Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

The dream is fading fast

John Naughton:

Because we’ve all bought into the techno-utopianism of the early Internet, we tend to assume that it’s always going to be open to everyone. But as more and more of the world goes online, it’s clear that we’re heading in a very different direction — towards an online world dominated by huge, primarily foreign-owned, corporations which are creating walled gardens in which internet users will be corralled and treated like captive consumers, much as travellers are in UK airports now. The dream that the Internet would make everything available to everyone on equal terms is fading fast.

What I’ve been reading

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Pinboard.

Micro-participation at ShropCamp

Continuing my current obsession with micro-participation, I ran a session on the subject at yesterday’s excellent ShropCamp.

Basically I chatted through what micro-participation is and what it tries to achieve, where it came from etc. Then I gave some examples of it in action, and after that asked for some ideas and thoughts from the floor.

Here are the slides:

I’m really taken with this idea, as you can probably tell, and am starting up a project space at microparticipation.com to explore it more fully.

We’re going to be developing the site to be a resource in terms of examples and case studies in micro-participation, discussions about the potential and the issues involved, but also try and get people’s ideas for both online and offline micro-participation.

I’d also really like to find a way of making some of those things happen, by finding organisations to work with.

So if you’re interested in taking this forward, do sign up for updates from the new site!

More on micro-participation

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:

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.

Adrian Short shared the example of Speak out Sutton, and also challenged me to come up with some concrete proposals. Fair enough, though I try to avoid specifics on this blog 😉

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.

The need for micro-participation

A theme I’ve been returning to on a regular basis in the talks I’ve been giving lately has been about the need for government to make participation easier.

I’ve blogged in my usual half-assed manner about the participation deficit before, and it strikes me that this is an important issue that is both not going away and also is probably going to get worse.

I tend to highlight myself as an example of the problem here, in that despite being one of the very few people in the world who actually find government interesting, I never actually engage myself. I’ve not been to a council meeting, responded to a survey or questionnaire, and never given feedback through another route.

Why is this? It’s not that I’m lazy (keep quiet at the back), nor that I don’t care. It’s mainly that the instruments of local democracy just don’t fit in with my lifestyle.

The most obvious culprit here is the meeting. It strikes me that the dominance of meetings pretty much means that anyone with a family and a job (or perhaps even just one of those) is excluded from the process.

Read the boy a story before bed time, or go to the town hall to talk about a planning application? Not a difficult choice, but the answer means that participation is always going to be low.

Perhaps there’s an opportunity here to learn from the micro-volunteering that is becoming increasingly popular. An easy, quick way to get involved in civic activity that fits into people’s lives the way they are lived now, not fifty years ago.

After all, I may not be able to give up two (or more!) hours of an evening to attend a council meeting, but I’m sat in front of a computer almost all day, and could easily take 15 minutes or longer out to get involved, perhaps by answering some questions, providing ideas, or identifying problems.

Even better, with a smartphone and a bit of geo-tagging, why not tell me how I can contribute from exactly where I am?

Getting involved and participating shouldn’t be a chore. As I mentioned in my post about councillors, we need more people doing less, rather than the situation we have now where only a few people do far too much.

I don’t think this needs massive upheaval, or some kind of revolution in local democracy (although that might be nice). A bit of tinkering around the edges would, I’m sure, go a long way.