A Manager’s Guide to Evaluating Citizen Participation

My colleague, Professor Tina Nabatchi, has published a new IBM Center for the Business of Government report: “A Manager’s Guide to Evaluating Citizen Participation“. A must-read for everyone who is working on citizen participation initiatives and wants to know if they are making an impact!

Here is an abstract of the report:

The Obama administration’s Open Government Initiative is now three years old. But is it making a difference?  Dr. Nabatchi’s report is a practical guide for program managers who want to assess whether their efforts to increase citizen participation in their programs are making a difference. She lays out evaluation steps for both the implementation and management of citizen participation initiatives, as well as how to assess the impact of a particular citizen participation initiative.

An Appendix to the report provides helpful worksheets as well. Why is evaluation of these initiatives important?  For the foreseeable future, agencies will be under great fiscal pressures.   They need to be able to both understand how to effectively engage citizens in their government, and demonstrate how effective citizen involvement contributes to better-run, more cost-effective programs.

“You Lie 2.0”: How disrespecting the protocol can get you thousands of new friends and a million dollars on social media sites

Was Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst “You Lie” last week during the presidential address to the joint session of Congress harmful or helpful to him? This is the question I asked in a not representative poll in my MPA class this Monday. 70% of my students said that it must have been harmful to him. And then we looked at the numbers.

In an unprecedented move, Wilson’s hired a new media strategist who went to work in the same night as his client had breached the protocol. The result: 50 new Twitter messages and a record increase in Twitter followers. Overnight, Mr. Wilson’s followers increased by 500% (from ~ 2,300 followers up to over 10,000 followers over night: see TwitterCounter).

Non of these developments comes as a surprise – although – a conservative Member of Congress is using these channels – which he hadn’t frequented as much and with a very different netiquette and traditional forms of messages: “Have a great Labor Day” – was his last message before the joint session of Congress.

Without a true apology to the American people or his fellow Members of Congress, Senator Wilson managed to create friends – or in the Web 2.0 lingo – picked up people where they are: on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. He mimicked the Campaign 2.0 success of his biggest foe, President Obama, and increased his fans on his congressional Facebook fanpage to over 11,000 fans.

In an interesting move, he is also equipped his Facebook campaign page – a standard profile page that you and I can create – to a donation channel using Google Checkout, without any substantial information about the issues. The main explanation on this page is: “Washington Democrats and their liberal allies want to divert attention away from the concerns about the massive government takeover of health care. In fact, they have made me their Number One target — already raising millions of dollars for my opponent. But I will not give up and I will not back down from our fight. We will not be muzzled. Will you please make a donation to help me fight back against these unwavering attacks? Thank you for standing with me in this fight.”

The result: More than $1.5 million dollars in donations following the weekend of his outburst. Granted – we do not know where these donations are coming from and we are not able to track them back to his Facebook campaign page or even back to his district for that matter. And – his opponent Sen. Rob Miller has made a few bucks himself during the same time frame. Both might be picking up supporters beyond their own playground.

What is interesting and a novelty in the arena of spinning the message is that new media experts are hired – who specifically focuses on targeting new media channels. The messages he is shooting out to the world are no longer about damage control – but about turning a wrong into a right: “I apologized to the President – I believe that is sufficient.”

In other contexts, misbehavior, breaching the protocol, or out-bursting inappropriately creates foes. Kanye West was shunned by his celebrity colleagues for jumping on stage at the VMA awards during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for her best video award – proclaiming that his friend Beyonce should have won the award. Serena Williams received a high fine of $10,500 dollars for insulting a line judge during the US Open finals on the same weekend. Both found themselves in the dog house — and as expected and traditionally the norm – both apologized profoundly, not only directly to the person they harmed, but also to the public.

While Wilson’ congressional website was overloaded with site hits and temporarily went down, it was reported that it was also target of a Denial of Service (DDOS) attack and a slim version without graphics is now back up.

In response to the Congress’ resolution on Tuesday, Congressman Wilson tweets: “Despite Congress’ actions today, I will not back down from speaking the truth. Please stand with me http://bit.ly/duWXu”.

Overall, what we can observe is an immense upheaval of social media tools, a medium that has become the message and a money-for-issue exchange. Social media tools are providing a payoff to catering to the fringe and are facilitating extreme polarization in Congress – and thereby giving a voice to those who were already loud – but not necessarily right. An addition to viral messages of the birthers, death panelists, and now “You lie” shouters.

Whitehouse.gov uses social media for health insurance reform reality check

According to an LA Times article, the Whitehouse is using the power of social media to start a “reality check” offensive to stop the spread of health insurance reform rumors:

The White House blasted links to the package out to more than 300,000 fans on Facebook and more than 900,000 on Twitter today. It also sent an e-mail acknowledging “scare tactics” being used to bash the programs. A few hours later, users of the social news site Digg voted Reality Check to the site’s homepage. That potentially exposes Reality Check to millions of eyeballs.

See also the Whitehouse’s blog post on the topic.

Health insurance reform

Health insurance reform

Twitter: New form of citizen participation – Tweet your senator

I just stumbled upon the “Organizing for America” website with a new feature: Constituents can send Twitter messages to their Senator by adding a zip code to their message. The goal is to alert Senators of who is supporting Obama’s health insurance plan. The Twitter messages are popping up on a Google Mashup. Here are the instructions:

Enter your zip code above and you will be re-directed to the Twitter website to send your message. Due to character limitations, one of your senators will be selected at random each time you tweet.

Government 2.0: Obama’s speech live on Facebook & Twitter (not on TV)

Obama’s Kairo speech today addressed very openly all topics the middle east (and for that matter the whole world) is dealing with. It was broadcasted live only on Facebook with a constant flow of comments by Facebook users right next to the video. I had Twitter open in Tweetie right next to it and watched the @whitehouse messages flowing in at the same time. The audio and video quality was excellent – no static, no delay:

Obama's speech live on Facebook and Twitter

Obama's speech live on Facebook and Twitter

Vote on list of recommendations for an Open Government Directive

The NYT reports about the Open Government Directive: on the website of the Sunlight Foundation’s Our Open Government List (OOGL) you can vote on how much information the new federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO) should make publicly available.

Saying goodbye to the presidential Blackberry?

There was an article in the NYT today that made me think about privacy and transparency in government: it seems as if President-elect Obama has to give up his email and Blackberry habits asap.  The NYT reports:

“The president’s e-mail can be subpoenaed by Congress and courts and may be subject to public records laws, so if a president doesn’t want his e-mail public, he shouldn’t e-mail, experts said. And there may be security issues about carrying around trackable cell phones.”

At the same time, he puts up his technology agenda and asks for a more transparent and connected government. Now, he wouldn’t even understand or know how the technology could help him to be connected and what the potential benefits are for society, for example in terms of community building, social support functionalities. Shouldn’t there be a new law to adjust the existing rules?

Obama’s agenda is back up… technology still one of the top issues

I just found out through Twitter that Obama’s agenda is back on change.gov. Technology is still among his top issues (phew…). Some of the important issues are:

  • Protect the Openness of the Internet
  • Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership
  • Protect Our Children While Preserving the First Amendment
  • Safeguard our Right to Privacy

And when it comes to government:

“Create a transparent and connected democracy”

  • Open Up Government to its Citizens: Use cutting-edge technologies to create a new level of transparency, accountability, and participation for America’s citizens.
  • Bring Government into the 21st Century: Use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks. Appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure the safety of our networks and lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.