Integrating online and face to face community involvement via co-design Edit
Citizens perspective on networks involving government Edit
Diagram 1 is a simplified network diagram with nodes (circles = citizens, triangle = government), and connectors (the lines joining the nodes)
Question for discussion
From a citizens' perspective what is the one thing most obviously missing from this network? (Talking here about a network which involves government - national and / or local, public sector, and intermediate agencies)
(Answer: citizen to citizen connector (or conversations). Government may communicate reasonably well with some audiences - the unbroken line, but less well with others - the broken line. The focus in the past may have been on doing something about the broken line and not realising the potential from citizen to citizen links - "Citizens being responsible to each other", Steven Clift  ).
Expanding on this
- Networks can be used not just for communication but also collaboration. So a network which involves government but also includes citizen to citizen links opens up the possibility of collaboration between any of the parties, and specifically collaboration between citizens, or at least collaboration involving and more inclusive of citizens. Collaborating via what might be called an open design process, should include each of the following four aspects: terms of reference, design, agenda, evaluation - or the 'how did we do' question. All should be open to all of the interested parties. There needs to be fewer and fewer 'no-go' areas for citizens, for example is it really sustainable to suggest citizens can't cope with strategic issues?
- Resources questions are bound to come up. Isn't it inconsistent to imply there's lots of good stuff going on for example via social networking and then maintain its got nothing to do with the balance of government funds? Won't citizens inevitably want greater influence on 'their' resources - for example 'their' data'  and via participatory budgeting
- The POI review  made recommendations, such as not duplicating what already exists, which seem particularly relevant here. Shouldn't these be recommendations also to local government and the establishment 3rd sector?
- Citizens contribution is part of the 'collective memory'. Aren't there considerable risks if this valuable collective memory is entrusted to the private sector? (Example given concerning Local Agenda 21 programme)
A pattern of involvement Edit
Diagram 2 shows a long tail distribution. The pattern comes from an analysis of people's contributions (edits) to wiki. The vertical axis is number of tasks (there can be problems associated with defining tasks, but these are not considered here). And the horizontal axis numbers of people. What the graph shows is a small number of people doing a relatively large number of tasks (the vertical arm), and the number of people doing a relatively small amount of tasks being high (the long tail).
Question for discussion
If a long tail distribution of contributions applies, what are the main implications for government communications? (both for online and other forms of communication? Talking here about involvement at any area level. The pattern is about voluntary contributions)
Some possible answers
- The more active citizens can be a bridge or link to less active and sometimes harder to reach groups and potential allies,
- the long tail is where more active citizens come from
- Compared to something more open (more active citizens and a long tail), citizens juries look like tokenism
- 'Stakeholder' approaches tends to be associated with some stakeholders being more important than others (co-design is more open)
- continuous dialogue improves the chances of building up of trust and not having to continually 'reinvent the wheel'
- Many citizens may be interested in a topic because of implications or concerns for their locality
- If citizen involvement gets results for the citizens (and results as defined by them not outsiders) this may build trust and they may come back, if they don't they won't.
Moving toward integration Edit
Question for discussion
From a citizens perspective, if you start from the idea that citizens live their lives as a whole, and so tend to see things holistically (or suspend disbelief if you have difficulty accepting this), what false divisions do government communications perpetuate?
Some possible answers
- The balance of power between national and local government. Beyond being able to see who is responsible for what, are ordinary citizens hugely concerned about the precise balance of power between central and local government?
- Citizen and community involvement with government: won't citizens tend to want a seamless integration of online and face to face involvement? With the two becoming mutually reinforcing? Face to face involvement is perhaps what government can help most with, providing resources which help face to face events which in turn help online communities and networking.
- Continuous conversation, rather than (sporadic) consultation. For example, climate change (and sustainable development issues) are not going to go away. Past climate change effects will take generations to feed through. Mitigation and adaption needs are constantly being reassessed. Citizens and communities need to be aware of, involved and empowered by the latest available information.
- Face to face meetings to help with synthesis, interpretation and questions of meaning. If you take the view that data or the objective background to any government consultation will be increasingly online, won't citizens and communities still find face to face events useful to help with synthesis, interpretation and questions of meaning and relevance?
- Face to face events can help to distinguish between the local and less local stakeholders.
How to integrate Edit
(barcamp session ran out of time before this point)
Beginning to integrate the online more in face to face meetings Edit
- particular slots in an event's programme, for example in a day programme in the after lunch slot - helps with energy levels
- dedicated link person, takes part just like any other participant but does so on the basis of what happens online, (for example could be an event facilitator or co facilitator)
- obviously tailor support to audience, if for example not used to online or computer stuff
How to get more collaboration at, or following on from face to face events Edit
"I'm always struggling to explain to activists that "the Open Source people have already figured out the answers to most of these problems you're struggling with," and advocating working openly." LionKimbroOptions
- Open source conference design, or barcamp, open space or unconference type events