As some of my readers know, I am a peripheral part of the NCDD network. That’s the National Coaltion for Dialogue and Deliberation, a network run by Sandy Heierbacher. Sandy is one of the most impressive civic entrepreneurs I know, having bootstrapped NCDD into the pre-eminent collection of people doing work in this “field.”
Sandy was naturally invited to attend a recent White House-convened meeting on the administration’s new Open Government Initiative. This is one of the signature initiatives of the Obama White House, even though it may not be getting the heat it deserves just now due to other issues on the radar screen.
The meeting, convened March 11 by the director of the White House initiative, Beth Noveck, was a “listening session.” The White House is hoping to draft its new initiative and present it by May 21.
According to Sandy, Noveck said (this is paraphrase, as Sandy was furiously taking notes):
We’re looking for ideas and recommendations on how to create a more transparent, participatory, and collaborative government. We want to know about events and happenings we can learn from or be involved in. We’re interested in principles for this work. . . . We’re currently in a brainstorming period, which is open to all. In mid-April, we’ll need to drill down to specifics (mechanisms for implementing goals) for the drafting phase of the open governance directive. Our goal for the finished product is May 21st.
The more detailed and concrete your advice and ideas, the better. We need explicit commitment to participation, collaboration and transparency. We don’t need organizations coming to us and saying “we love transparency!”
That last comment got me thinking about some of the ideas that came up in a recent talk I gave, in which I ended with five principles for organizations that are seeking to engage citizens (probably not detailed enough, but this was a speech after all). More on that here.
I urge you to read Sandy’s notes from the meeting, as they include what each representative said. It is a great overview of the field. More important, it provides a sense of what the chief organizations in civic participation see as their “elevator speech.” And they do run the gamut!
Thank you, Sandy, for this incredible service in moving the field forward.
One point which should go without saying on Sandy’s notes: She was not at the meeting as a journalist and the notes are just her impressions. They aren’t meant to be the “official statements” of any organizations!