Public Participation: Online Learning and Doing

E-Public Participation

Building new channels and approaches that encourage public participation and produce good results and outcomes is a permanent pre-occupation for us. The big boost to the use of technology is the buzz around Obama’s White House policy. Delib’s September newsletter has an interesting article about how the White House is opening up policy policy and quotes a couple of case histories- White House Open for Questions and the dialogue.

The Million Visit Participation Event

The Open for Questions opportunity of participatory government was taken up by 92.927 people who submitted 104,127 questions and gave on average 38 ratings (or reactions) using Google Moderator which allows anyone visiting the site both to ask and rank questions (if supported, rate it up and so the most popular questions rose to the top). In addition there were a million visits and 1.4 million views of the Open for Questions page.

542 Unique Ideas

The dialogue was a week-long online dialogue – the ‘Recovery Dialogue on Information Technology Solutions’ – on how to implement the promise in the Recovery Act to be transparent and open about each dollar was spent in pursuit of the Act’s purpose – the rebuilding of the American economy. The response numbers were lower but the quality of the ideas submitted and the discussion around them vindicated the ‘mass crowd-source’ approach – 542 unique ideas, 1330 comments, 2,220 votes and 559 tags.

The Learning Opportunity for Participation Practitioners

So we and all our colleagues in the world of public participation need to learn how to do this and what better way than to start using the technology to do that learning. So yesterday I had a long phone chat with Beth Offenbacker, the Chief Learning Officer  of – the worldwide leader in online training for public participation. In their own words ‘They  provide practically oriented training for persons who work with stakeholders and the public to solve problems, craft policies/programs or achieve social change . The company’s offerings are ideal for working professionals and officials who are constrained from participating in professional development activities by geographic distances and limited budgets. Classes are conducted live, and quality is ensured by limiting class sizes to a small number of participants.’

What’s more, in May this year, they are running a conference on public participation in health care and we have put our hands up to get involved and contribute. After all, web-based learning will save us all money and focuses the training budget on learning not travel.

So good to talk to Beth  and watch this space as we learn and do.


  1. Colin Adamson says

    Take a look at an article on NHS Choices from E-Health Insider talling us that the newly-launched GP ratings service on NHS Choices (according to the Department of Health) was inundated with comments in the first 24 hours with 1600 people posting comments, of which most were complimentary. More please say I

  2. says

    Colin, it was great to talk with you about the potential for bringing people together using technology around health engagement.
    As we’re seeing more and more in the media these days (especially here in the US), the practice of engaging people around keeping themselves and others healthy is a critical issue for improving the quality of life everywhere. It’s equally important that we consult people when designing health care delivery systems so that these systems can respond effectively. It’ll be exciting to hear from practitioners at the conference about how they’re doing this essential work and how in turn we can apply that knowledge in other communities for the benefit of people the world over.

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