A post on GovLoop by Gadi Ben-Yehuda led me to “Using Online Tools to Engage – and be Engaged by – The Public” by Matt Leighninger which is a new report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government. Whilst it’s a glossy, it is also well thought out and laid out, and presents current research into the use of social media in government very succinctly. The report presents a number of scenarios where government practitioners may find themselves requiring public input, and then describe a mix of ten different approaches that may be found useful in attempting to get citizen engagement, along with highlighting a number of real examples from across the world. Some of the solutions offered are, of course, sold by IBM but other suppliers and examples of some free products are also provided.
Scrolling through the PDF of the book, which is available hardcopy too, I fell over a UK example that I initially didn’t recognise, however on Googling it, it all became clear. The example was of Citizenscape, “a web platform that connects existing social websites, such as community forums and sites like Facebook and Twitter, to participatory tools such as ePetitions, webcasts, or consultations. Citizenscape is designed to provide an immediate picture of what online users in a community are talking about.” The developers of Citizenscape are Public-i, who have for some time been providing webcasting of meetings for local authorities in the UK. The chief executive of Public-i is Catherine Howe, who is also a PhD researcher employing a blog entitled “Curious Catherine“, as a research diary. I met Catherine through the webcasting product and have occasionally compared notes on the griefs and joys involved in doing a PhD.
Reading the blog I’m now aware that she’s using action research as the methodology, so she has even more of my sympathy, having used that myself. Hence the circles within circles, having started off at GovLoop and rotated around to the latest blog posts of an acquaintance.
There is plenty going on out there!