Participation, Social Media and Effectiveness of Governance – Compilation of recent findings

Some recent quotes on the issues of participation vs. effectiveness and the potential of social media to transform governance…:

Allissa Black reviews the City of Oakland’s Sunshine Ordinance and concludes:

“The current legal and policy framework for participation does not match the expectations and capacities of residents; it pre-dates widespread use of the Internet, by requiring only that meetings, agenda, and minutes be put online, and it does not reflect the current practices for participatory decision making and problem-solving.

Susan Rose-Ackerman and Thomas Perroud’s “Policymaking and Public Law in France: Public Participation, Agency Independence, and Impact Assessment,” from the Columbia Journal of European Law examines the following question: “How can policymaking inside the executive remain true to democratic values?” In answering the question, they make the point that:

“Although rulemaking may require scientific and economic sophistication, that fact does not negate the responsibility to consult. Policymakers are not simply making purely expert judgments that citizens ought to respect…. a more open and well-justified process does not imply that officials give up their mandate to further the public interest. Rather, it can produce a more informed choice because decisions are not isolated from public input.”

Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s Vice President of Communications and Public Policy. Schrage, was a panelist at a Social Media and Behavioral Economics Conference at Harvard Law School, making the following intervention (according to the coverage of the event):

“We see extraordinary opportunities for public institutions to leverage this technology to advance public and collective goods,”…, with existing institutions of government incorporating “these tools into their day-to-day functions and operations in a way that hasn’t even really begun” (watch video of panel)

Ines Mergel from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and The Information Studies School (ischool) at Syracuse University just published a paper in Government Information Quarterly that aims to identify the factors that affects adoption of social media within the US Government. According to Professor Mergel, three distinct factors influence the adoption of social media by government officials:

“Information about best practices in their informal network of peers, passive orations of perceived best practices in the public and private sector, and “market-driven” citizen behavior.”

Her recommendations point toward the need to develop social media tactics for different organizational purposes in government.

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