This group aggregates news and information about the Open Government Directive and the Open Government organization in the White House.
Association for Public Participation (IAP2) – submitted by Moira Deslandes
July 9, 2009 at 3:12 am #75454
I thought that this network might be interested in what advice IAP2 provided to this imitative. We welcome any feedback. regards, Moira.
The way to solve the problems of our time, as one nation, is by involving the American people in shaping the policies that affect their lives.
As a local government, we must always remember that the people are the government and that an essential part of our daily work is to vigorously pursue efforts to bring all voices to the table in ways that are meaningful to our community members and that authentically consider all perspectives. That is what applying IAP2 principles in practice has meant to us. Karen Roney, Community Services Director, City of Longmont, Colorado, USA
Since its creation in 1991, the Authority has demonstrated a sustained commitment of engaging the public in major policy decisions. Indeed, the best decisions are often made when the public is involved in shaping them. Julie Wilcox, Southern Nevada Water Authority, 2008 Winner Core Values Organization of the Year Award.
The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) is honored to be invited to submit views to the Open Government Directive and participate in the process. Engagement with these processes is central to the mission of IAP2 – not as lobbyists, but as leaders in public participation.
This piece of advice is founded on two decades of experience of our members in the USA and supported by our international membership. Our International Certificate in Public Participation has been completed by almost 1,000 people in the USA alone since 2000 and has established itself as a training standard in this field.
The accumulated wisdom gained from applying public participation principles in community, business and government settings, where the imperative is to minimize risk, maximize engagement and build consensus, is central to the mission of IAP2 and have created what Beth Noveck referred to as a “lofty set of principles”. In this submission we demonstrate IAP2’s experience and capacity to apply principles to practice and deliver outcomes.
A practitioners, we recognize that the policy intention of this initiative is designed to create a culture of participatory practice that will lead to consensus building and increased engagement among individuals, communities, business and the public sector. It is our advice that cultural shifts such as these require building internal policies, and expertise and skills to both lead and enable these aspirations to be fully realized.
During Phase II a set of questions was posed by this process and we recognize them as the enduring questions of IAP2 clients, whether they be public or private corporations, or community-led or hosted organizations. All want to know the price and promise of public participation; the parameters and limitations of the processes; and the impact on decision-making and decision-makers. The methods employed by IAP2 members enable quality decision-making that protects and promotes policy imperatives, without compromising the integrity of the process or the necessity of decisions. It is our experience that clarity about the decision is the basic building block for problem solving and decision making that results the public and stakeholders being mutually satisfied. This planned and strategic approach also comes with the deep appreciation that some decisions are so important, some challenges so great that they cannot be made by single decision-makers and need to be underwritten by consensus built through public participation.
From Principles to Practice
A principle-centered approach enables a diversity of processes and practices without compromising the policy objectives; however the policy outcomes must still be measured.
Setting targets for participation and defining appropriate processes are initial steps in building a transparent and open policy directive without resorting to regulation. When contracts are let, projects commissioned or staff appointed, it is possible to embed principles and measures of policy outcomes into these agreements. This is a zero cost to government in offering the contracts; the responsibility of meeting these objectives falls onto both parties – the contracted to deliver and the contractor to monitor. This enables measurement and transparency and builds a reporting framework with accountability to all parties.
However, if government wants to go a step further and build this approach into regulations, it would remain consistent with other policy initiatives being canvassed (e.g. the http://www.regulations.gov online exchange).
The institutionalized and systematic inclusion of principles that lead to measurable outcomes in public participation are fostered when measures and monitoring are written into the agreements. One example from a state jurisdiction in Australia has all the Chief Executives of Government Departments having the state’s strategic plan targets written into their performance agreements –thereby linking directly the public policy of the elected official with the performance of the civil servant.
Each year IAP2 collects from around the world examples of excellence in public participation, which are recognized through the IAP2 Core Values Awards. These typically include public bodies as well as commercial organizations and form an annual State of the Practice Report showcasing winning projects and organizations. The common feature of all these award winners is the considered application of a principle-centered approach whether it be bioethics or land use management. This year, a new award category has been established to showcase web-based applications in public participation and winners are yet to be announced. IAP2 will make this year’s award-winning applications available to the White House.
Other best practice examples we would like to draw to your attention have been captured in the Kettering Foundation funded project “Painting the Landscape” that is due for completion and launch at the 17th International Conference in San Diego. This year’s conference theme is Sustainable Decision-Making, again translating principles into practice for everyday application.
IAP2 members and our associates are involved in a wide range of projects, organizations and policy initiatives, and our links are extensive. International examples that connect law making (e.g. Tuscan Law no. 69) demonstrates how representative government and mini-publics might do more than co-exist. This law enables the convening and participation in public meetings supported by financial and administrative services. Proponents are responsible for proposing appropriate inclusive deliberative methods for engagement.
Legislative and regulatory examples abound in numerous jurisdictions (both National and State) and they tend to be linked to particular industries and portfolios for example such as Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Danish Board of Technology and its link between consensus conferences and Danish Parliament.
Jurisdictions may face legal challenges around public participation has often transpired as legislation to for strategic litigation against public participation (or SLAPP) and there are again numerous examples of this around the world including one from a jurisdiction within the Australian Capital Territory, Australia.
Public engagement is core to our practice as IAP2; we understand the processes and techniques that decision-makers can confidently rely on to foster involvement of the general public as opposed to seasoned advocates and activists. We are skilled in helping decision makers and practitioners alike to lead and sculpt processes matched to the decision being considered and the people being served. Creating environments conducive to participation and unfriendly to lobbyists can be facilitated by pathways outside of the systems open to lobbyists and other professionals. We have developed strategies that are inclusive, visible and collaborative, and provide evidence of a range of voices being heard. This process will also make visible the lobbyists and their submissions to government.
IAP2 uses a suite of methods with breadth and depth to match the capacity of participation for the public in decision-making. These applications are as diverse as micro-blogging tools like Twitter ranging up to randomly selected national forums on issues of national importance; from community development projects in rural and remote settings to inner urban corporate board rooms; from on-line surveys to focus groups to webinars to involvement of arts and cultural tools (e.g. face painting consultation for children about their playground).
There are literally thousands of examples from around the world from local, state and national levels. A few are chosen here from work being undertaken by some of our members:
Speak Out, in Hawaii has been documented as an example of partnership in public consultation with local businesses, government and community members.
Southern Nevada Water Authority has for over a decade used a range of public participatory tools to build a suite of interactive opportunities with the public for decision-making that has led to long-term engagement on natural resource management.
One of the members of the IAP2 Journal Advisory Board, Professor James Fishkin, pioneered deliberative polling, which has been used to great effect in USA, UK, Australia and the European Union. The method of random selection and combining pre- and post-polling of the delegates enables a microcosm of a population (i.e. a mini-public) that can reflect and consider key issues of local and national importance. These methods have been applied to issues as diverse as crime, national health policy, alternative energy and race relations.
More recently these methods or variations of the methods have been applied in Australia at the national level at the world’s first People’s Parliament in February 2009 in Canberra Australia. Randomly selected voters deliberated on key policy issues of national importance. Another example is a Deliberative Poll ® on Muslims and Non-Muslims in Australia, hosted by Issues Deliberation Australia/America in 2007. The DVD documentation of this event has just won the 2009 US International Film and Video Festival One World Award.
Our Experience – Our Advice
IAP2 – through our members and networks, partners and collaborators – has been engaged in the processes to date being employed by the Office of Public Engagement. IAP2 remains committed to supporting and promulgating these processes to our members and networks. One potential limitation of this method is that the use of a single platform may lack the capacity to deliver results to the OPE that reflect the potential breadth and depth of public participation.
The OGI consultation process is nearing completion, so the following advice is designed to shape future processes and direction of policy implementation. If the OPE determined that the solitary platform of Web 2.0 applications were to be used for public participation, it could be open to the criticism of providing an elite and limited process. This creates a vulnerability to criticism from constituencies that the long-term strategic action deriving from these early processes is fundamentally flawed and therefore weak. Other tools are available and we direct your attention to a list of technical improvements created by one of our members.
IAP2 offers advice on how to strengthen these processes and how to embed quality public participation into all levels of government. This will enable long-term sustainability of the policies of open government.
IAP2 has discovered that careful planning for participation requires analysis of those to be included in the decision-making and those affected by the decision. In this project the OGI is seeking to receive input from the public that will enable it to implant transparency tools within the systems of government and governance. Such planning is the heart of IAP2 practices in public participation. We specialize in matching the capacity of the constituencies with the tools and techniques of public participation. We have learned that no single approach to public participation will deliver the desired policy outcomes. Rather, prior to designing and implementing a public participation plan, each initiative requires analysis to ensure the measure of proactive public engagement compared with the risks of having no involvement or inappropriate participation. IAP2’s five steps for public participation planning have been tested on policies and projects in a range of jurisdictions, cultures and language groups. They are robust because they work. These steps are supported by a suite of tools, tasks and processes. The steps are:
1. Gain internal commitment
2. Learn from the public
3. Select the level of participation
4. Define the decision process and participation objectives
5. Design the public participation plan
A disciplined approach to these steps will deliver:
• a clear problem/opportunity or problem statement – what is it that needs to be decided ie what’s wrong that needs to be fixed, what are the opportunities to be seized
• clarity about the level of engagement with the public on what issues need to be canvassed and what promises can be made to the public
• a comprehensive analysis of stakeholders
This is turn will generate a public participation plan that is transparent and open with collaborative features.
In our experience with organizations and communities, we have found that it is critical to enable leadership, employ skilled and consistent practice and explain how the decision is to be made by identifying the parameters and depth of participation in the decision-making process.
In previous advice to the OPE, we have suggested that the support needed within government would be enhanced through the education and training of government officers in these policy imperatives. It is our view that, while there is significant skill and knowledge within some areas of government, there are gaps at the interface with the public by everyday officers that would be strengthened with consistent entry-level applications in public participation that are not web-based. These could be seen as a precursor to web-based community engagement or crowd sourcing for future initiatives of the administration.
To this end, IAP2 offers a foundation certificate in public participation that is affordable and available in multiple locations across the USA; individual officers can participate, or a planned partnership approach between specific divisions or departments could be developed. IAP2 is not an advocacy body; it has no political ties and is truly independent. The skills transfer offered in the certificate are elementary and accessible with universal application. Membership of IAP2 could be a natural extension to the training as well to enable ongoing professional development within a broader international context, enabling officers to learn from other jurisdictions.
Our experience tells us that the spectrum of public participation can work at multiple levels in real time, employing a range of techniques for interacting with different stakeholders.
We know to the importance of providing the public with balanced and objective information to assist in understanding the problem, alternatives, opportunities and/or solutions is matched with the promise to the keep the public informed. We know that the need to obtain public feedback on analysis, alternatives and/or decisions is matched with the promise to keep informing, listening, acknowledging concerns, aspirations and providing feedback on how the input from the public has made a difference. We know that working directly with the public throughout the process enables public concerns and aspirations to be consistently understood and evaluated, which will be reflected in the alternatives developed and feedback on how public participation influenced the decision. Partnering with the public includes developing alternatives and identifying preferred solutions; and this is matched with the promise of innovation based on community advice and recommendations, as deeply as possible. And finally, we know that to place the final decision-making in the hands of the public is matched with the promise that implementation is the will of the people. The ultimate form of empowerment in a democracy is the power of the vote.
IAP2 stands willing, ready and able to support collaborative ventures that will enhance the implementation of this directive. IAP2’s invitation to the Office of Public Engagement to join in its 17th International Conference in San Diego in September is still open; we would very much welcome an affirmative response so that we might meet and advance this conversation in a very practical way. I look forward to hearing whether you or one of your colleagues can join us at that time.
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