Another bit of top notch, innovative digital participation work has come out of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and again it is WordPress magic. This time though, there are all sorts of different bits built into it.
Steph Gray, the main social media man at DIUS explains more:
Some consultations are basically dull. Some are politically-charged. Some are hurried. So when the Science and Society consultation came sauntering along, it was clear this was an opportunity too good to miss. It’s a genuine call for ideas, casting the net wide to improve the way that science is communicated, understood, taught, and recruited for. What can we do to improve trust and confidence in scientists? How can we get more high quality science broadcasting and more intelligent media coverage of science issues? How can science be taught in school in more engaging ways? Interesting stuff.
The main difference between this site and the Innovation Nation one, it seems to me, is that in the latter’s case, the white paper had been written and the consultation done, so the online exercise was more about fine tuning and maybe developing some ideas on how things might be progressed. What Science and Society offers, though, is the chance to have your say before the document is written.
As Simon Dickson notes, one of the key bits of new media funkiness on show is the ability for folk to widgetise the consultation for their own websites. DIUS is asking a whole range of different questions about the way science is taught in schools and elsewhere and provides the platform for others to republish the questions they are interested in so their readers can feed back into the process. It’s a great idea, and fits in totally with my thoughts on trying to improve participation by making government a bit more interesting.
It’ll be fascinating to see what kinds of responses this move produces. I’m still a bit wary of the whole Big Questions approach to consultation: my own feeling is that the constant, small-scale exchanges around a well-managed blog will build something more valuable. But if Big Questions are the way you’re going, this is a very clever way to drive them further.
Other cool bits include a Twitter account, for a bit more responsive interaction, and an embedded Google Calendar so people can find when related events are happening.
Tim Davies also picked up on the site, and noted approvingly:
This approach of enabling citizens to easily take, remix and re-publish government consultations to their networks is worth exploring in many more contexts – not least in promoting positive activities, enabling young people to take, remix and share information about positive activities in their areas with their networks.
DIUS are clearly leading the game in government when it comes to digital participation. The reason they can do this, as Steph has noted elsewhere is because they have the resources to do so. The tech stuff is free or at least damn cheap, but you need the man-power to get it approved and embedded. There is plenty for everyone to learn from DIUS’ example.