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I decided to take a closer look at the detailed consultation
recommendations at the very end of the New Media and Social Inclusion
report I mentioned in the previous post and pass them on below.

Over the next few years we will see parliaments and legislatures
increasingly use ICTs in their traditional committee hearing
processes.  They will increasingly promote full real-time remote
access to the "print" materials that complement the audio and video
webcasts/broadcasts.  They will also allow more testimony via
videoconferencing, first point-to-point over ISDN (need to guarantee
bandwidth) and then over time via Internet-based video conferencing.
This will help "internet-enable" existing representative democracy
practices.

As a complementary step, parliaments will need to use the Internet to
fundamentally improve the public input process to improve decision-
making and policy outcomes.  This must allow what I call "on your own
time" representative democracy.  Democracy will not survive in wired
societies without a "drive-up window" that allows citizens to
effectively participate despite their busy lives.  User-friendly,
asynchronous citizen participation must become a formal and
legitimate complement to time-exclusive forms of participation.  The
fact that the vast majority of public participation by citizens and
interest groups requires physical presence is a central problem in
our growing democratic divide.  I appreciate and cherish in-person
involvement, but with fewer and fewer citizens engaged in traditional
forms of public participation, we now have "drive-by democracy" where
people shoot their protests at government without seeing themselves
as viably part of the sustained solution to solving public problems.

Anyway, the Hansard Society's work with the UK Parliament is a first
step toward understanding the usefullness and resource requirements
of formal online consultations designed for representative
institutions.  Read on.

Steven Clift
Democracies Online

Section quoted from page 41-43:
http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/Social_Exclusion_Report.pdf

6. Recommendations

20 recommendations for running online consultations linking citizens
to parliamentarians:

Before the consultation

 Allow at least a six-month pre-consultation phase.

 To assemble the evidence-giving group, contact organisations and
interest groups who have knowledge of the subject and access to
relevant participants.

 Establish an expert advisory panel who can both assist in
assembling the evidence-giving group and formulate relevant opening
questions for the consultation.

 Make sure the participants have sufficient understanding of
computers and the internet so they can access the consultation. Basic
internet training must be given when necessary.

 Provide the participants with a short IT-manual which explains how
to get onto the site, how to post messages in the debate forum and
how to cut and paste offline (in Word, for example) in order to cut
costs.

 Inform the relevant representatives about their role in the
consultation and provide them with background information and
guidelines on how to use the site.

 Develop a system that ensures that the site is sufficiently safe
and secure for the participants to log on. Ideally, use computer
generated software to create random usernames and passwords - or
allow 5-6 days in order to guarantee confidential user-ID.

 To secure confidentiality and validity, participants in a
consultation must fulfil the relevant requirements. In the case of
the online consultation on domestic violence, access to the secure
discussion section was allowed only to survivors of or workers in
domestic violence.

 Make sure that participants are authentic by establishing a
thorough registration process. Participants must fill in a
questionnaire on social demographic factors and domestic violence
before they are granted a password and username. In the case of the
online consultation on domestic violence, registration forms were
available only via women's organisations and refuges with personal
knowledge of the women, or from the consultation co-ordinator who
registered individual women over the phone by taking them through the
questionnaire step by step. During the consultation

 Create a web site which is logical, easy to use and takes the
participants through the information needed in a sensible order. As
many of the participants will be first-time users of the Internet, a
clear and welcoming design is essential - the participants must feel
at ease so they are able to navigate the site and post their messages
in the right locations.

 For the evidence giving to be as useful as possible, there must be
a secure section which only approved and registered users can use. As
well as this private section, there should also be a public section
in which non-registered citizens can contribute to the debate.

 Include relevant background information on legislation, latest
government initiatives, links to organisations and interest groups
working in the area, and most importantly list a contact address for
support and help.

 Inform the media about the consultation. This secures as broad a
participation as possible and recruits participants who might not
otherwise hear about the consultation.

 Introduce the moderator at the beginning of the consultation to
establish a personal tone and create an encouraging and inclusive
atmosphere where participants are willing to submit frequent and
personal evidence.

 Daily monitoring and moderation of the site. The moderator must:

1. Ensure that the debate proceeds in accordance with the ground-
rules: no user must dominate the debate to the extent that they
discourage new users from joining in. The language must not be
inappropriate or too aggressive.

2. Post messages and information with relevance to the debate forum

3. Post a minimum of one summary of the discussion in the
consultation period. This helps to steer the discussion and keeps the
debate focused on the opening questions.

 Encourage the representatives who have agreed to participate to do
so.


After the consultation

 Post a post-online consultation survey on the site in the last days
of the consultation in order to gather feedback from the
participants. Send a hard copy of the survey to participants who do
not complete the online survey.

 Allow enough time to analyse the evidence of and the interaction on
the site.

 To apply a quantitative methodology to the qualitative data, use
content analysis. An inductive coding framework using the statistical
SPSS-software is a useful tool for data reduction.

 Post any results, analysis or reports based on the consultation
onto the site for the participants to read.


^               ^               ^                ^
Steven L. Clift    -    W: http://www.publicus.net
Minneapolis    -   -   -     E: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Minnesota  -   -   -   -   -    T: +1.612.822.8667
USA    -   -   -   -   -   -   -     ICQ: 13789183


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