Engaging the public in policy using blogs as discussion forums

I work at the US Environmental Protection Agency, and we’re trying out some old tools in new ways.

Currently, our enforcement office is using two blogs to post concepts and then taking comments from anyone who wants to join in.

1) Setting environmental enforcement priorities
2) Establishing a plan to improve enforcement of the Clean Water Act

And this is just the beginning. For example, our chief financial officer is going to use the same idea to invite the public to revise our strategic plan. And I know of at least one other program already planning to use a blog the same way.

We’re also avidly exploring how to use social media for formal rulemaking, where the contributions can directly affect regulations.

I’m excited about these developments, and I encourage you to check ’em out!

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5 Responses to “Engaging the public in policy using blogs as discussion forums”


  1. 1 briangryth September 4, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Jeff,
    Thanks for the information. I look forward to monitoring the EPA’s progress. I know of at least one state agency that is using a blog in this manner. It is the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Park, http://kdwp.blogspot.com/. My agency, the Colorado Department of State, also tried an informal comment period on some soon to be purposed administrative rules, but used a Google Group to gather comments rather than a blog, http://groups.google.com/group/filingofficerulesreview?hl=en. We are in the process of evaluating this tool as a means for future collaboration. The positive potential of using Web 2.0 tools for policy making is substantial, and the EPA’s move forward is a positive step forward.

    Thanks for this post and btw the webinar on Wednesday was great, lots of useful information.

    Thanks, Brian

  2. 3 Tim September 4, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    I’d be interested to learn more about the kind of outreach work the EPA does in order to make citizens aware of these public participation efforts and get them involved.

    Phase 2 of the Open Government Dialogue also relied on a blog (WordPress threaded comments plus plugins for comment rating and flagging). One of the challenges is how to deal with large amounts of comments (several hundred and up).

    I compiled a few suggestions at the time, some of which (e.g. exposing the comments RSS feed) might apply to your projects as well: Open Government Dialogue: 26 Tips for Improving Phase 2

    Thanks for sharing, keep up the good work!

    • 4 Jeffrey September 7, 2009 at 12:25 am

      Tim:

      We do a pretty decent blitz across multiple channels when we launch, like a news release, a home page banner, posts on Facebook and Twitter, and mentions on relevant Web pages within EPA’s Web site.

      Then we do some followup about halfway through the period and again shortly before it closes.

      I’m very interested in trying out some of the tools you mentioned, in addition to tools that let the community weed off-topic or offensive posts, for just the reason you cited: overwhelming comment loads.

      We haven’t had that experience yet, but I’m sure it’s coming when we use social media to take comment on something controversial.

      So thanks for the link!


  1. 1 Government 2.0 Beta « Forced to Pay Attention Trackback on September 10, 2009 at 11:41 pm

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I’m on Twitter @levyj413

  • @MeghanJG Wow! Yep, I called into Science Friday when they had Tim O'Reilly on to discuss social media and gov't. 3 weeks ago
  • Just realized I've been doing social media for the gov't for 10 years! 3 weeks ago
  • @ariherzog Hi Ari. I've been pretty quiet on Twitter for a while now. Just focused elsewhere. 1 month ago

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