Crowd’s Wisdom, CrowdSourcing, and Participation

January 26, 2010

“The outer limits to the crowd’s wisdom” — Federal Computer Week In the policy world, public participation requires different rules than crowdsourcing allows:

Public participation is the process of involving people in collaborative problem-solving and decision-making. Also known as public engagement or stakeholder involvement, the idea has been around for several decades, and during that time, a rich body of knowledge has emerged that makes it possible to give people a seat at the table when it comes to addressing challenging issues at all levels of government.

Crowdsourcing, the concept of applying open-source principles to fields outside software, is a fairly new phenomenon that was popularized only recently. Jeff Howe coined the term in his article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” in the June 2006 issue of Wired magazine.

The question getting lots of attention in the Government 2.0 space today is: How might crowdsourcing be applied to public participation and government policy-making?

see also Tim Bonnemann’s posts at

“33 Strategies Of War Author Robert Greene on Obama’s Tactical Hell” by Lee Stranahan at HuffingtonPost

Three months of watching the Democrats compromise, capitulate and now teeter at the edge of completely losing the battle for health care reform has been a slow-motion hell of watching a bloody bullfight when you’re rooting for the bull. And it’s been a uniquely Democratic style of losing.

Exactly how and why do the Democrats end up in these ghoulish scenarios? For the answer to that, I spoke with best-selling author Robert Greene who has written books like The 48 Laws of Power in the recent The 50th Law with hip-hop artist and entrepreneur 50 Cent. Greene also wrote The 33 Strategies of War which looked at and enumerated timeless truths about battle and conflict.

“Open Government Directive, Phase III: Drafting” at Office of Science and Technology Policy

President Obama issued a Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government in which he called for recommendations on making the government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.

From the start, the White House Open Government Initiative has approached the crafting of these recommendations in an open fashion. An initial Brainstorming phase in late May asked you to identify topics for the recommendations. In the Discussion phase in early June, you explored those topics in greater depth.

Today, we ask you to work together to draft recommendations that translate good ideas and lofty principles into specific actions that can be taken to achieve open government. This Drafting Phase invites you to collaborate on creating recommendations for open government policy using a web-based wiki tool.

The collaborative drafting process is hosted by MixedInk here

“Tories announce £1m competition for large-scale crowdsourcing platform” by William Heath at; category Design: Co-creation, Foundation of Trust, Save Time and Money, What do we want?

Cripes. HM’s Loyal Opposition has announced — if elected — a £1m prize for an online platform for large-scale crowdsourcing.

This almost comes onto the radar of big IT suppliers. It’s massive for smart little NGOs; it would have funded about a decade of early MySociety work.

I got it in an email (extract below).

IAP2 has developed the “IAP2 Core Values for Public Participation”

for use in the development and implementation of public participation processes. These core values were developed over a two year period with broad international input to identify those aspects of public participation which cross national, cultural, and religious boundaries.

The purpose of these core values is to help make better decisions which reflect the interests and concerns of potentially affected people and entities.

Core Values for the Practice of Public Participation

  1. Public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.
  2. Public participation includes the promise that the public’s contribution will influence the decision.
  3. Public participation promotes sustainable decisions by recognizing and communicating the needs and interests of all participants, including decision makers.
  4. Public participation seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision.
  5. Public participation seeks input from participants in designing how they participate.
  6. Public participation provides participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.
  7. Public participation communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.

How Anil Dash Applies the Lessons of Web 2.0 to Government“; Interview by Jeff Chu –

Big idea: To apply the lessons of Web 2.0 to government, through his new D.C.-based incubator, Expert Labs. “The great Web 2.0 businesses are really data engines built on info generated by purchasing, searching, posting, tweeting.” Dash’s goal is to exploit the massive amount of data that the government has and creates. Government “can be as great a platform as the iPhone.” But policy makers aren’t tapping citizens’ brainpower right now, so Expert Labs will help: “In our private lives, we’d call this crowdsourcing.” The incubator, launched with input from White House staff, is officially part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and funded by a MacArthur Foundation grant.

The 2009 Dialogue and Deliberation Practitioners Survey: What is the State of the Field?” –

This site provides information and resources regarding an online survey of dialogue and deliberation practitioners conducted by sociologists Caroline Lee and Francesca Polletta during September and October 2009. This survey was conducted for the purpose of academic research on the deliberation field by the researchers.


Organizing for America

January 16, 2010

A special report: “Year One of Organizing for America: The Permanent Field Campaign in a Digital Age” (PDF at; the writeup at

“January 14, 2010 — Today we are publishing a techPresident special report on the first year of Organizing for America (OFA), drawing on new interviews with congressional staff in both parties, former Obama campaign staff, and 70 activists from the OFA grassroots. This report — the most comprehensive review of OFA’s work to date — is authored by The Nation’s Ari Melber”

“Organizing For America’s First Year” at” includes video of Ari Melber appears on MSNBC to discuss the one-year anniversary of “Organizing for America.”

see also “Cool innovations from government“, a variety of links collected by Craig Calhoun (SSRC) in the blog:

  • Remaking America: Public Institutions and the Public Good.
  • The first chapter from The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being by Derek Bok.
  • From National Affairs, Jim Manzi on keeping America’s edge (and more and more and more).
  • How to make America more innovative: Give scientists more incentives to innovate.
  • For eight years, Republicans politicized science or ignored it — can Obama stop the War on Science? An article on 10 (potentially) cool innovations from government.
  • From Governing, the millennial in the cubicle: A new generation of workers expects unfettered access to technology tools — they may end up changing the way governments operate; and an article on wi-fi and social justice.
  • Push Comes to .GOV: How federal agencies learned to stop worrying and love Web 2.0.
  • A review of The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs by Michael Belfiore.
  • Bullet trains for America: The Obama administration has revived the dream of building high-speed rail lines to rival those of Japan and Europe, but the tracks are littered with political and financial obstacles.
  • A trainspotter’s guide to the future of the world: America’s preference for highways and airports over modern rail transportation will make the country increasingly look so 20th-century.
  • Here are seven ways to fix the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Here are five reasons why libertarians shouldn’t hate government.
  • Paul Light on the real crisis in government: The federal government can no longer guarantee the faithful execution of our laws

  • Response Resources

    January 16, 2010
  • Video Aggregation – WatchKnow
  • “The Internet is full of useful information, but it’s disorganized and often unreliable. Despite its problems, the potential of the Internet for education is especially huge. Imagine tapping into that potential.
    Imagine collecting all the best free educational videos made for children, and making them findable and watchable on one website. Then imagine creating many, many more such videos.
    Just think: millions of great short videos, and other watchable media, explaining every topic taught in schools, in every major language on Earth.
    Finally, imagine them all deeply and usefully categorized according to subject, education level, and placed in the order in which topics are typically taught.
    WatchKnow—as in, “You watch, you know”—has started building this resource.

  • Emergency Response; Research: The Institute for Public Knowledge
  • “IPK brings theoretically serious scholarship to bear on major public issues. Located at NYU, it nurtures collaboration among social researchers in New York and around the world. It builds bridges between university-based researchers and organizations pursuing practical action. It supports communication between researchers and broader publics. And it examines transformations in the public sphere, social science, and the university as a social institution as these change the conditions for public knowledge.”

  • Understanding Katrina (This is part of the “Learning from Katrina” program at The Social Science Research Council.)
  • “Perspectives from the Social Sciences As analyses and “spin” of the Katrina crisis grow, we confront the sort of public issue to which a social science response is urgently needed. Accordingly, the SSRC has organized this forum addressing the implications of the tragedy that extend beyond “natural disaster,” “engineering failures,” “cronyism” or other categories of interpretation that do not directly examine the underlying issues—political, social and economic—laid bare by the events surrounding Katrina.”

    see also The Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute (HVRI) and the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center