A Public Involvement in Decision Making Toolkit

Back in 2000 Health Canada published an excellent resource called The Health Canada Policy Toolkit for Public Involvement in Decision Making.
It is a complete toolkit with guidelines, about 50 techniques described in concise details and with useful suggestions, and also case studies and references. I highly recommend it as a definitive reference on the various options for effective public engagement within the Canadian context. You can access other free resources in my links section.

Mutli-lingual Mailing List Software / Service

I’m on the Board of C2D2 and we needed a mailing list application that could provide for a full bi-lingual (French/English) e-newsletter blast. In my research I could not find any hosted mailing list services that advertise support for multi-lingual email marketing. That said, I did find some acceptable solutions…

PHPlist – a free open source application with internationalization (aka multi-ligual) features. I’ve used this tool with success before, but getting appropriate support and hosting (that won’t be blocked by spam filters) requires further investigation.

CiviCRM – another open source tool designed for campaign management with extensive features for tracking online and offline communications with a mass consituency. I can’t vouch for the mutli-lingual support but there are people in Ottawa working who may have some success.

MailChimp – is an affordable and very easy to use hosted bulk email tool. Although they don’t advertise muti-lingual support, they provide options to customize what seems to be every element of system generated content, so you could make it bi-lingual from the subscribers perspective. See an example by the Canadian Education Association

Many other mailing list providers (e.g. bettermail.ca, ConstantContact.com, icontact.com) have options to customize many fields, but often there have exceptions like the subject field for ‘welcome’ emails that are autogenerated with hard coded English.

 

If you know of any better suggesitions, please post it in a comment below, Thanks!

 

 

Visualize information to make it accessible

Public consultation and engagement requires a two-way flow of communication between the proponent (the organization doing the consultation) and the public. The public needs to have information presented in a way that is easy to understand and this can be done, in part, by using good visuals. I recommend the booklet “Visualizing Information for Advocacy: An Introduction to Information Design” as a good resource to review before creating your public information materials. It’s written for NGOs who do advocacy, but the suggestions apply just as well to public consultations.

A great guide to public consultation

I recently found this manual…

PUBLIC CONSULTATION GUIDE:
CHANGING THE REIATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND CANADIANS

By Peter Sterne with Sandra Zagon
http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/SC94-62-19-1997E.pdf

I am finding it very useful for planning public consultations required for environmental assements. The detailed Roadmap Model gives 51 key steps one should carry out to conduct a successful public participation process. Written in 1997 it’s a bit out of date in terms of more conteporary approaches, such as the use of online tools, but it is still very worth while and insightful for consultants and government folks in Canada and beyond. Pass it on!

Attachment Size
public consultation guide 1997.pdf 2.65 MB

The Canadian Conference for Dialogue and Deliberation

C2D2 night cap 1 of 2
A night cap session after the days workshops and plenaries

On November 12-14th I attended The Canadian Conference for Dialogue and Deliberation, affectionately known as C2D2. This was the second C2D2 conference, the first I also attended in Ottawa 2005. At this year's conference in Vancouver with some 300 participants, I presented a poster session on “The Reality of Communal Councils in Venezuela” (Download the poster PDF) and gave out copies of my Dotmocracy sheets.

The conference is modelled after the conferences held by the US National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation. The participants tend to be consultants, facilitators, government staff and academics. You can read about the experiences and perspectives of participants on the conference blog.

C2D2 night cap 2 of 2

For me it was a great opportunity to meet and share with some of lthe eading folks in the field. It became apparent to me how few large organizations are doing this work. Most practitioners are independent with a few groups like Ascentum and CPRN, doing a lot of the national projects out of Ottawa..

The tone of discussion was of enthusiasm for the work but without a clear vision for where were want to go as a field. Talks about formalizing an association, certification or anything in that direction did not seem to be common. My impression is that The International Association for Public Participation and The International Association of Facilitators already address that need. C2D2 is more about convening and sharing. It will be interesting to see how the organization evolves. I’d like to see us doing more collaborative projects to raise the profile of citizen deliberation as a better model of governance. Deliberative democracy success stories like the Ontario and BC citizens’ assemblies on electoral reform and the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada (aka the Romanow Commission) need to get higher profile and help create new expectations of government when it comes to public involvement, and I think C2D2 could help make this happen.

Thanks to Miriam Wyman, Sandra Zagon, Melissa Abramovitz, Dr. Joanna Ashworth and all the organizers and volunteers for producing such a great event.

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Jason_Diceman_C2D2_2007_poster.pdf 975.99 KB

Why Use Face-to-Face Dialogue Rather Than On-line (in brief)

As a practitioner I find that face-to-face dialogue provides for greater trust and emotional communication based on eye contact and body language. As well, many people are not comfortable with text chat and writing and thus are disadvantaged by on-line and written forms of dialogue. Also face-to-face can be much faster for exchanging perspectives and opinions. Thus for dialogue aimed at finding common ground between average folks, face-to-face is preferred. That said, outcomes from a face-to-face discussion should be documented on-line.

For discussion and exchange between web comfortable participants, on-line tools can work well, but you won't get the same level of emotional communication and flame wars (e.g. insults and personal conflicts) are more likely.

Networks for Change

(Published on WorldChanging Canada. Thank you to the editor Mark Tovey for inviting me to join the writing team.)

There is no shortage of articles about how social networking sites like MySpace and FaceBook can be used to support grassroots and progressive campaigns and professional networking sites like Linkedin and XING can help you get connected in your sector, but what about the networking sites specifically created to support social and environmental causes?

Worldchanging has been covering this trend on an ongoing basis (see for instance, Idealist, Be Green, David Weinberger on Social Software), but there are enough new sites connecting people, organizations, and projects, that it seemed time for a round-up.

In this article, we examine some leading networking sites with an aim (and capacity) to succeed in helping people achieve real change in the world.

With 7.7 million members, Care2 is a green consumers' haven and social networking space. It has a wide range of features, including petitions, groups, blogs, e-cards, eco-shopping, click2donate, even online dating. The content focus is healthy, green, and ethical lifestyles, with an emphasis on animal rights. The discussion groups are popular, and the collaborative C2NN news portal is an impressive example of media democracy. Is it a vegetarian natural food store? Is it a revolutionary conference on the verge of coalescing an international movement for peace and sustainability? An interesting mix, and with this many members, a mix worth watching.

Idealist.org is a multilingual international directory that lists over 126,000 members profiles and 70,700 organizations, helping to connect people with the right skills to opportunities at progressive organizations. That said, Canadian job seekers are better served by listings on charityvillage.com. The social networking is limited to creating a profile, sending messages to other members and using the brand new groups function, but it could be enough to connect the right people together to help nonprofits achieve their funders’ goals.

TakingITGlobal is a Canadian-born international community site with over 162,000 “young people interested in making a difference”. Note there is no user age limit and there are many users over 30. The fully multi-lingual site site provides excellent opportunities to share opinions, ideas, projects and experiences, through art, articles, discussions and newly added podcasts. Beyond connecting wired young change-makers, and informing them with educational resources, TIG lists over 1,600 financial opportunities in the form of awards, contests, grants, and scholarships. A similar US-focused youth site is DoSomething.org, which encourages community projects.

New this summer is Razoo, a tagging-based community site where user can create, subscribe to, and interlink user defined causes, acts, goals, and discussion groups. With a membership of over 18,000 users making friends, taking actions together, and co-inspiring each other, this site could have the right ingredients to become an important tool for facilitating collaborative actions for achieving goals of change. Change.org is a similar user generated actions site but includes the linking of US politicians and Nonprofits who accept donations. A similar but less popular site USA only site (2people) has been discussed on Worldchanging before.

WiserEarth is another new site aiming to aid to build a community for positive change. Though it does not emphasize concrete actions the way Razoo.org does, or have the work opportunity listings of Idealist, it does provide an incredible listing of over 107,000 organizations around the world, and useful wikipages. With 5100 members after 5 months, if it gains a critical mass of active users, it has the right ingredients to become an important place to be.

There are a number of other sites that don't quite fit our theme, but are nevertheless worth mentioning:

  • The Orion Grassroots Network – a network not of people, but of organizations.
  • User generated green campaigns in the UK, via Greenvoice. The groups seem quite sparse and the most money raised for any campaign was 310 UK pounds. Its not clear how new the site is but the site founders have only been members for 5 months. Not a lot of uptake yet, but an interesting model.
  • The TEDsters and friends of TED have their own social networking (must be logged in to see users). No user blogs or groups, but a detailed profile and email link.
  • Change Everything – A VanCity sponsored project, focused on BC. People blog about about personal actions they are taking to support positive change. Not much detail in the profiles or other features. An interesting model.
  • Helpalot is “a social charity site that helps you find projects you can trust.” A 2006 school project from a Dutch grad student. It has yet to gain enough membership to make much impact, but this another kind of connecting for which there is clearly a need.

Finally, in a class by itself, we find Igloo.org. Created by the Ontario based Centre for International Governance Innovation, Igloo.org is a networking and resource site for professionals who work on global issues and government policy. English speaking academics, consultants and bureaucrats meet here to share insights and citations on governance. The high profile institutions that act as content and community partners have seeded the membership with many Canadians and set the professionalism bar very high. Igloo is an ideal place to host a governance discussion forum, post your policy wonk blog, find reputable research papers, and search for potential collaborators to inform your public affairs related project.

Hopefully by now you're springing from your seat to tell us about the social networking sites for social change we've missed. We'd love to hear success stories in this space, what you're using, what's working. Please drop a comment below and share any new and promising spaces you know and love, how they work, and why.