

Workshop Goal:
This session will examine timeless questions – who controls information, who participates in policy making, how do we ensure equal voice and opportunity, what happens when we skip the relationship-building aspect of strengthening public life – in a new, techno-democracy.

Co-leaders
Taylor Willingham, Texas Forums
John Stephens, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

OUTLINE

1.    Five lines of questions/topics – as part of introductions, please identify which ones are of interest to you.

A.     What does the dramatic increase in youth engagement (heavily tilted toward online and new communication media) mean for face-to-face democracy-building?
B.    Where are the digital divides – age, economic disparity, language – and how do we overcome them?
C.    Who controls information exchange? Extremes: no control, free expression and flame wars, “unfair” claims OK  vs. Need general rules for the road, and OK for content creators to retain some/significant control over flow of information
D.    New media, journalism, and the tension between accountability and openness/privacy. Recent example: Iran protests and Western journalists inability to confirm images/reports as accurate, but went ahead and used them.
E.    Are the technology advocates in sync with the deliberative democracy advocates?

Workshop Description

The shifts in local democracy, the development of online media, and the economic realities facing media outlets today all portend great changes in the way journalists are educated and employed. How can we assess these factors and envision new roles for journalists in 21st Century democracy? Do colleges and universities have an expanded role to play as providers of high-quality, up-to-date information? How can journalism support deliberative democracy, both on and off campus? David Ryfe’s catalyst paper* on journalism will help to set up this session.

  • David Ryfe, University of Nevada at Reno
  • Cynthia Simmons, University of Washington

Check out the resources that David Ryfe compiled!

What are common values & practices between DD and CO?

  • They are forums for action and it is about empowering people.
  • They both emphasize that power rests with the participants vs. outsiders
  • Each can be a tactic for the other.
  • Tension: with D&D, you have to be a neutral convener, but the community organizing field may have an intended outcome.
  • Both are about relationships
  • Both are change processes
  • They both struggle with the issue of power, but in different ways.
  • Common values – inclusion
  • There is a difference that DD focuses less on issues of social justice and often feels more academic whereas CO feels more “blue collar” and “boots on the ground.”

Highest aspirations for collaboration between DD and CO?

  • There are shared tools for determing values. The two can work together to develop evaluating tools.
  • We must understand the history or story behind each tactic and when it worked.
  • DD can learn more about dealing with the power dynamic. CO can learn collaboration from DD.
  • Our messages (language) should reflect our role as OF the community.
  • The two approaches are interdependent.
  • Both are looking toward something sustainable – the community can carry on without outside influence.
  • Deliberation can be useful in unearthing issues and CO can help mobilize people around the issues that are identified in the dialogue.

Strategies that are possible:

  • Hold a conference on this theme. Identify key bridging organizations in the field.
  • Develop a shared vocabulary.
  • Let the community know the benefits of both. But the community does not make the distinction.
  • Be more intentional about the relationship. Change the culture of higher education to make the community more infused into the institution. Need a model for how scholars and community members can work together.
  • Whether or not it is named as DD and CO, need diagnostic tools for the community.
  • Make this work less boring to people – think about how this could be less boring.
  • Pick an issue to mobilize energy, particularly among young people.
  • Using stories about people doing this exciting work.
  • Celebrate success more!

Nugget:

If the practitioners see the difference, then the comunity will see the difference. This is a disservice to the community.

In this session, we are using the World Cafe format. The questions that we are struggling with are:

  • What are the common Values and practices between deliberative democracy and community organizing?
  • What is the highest aspiration for collaboration between deliberative dialogue and community organizing?
  • What are some strategies or tactics that are possible and desirable?

What do you think?

I am currently in this session at the No Better Time Conference.

Community organizing and deliberative democracy: How do they relate?

Description: From the beginning, deliberation projects borrowed a number of tactics from the field of community organizing. Meanwhile, community organizing has evolved and diversified tremendously. The line between these two approaches to social change seems increasingly blurry. What are the similarities and differences? In what ways can they compliment each other and learn from one another?

  • Mark Linder, City of Cupertino, California, and vice chair, Democratic Governance Panel of the National League of Cities
  • Ian Bautista, United Neighborhood Centers of America
  • Wendy Willis, Policy Consensus Initiative
  • Alma Couverthie, Lawrence CommunityWorks

The session began with stories from field that were inspiring to hear.

Danielle Atkinson with Michigan Voices described the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan (ROC-MI) that is dedicated to winning improved conditions and raising industry standards for all Detroit metro restaurant workers.

Paul Alexander, Director of the Institute on the Common Ground at Regis University: When we began holding community dialogues, no one would come so we had to get into the community and engage in community organizing. Getting people to the table was only part of the issue; we also had to address power to make dialogue work.

Heidi Klein at the Snelling Center for Government in VT: We are doing deliberation first and then organizing later. In Vermont, several organizations are interested in transportation – providers, user, environmental concerns. We are using deliberation to help them develop principles for transporting the public – to find some agreement. They have 10 principles that they can use to organize. For example, environmentalists have their own talking points, but they go into the community to organize with an understanding of the needs and difficulties that seniors face in transportation.

Nugget:

There are tools that the deliberative democracy and community organizing field need to share – we are two tools in the same belt.

Defining

Community Organizing: Capacity and community leadership building in a community. Very action-oriented, short or long-term and includes stakeholders. In society there are three forces at work market, government and civic. Per Mark Linder, we need to civic side because the other two sides are running amok. We have an imperfect union by becoming consumers rather than citizens. Bringing the resources, talents and skills of people together to transform their world.

Throughout the sessions, we have snapshots presented by people on the ground…

In Hampton, VA, Ramon, a young man who grew up in a public housing neighborhood who joined Community Builders Network working on drug abuse issues. Ramon participated in leadership development. Cindy was approached by the City to answer the question, What would it look like to have youth in positions in our department as a youth neighborhood associate? Ramon was hired with the goal of creating ways for more young people to be involved in their neighborhood association.

At Clark University, the Difficult Dialogues group had a grant from the Ford Foundation, an initiative launched in 2005 for Colleges and Universities to nurture practices of dialogue and engagement around difficult issues, particularly around race and religion. They felt like there was too much silence around these issues so the goal was to raise the awareness of a precise type of dialogue to help students understand what could be possible if one is willing to dig down and to be fully present.

These periodic snapshots from the field will help us keep our feet in the real world and be a reminder of why we do this work!

From July 8-11, 2009, I am attending the Democracy Imperative and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, a  national conference at the University of New Hampshire.

Background of the Democracy Imperative:

A couple of years ago, Bruce Mallory and Nancy Thomas convened a meeting of higher education folks to address the question: Is there a need for those of us concerned with the role of higher education in deliberative democracy to join forces and share knowledge and resources? The answer has been a resounding YES as is evident by the number of people participating here this week – 270 antitipated and judging from the limited number of open seats. The guest list reads like a who’s who in higher education and deliberation / service learning / community development & organizing. In addition, there are a number of representatives from non-profits.

To get a really good idea of who is here, David Campt is leading us through a keypad poll using Turning Point keypads. Here are the results:

  • 1/3 have used keypads, and 1/3 are new.
  • 60% are female
  • 41% are 40-55, but we do have 7% below 24 years and hopeful for more in the future!
  • 73% white again confirming that diversity is an ongoing challenge for this field
  • we are primarily from U.S., but we have 20% from outside of North America representing important perspectives for us to have in the room.
  • very good representation from around the country with the bulk (38%) from the northeast where the conference is taking place.
  • As far as the two issues that drew people to the field:
    • collaborative governance
    • justice and equity issues
  • Given lots of options about who we wanted to meet at this conference, the bulk answered “the person sitting next to me” (although Sarah Palin’s media advisor got a few hits proving that even academics have a sense of humor and, like me I will confess, can’t take their eyes off a train wreck!)

In just a couple of hours, I will be co-facilitiating a session with colleague John Stephens from the University of North Carolina on: Tech Ethics: The Values questions raised in a digital democracy.

I’ll check in throughout the week as I get time and have something worthwhile to say – or not!