How to Plan for Collective Brainstorming Online – New Guide Released

Collaborative brainstorming online is all the rage these days. It’s a powerful tool for government to involve the public by inviting people to offer ideas and start discussions that will inform government decisions. But, as with so many other innovations in government, engaging the public in a meaningful way takes more than just “putting up a tool”. It’s a complex process of engagement where several elements have to align.

Recognizing this, my organization, the National Academy of Public Administration, yesterday released an Online Dialogue Brainstorm Guide offering advice on how to plan for this type of engagement. The guide suggests a host of questions you should ask yourself when setting off on engagement: What’s our business challenge? Who should we engage? How can a technology fit our needs? The planning you do upfront will pay dividends when you go “live”, so we’ve put this together to advise you on those thorny questions early on.
We developed this guide based on our lessons learned over about a dozen online dialogues and idea generation exercise over the past 2 years. The report is under the name of the Collaboration Project, an independent community of public managers, hosted at NAPA, that think these new social technologies should be used more — and used meaningfully — in government.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback! Where did we hit the nail on the head? Did we leave anything out that should be addressed? And if you have any good stories from your own experience, please share ’em!

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Tim Bonnemann

Very useful read, especially for people who are just starting out thinking about online participation. Important to get the basics right (start from a clear business objective, define how to measure success etc.).

One question I have is whether you can equate online dialogue with online brainstorming. I don’t think they are the same, necessarily, though in the case of the work NAPA has done they may have been.

Thanks for sharing!

Meyer Moldeven

Previous entry premature. resubmitted for consideration.

About a year ago, during the U S “Open Government Dialogue,” I submitted my proposal “Suicide Prevention in All Federal Departments” currently accessible online at:


Following excerpt is from my response to the Dialogue’s question: Why Is this Idea Important?

‘The nation is experiencing extraordinary stresses that adversely influence people in all walks of life. The number of calls to suicide prevention ‘hotlines’ has increased. Employers have a role in dealing with suicidal conduct, ideation, and attempts. Police officers and hospital staff often see successful suicides. Understanding the phenomenon and how to interact with a suicidal person, including getting him or her to professional help ASAP is vital. Suicide prevention is everybody’s business. ” (end of excerpt)

To my knowledge, no government action was taken on my proposal. The nation’s difficulties and stresses have not diminished. Indications in news media on suicides in the U S Armed Forces and the civilian sector are to the contrary. The U S economy and the Gulf Disaster’s prognosis are not encouraging. The two public comments to my proposal were deliberately negative and non-applicable to the issue. In effect, my proposal was ignored.

Media keep reporting increasing numbers of suicides in the U S Armed Forces. The U S civilian population in our society remains passive about the suicide phenomenon. Suicide prevention ‘Gatekeepers,’ are a potential ‘volunteer-trained’ government sponsored national resource.

Meyer Moldeven (Member, GovLoop)

Daniel Honker

Thanks, Tim, and interesting point about the differences between brainstorming and a dialogue. To answer your question, most of our dialogue work has been for brainstorming and idea generation, but some has been to gather feedback on topics or programs. These purposes do differ in when they occur in the decision/policy making process, and the feedback approach is a bit thornier in my experience.