There was an interesting response to my post on micro-participation, in a number of spaces – which goes to show the value in seeding your content on sites other than your own!
The most active conversation was on GovLoop where the concept of micro-participation seemed to strike a chord with many people. Even better, it uncovered the work of Jennifer Cowley at Ohio University, who has been working on micro-participation for a little while.
Here’s a slidedeck from Jennifer about using micro-participation in planning.
Here’s a video of Jennifer talking about micro-participation:
Some examples of micro-participation were also shared:
- Social Networking and Planning Project (SNAPP) to determine public engagement in the Strategic Transportation Mobility Plan (STMP) in Austin, Texas.
- The Daily Pothole (New York)
- Big Idea Wood Buffalo
- Sparked is an example of micro-volunteering which inspired my original post
- Give a Minute for Chicago, Memphis, New York and San Jose.
Not all these examples fit exactly with what I had in mind for micro-participation. Several fall into the reporting category – a bit like FixMyStreet. This is important, but I was thinking about getting people involved in democratic and government processes at a slightly more engaged level.
In other words, this should be more than just pot holes.
Over on the Communities of Practice (sign in required), some real-life concerns and issues were shared.
Dawn Iverson provides some great pointers to increase participation and overcoming barriers:
1) Make a specific, small call to action. Start with asking people to do something very small like a litter picking day at the local park or distributing leaflets locally. Maybe provide tea and biscuits afterwards.
2) Make the call to action in a number of ways. Knock on peoples doors during daylight hours, deliver leaflets, contact the local PCSO and either ask them to come along when knocking on doors to allay fears, or ask if they can send out your ‘call to action’ in their community email messages. Put information on the local council website, the Parish council website, the local Volunteer Centre website.
3) Have a small number of people who can be the face of community involvement. This will make those newly involved feel like they have a connection. Those who knock on doors / have their photos on the leaflets should be the people there to welcome new volunteers when they do respond to your call for action.
4) Once a volunteer feels connected to the community, give them more responsibility and ensure that their ideas are taken further.
5) Local councils / NHS services could identify plenty of people who would be fantastic involving themselves with local services. These are the people who send frequent complaints, the people who send thank you notes, the people who have made big changes in their lives, those who are lonely and don’t know anybody in their community.
There also need to be some ‘calls to action’ that can involve those with busy family lives. This could be asking someone to proofread a webpage, take and upload pictures of their local community, referee at a local under 13s football match, organise a fundraising event for mums and daughters. There’s a lot that could be done, but unfortunately it does need someone to coordinate this type of thing. Hopefully the new Community Organisers will be that person 🙂
Finally, going back to the GovLoop discussion, some attempts were made to define what is meant by micro-participation. Mine was “Providing a means for citizens to interact with democratic and government processes at a time, in a place and in an medium that suits them.”
I think I prefer Jennifer’s much simpler: “participation at the convenience of participants.”
Anyway, I’m pleased this has sparked interest in a few folk. I’m going to plug away developing some ideas and see where it ends up.