opt-in local issues forum service

An opt-in local issues forum service is run by a regional, national or international government which simplifies the processs of getting started, and keeps local forums standardized, i.e. by coordinating the ontology and signal infrastructure of a local issues forum web service used by communities. If there is no such service, then, many different tools and conflicting definitions will be used, and there is no conceivable outcome other than confusion & failure.

where is it being done?

in the UK

These are the conclusions of studies in the UK about the necessity of having a central "hub" supporting many communities wishing to apply the same techniques:

In particular, a UK-wide opt-in local issues forum service was proposed in a recent study of e-democracy. Several US studies have concluded that such services are desirable, notably from the Kennedy School of Government.

in the US

Some US national services like the dkosopedia.com have focused on providing substantial local issues content, e.g. focusing on Hawaii in particular. It is well understood in all political wikis that good local content is key to getting many people involved.

in Canada

In Canada the situation is similar to that in the UK. There is already an InfraGuide.CA to publicize the civic best practices of major Canadian urban areas. The Green Municipal Fund and other initiatives have applied conditions to the type of urban development that the transferred funds can be used for.

The Civic Efficiency Group proposed in its open letter to the Government of Canada in February 2005, that signal infrastructure is the top priority, and the duty of Infrastructure Canada, Public Works Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to provide or at least encourage:

They suggest an open politics service could be created with standard social and organization protocols to put open politics in force from day one, giving Canada a global edge in e-democracy. This would further boost Canada's image as a leader in civics and able to promote good government as an export to a number of countries facing civil difficulties.

aspects of a proposal

A detailed proposal for such a service would involve:

  • With direct input from the UK and US pilots and other promoters of local dialogue, to further enhance share alike and free software to better support namespaces in mediawiki or tikiwiki, integrate gmail and other webmail and chat, simplify related forum and GroupServer group creation, streamline recruitment of technical help and volunteer centres, streamline steering committee activities with a better agenda protocol, and radically advance content management using the living ontology approach.
  • Launch a "Yes, I want to talk to my neighbors" online campaign using online petitioning tools to allow citizens to participate immediately and more easily identify the communities where citizen demand for a specific local issues forum exists.
  • Continued support for senior editors, OP candidate portals, facilitation of regular editors, development and extended recruitment and diverse community outreach to remove systemic bias of any one community participating at present; To expand New Troll point of view to include all known trolls in the community, even in extremis the sad Bill Hulet.
  • Leverage the UK Issues Forum Guidebook to help people learn open politics more rapidly; Work to create a DVD opener for the project that will include examples of political careers and citizen initiatives enhanced and advanced by early adoption.
  • Extend citizen-oriented content, especially the list of all citizen initiatives, from a simple guidebook into HTML, XML and Flash-based content as required to introduce new or potential participants to e-democracy. Provide feedback to assess authentically local citizen demand.
  • Develop a roadshow presentation similar to that at E-Democracy.Org. Help interested communities compete to identify the next set of forums and capabilities, and features to avoid.
  • Price the creation of a volunteer-based forum at a point under C$20,000 per community for startup with under C$10,000 per year ongoing expenses, which includes all resources for a paid recruiter to assist with diverse and active outreach during the launch phase of the forum, all technical help.
  • Work with other community groups to establish that the forums are funded like other local voluntary sector organisations (local authority support, member donations, etc.) and "affiliates" in cases where a forum is legally owned and operated by a local authority (which in no case should be able to control criticism of itself). A pre-requisite is the implementation of continuous municipal performance audits and municipal performance indicators in the region
  • Expand multimedia content, mimicking to some degree the UK E-Democracy Experience; include video and content from the UK pilot forums and US experiments in a mix with Canadian material in the first revision, slowly replacing it with Canadian in future revisions.
  • Host a three day share alike computer programming "sprint" with global mediawiki, tikiwiki, GroupServer and sigma developers to further expand features and foster the creation of this developer community;
  • Survey forum members after six months of open discussion to develop a baseline understanding about the direction e-democracy is taking and must not take, e.g. e-voting, Panopticon
  • Assist interested steering groups in the process of moving from steering committees to more committed and supported bioregional e-democracy district council over the course of two years. See that article.
  • Consider partnership with charitable status organisations as the legal host for all services, as opposed to government. This could serve as an umbrella association of the local e-democracy steering committees and chapters.
  • Consider making it easy for political party chapters to participate and become recognized as formal factions within the debating system (though with no power to exclude or censor any debate, nor any member)
  • Help local authorities meet democracy-related e-government goals by introducing this model
  • Help local authorities meet municipal performance indicators by providing them a reliable source of intelligence on the issues of concern in their community
  • Establish an exchange program with the E-Democracy.Org projects in the US and UK.