GovLaunch: We The People petitions garner much attention in first week

Since the launch of its new online petition system, We The People, earlier this week, The White House has received a flood of petitions. We The People is part of a large push by the Obama administration to have greater transparency and openness in government. (And there is an ongoing debate about whether “Open Is Dead.”)

According to an article over at NextGov.com:

The White House initially promised to respond formally to any We the People petition that received more than 5,000 signatures, but after nearly three dozen petitions crossed that mark in the site’s first week, the administration raised the bar to 25,000 signatures within 30 days.

With so much response, on topics ranging from Forgiving Student Loan Debt to asking the government to repeal the Patriot Act to recognizing the existence of extra terrestrials, the White House has a lot to filter through.

I think this is a step in the right direction toward more transparent government, but I think we’re a few months away from seeing the full potential of this initiative or have any sort of measure of its efficacy.

The White House official responded that even if internal discussions spawned by the site don’t always change policy, it still represents an opportunity for the White House to engage with the public and to explain why it can’t or won’t make a particular change.

Do you think We The People will remain to be a popular feature on WhiteHouse.gov? Do you think it will be effective? Does your agency have any similar crowd sourcing features?

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Profile Photo Scott Primeau

It’s exciting to see so much interest, but I’m a little disappointed with the White House’s “raising the bar.” Either, as the Nextgov article mentions, the real test will be what action the petitions create. A formal response is nice, but people submitting and signing petitions are looking for real change. This might be difficult to achieve, since, as Nextgov writes, “The public’s expectations for the site might also be damaged, Owen said, because so many of the most popular petitions are on issues the executive branch either has little power to influence…”

It would be great if this type of effort inspired Congress to launch something similar with a commitment to act on public feedback.

It’s exciting to see so much interest, but I’m a little disappointed with the White House’s “raising the bar.” Either, as the Nextgov article mentions, the real test will be what action the petitions create. A formal response is nice, but people submitting and signing petitions are looking for real change. This might be difficult to achieve, since, as Nextgov writes, “The public’s expectations for the site might also be damaged, Owen said, because so many of the most popular petitions are on issues the executive branch either has little power to influence…”


It would be great if this type of effort inspired Congress to launch something similar with a commitment to act on public feedback.

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