‘Dream team’ releases first U.S. open government playbook


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A working group of more than 40 government agencies and nonprofit organizations is asking for the public’s help in crafting a guide that details the best ways for the government to engage and collaborate with its citizens.

The U.S. Public Participation Playbook, released Nov. 26, is the first open source guide dedicated to sharing best practices and performance metrics on how agencies can effectively deploy programs and increase public participation. Led by the General Services Administration’s SocialGov community, the playbook focuses on three areas: Checklists, which lay out key considerations when creating a new participation program; case studies, which catalog past successful programs; and metrics, which give suggestions on how to measure a program’s success.

Developed with help from agencies like the Transportation Department, State Department, Federal Communications Commission, National Institutes of Health and National Park Service, along with assistance from the Sunlight Foundation, Case Foundation and Open Forum Foundation, the playbook benefited from a “dream team of public participation,” said GSA’s federal social media program lead Justin Herman.

“These are strategies that can be used to build and evaluate any public participation program, from in-person town halls to regulatory comment periods,” Herman told FedScoop via email. “We hope agencies will continue to add to the playbook to expand and refine this scope.”

The playbook is hosted on Madison, a collaborative document platform dedicated to citizen participation in government. Since going live last week, a number of metrics, case studies and accessibility additions have been made to the document.

The call to develop a document like this has been included in the past two drafts of the country’s open government national action plan, which has been a priority since President Barack Obama took office in 2009. In a White House blog post last week, Herman and Corinna Zarek, the senior adviser for open government at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, called the playbook a “living document,” expecting stakeholders from inside and outside government to contribute new insights.

“An open government is one based on public participation, collaboration and transparency, and no matter what your federal program is, in the modern world there will be a need for either more engagement, better accessibility, improved data analysis or reporting,” Herman told FedScoop. “For this reason, the U.S. Public Participation Playbook is not just a priority for furthering [open government] for the country, it’s a priority for improving all our programs.”

The public can submit edits until Dec. 17, with a formal version expected to be released in January 2015.

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Agencies, Applications & Software, Archives, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), Departments, Federal Communications Commission, General Services Administration (GSA), Government IT News, Justin Herman, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, open government, Social Media, Tech