Adding transparency to the public meeting process

I have thought more about the value technology can bring to government 2.0, specifically the public meeting process that, in most towns, sees only a few people ever take part.

I was chatting with someone on the GovLoop site recently, Justin Mosebach, about the meeting process, here are his thoughts.

“People have busy lives. Whether it be a job, family, or school, people don’t have (or want to take) the time to attend a County, Township, or School Board meeting. Most people don’t want to sit through multiple agenda items that are unimportant to them until they get to a topic that interests (or applies to) them. What if there was a way to allow local governments to video their meetings and put them online? Currently, the most common application of transparency for local meetings is the minutes. But minutes usually don’t provide a full (and unbiased) account of what really happened. Body language and tone of voice aren’t communicated. However, if there were video of the meetings online, this would be possible. Online video would also enable anyone to just watch the items of the meeting that matters to them, whenever they want, with the time that they have. Archived meeting videos would allow citizens (including reporters) to easily research what a council member specifically said about an issue last July.”

I agree that video can be used, and is used in some towns, to offer more transparency to the process. Housing videos on a YouTube channel, presentations on SlideShare or Brainshark, are all easy ways to add richness and transparency to the process. What else should local governments consider?

– Live twitter feeds. Yes, if you have people available to capture and report on the topics of the meeting, do so. People that are not in the room may still jump on board. Leverage Twitter lists to find interested parties and keep it simple to track and respond to the discussion.
– Post meeting agendas as a SlideShare or My Brainshark presentations ahead of the meeting. Ensure that web-savvy citizens are able to fully take part.
– Leverage games like Foursquare, GoWalla, to publicize and reward citizens who are participating. Those badges are an amazingly addictive virtual reward system.
– For those aware of my thoughts on Foursquare, here is another example of where virtual world check-ins matter. I want the Youtube channel housing these videos to be a destination. Rewards should go to those that take part in the process, in person or on-line.
– Feeling particularly tech ready? Bring the meeting into SecondLife. You might want to verify that people would participate first, but this is another great technology to consider.

Is there a return on your investment by driving more open participation? Definitely. Start measuring and reporting on the following and I believe you will see results

– Voter turnout numbers.
– Meeting numbers, broken down by virtual participants and physically present participants. I know you want to measure mental participation too, perhaps later.
Thoughts?

John

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Profile Photo Gerry La Londe-Berg

There are a variety of cities that do this. My city, Santa Rosa, California, wrote:

The portions of regular Council meetings held in the Council Chambers are televised live on City View on Channel 70 OR 28, depending on where you live in Santa Rosa, and are rebroadcast on Wednesdays beginning at 6:30 p.m., and on Saturdays beginning at 11:00 a.m.

See: http://bit.ly/96phDX

Your other ideas are very intriguing. Thanks for sharing them.

Anyone else have examples?

Profile Photo Vince Golubic

If you really think about it most cable ISPs nationwide could already add this capability, since most local cities already have a cable channel. Closing the loop with a more interactive broadcast (email and twitter feeds announcing meeting times ) to increase viewer participation would help. But as for incentives to participate? Here in Texas a small break on local taxes for citizen participants would certainly help and when you think about it ideas provided by citizens could possibly help save the city and local government money, paying for the new service perhaps.