Agencies generally do not adequately plan for or budget to integrate public participation or collaborative processes into their programmatic work. To undertake small and large-scale public participation or collaborative efforts, agencies often have to re-program personnel and dollars or look to other program sources, effectively “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Additionally, many public participation and collaborative efforts are long-term in nature and annual budget cycles do not generally allow for budgeting for multi-year processes.
For public participation to be done well, adequate resources must be dedicated for this purpose. Funding is needed to support new uses of technology, education and skills training, travel, administrative support, and expert assistance such as facilitators.
By soliciting public input, the Open Government Directive promises to make government more efficient, reducing costs related to overlooked information or stakeholders, lengthy campaigns to educate the public after the fact, and concealed redundancies. Therefore, a significant initial investment, may promise to pay for itself over a period of years. OMB should work with the other task forces and oversight groups to determine this window of years and track the savings provided to the tax-paying public. This will also serve to provide greater incentive for Americans participate in open government, by providing high-level input.
Recommendations for action, developed in April 2009 by federal agency managers attending "Champions of Participation":
1. Direct agencies to incorporate participation and collaboration into funding requests and major project planning, such as: in the formulation and justification of budget requests funding; in the process of planning any large projects (such as planning processes, environmental studies, rulemakings) thereby building the public participation strategy into the life of the project;
2. Direct agencies to use at least 1% of program budgets for implementation of the directive and specify the resource needs to support public participation and collaboration including full-time positions for subject matter experts, basic education and skills training, technology tools to increase transparency, public participation and collaboration, and other capacity building needs.
3. Set standards for the amount of funding that will be dedicated to participation and collaboration activities, such as: study how participation and collaboration dollars are already being spent; provide resources and formulas that allow agencies to track savings and/or efficiency; use agency collected data to set standards.
4. Create new funding sources for participation and collaboration, such as: public-private partnerships, use attrition to shift more full-time positions to new positions that focus on using collaborative approaches and public participation strategies; develop a fund for the purpose of supporting public participation and collaboration across agencies.