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Engaging the public in policy using blogs as discussion forums

I work at the US Environmental Protection Agency, and we’re trying out some old tools in new ways.

Currently, our enforcement office is using two blogs to post concepts and then taking comments from anyone who wants to join in.

1) Setting environmental enforcement priorities
2) Establishing a plan to improve enforcement of the Clean Water Act

And this is just the beginning. For example, our chief financial officer is going to use the same idea to invite the public to revise our strategic plan. And I know of at least one other program already planning to use a blog the same way.

We’re also avidly exploring how to use social media for formal rulemaking, where the contributions can directly affect regulations.

I’m excited about these developments, and I encourage you to check ’em out!

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Craig Kessler

Sounds like a great plan and I like how you are using the feedback to help build policies. But how are users going to revise the policies strictly from the comments? The feedback is great but it is not a wiki. Like Michael mentioned, if there was an open interactive site where users could induce more than just a simple comment maybe you could get more revisions and research done by those experts. Great start though.

Jeffrey Levy

@Ed: Yep to all of what you said.

@Michael and Craig: you’re right. It’s not a wiki. These are efforts to get public input on specific policies we’re already working on. Generating innovative policy ideas is a whole different area. Perhaps just as useful, but baby steps first, on stuff we absolutely must do. As to it not being a wiki, we can discuss some other time how I don’t think that wikis necessarily work when you have radically different, strongly held views of what success should look like. And you also have to watch out for people whose interest lies solely in wrecking any consensus, because they simply don’t want any policy on a given subject.