Performance Appraisal

Give Citizens a Simple Checklist for Rating "Public Engagement"

When I attend a meeting that is supposed to involve some type of "public engagement", it would be nice to have a simple checklist that I could use to rate whether that meeting really was Transparent, Participatory, and Collaborative.

 

This simple checklist could be the standard tool for citizens to provide feedback to government agencies about the quality of their public engagement activities. In fact, the requirement for federal department and agencies to "solicit public feedback" about their public engagement is mentioned three (3) times in President Obama's Memorandum on Transparent and Open Government.

 

The checklist could contain simple "Yes/No" questions, along these lines:

 

"Was it Transparent?"

 

--> At some public meetings, it is not clear what is being discussed. Even if the meeting's agenda is available, the actual proposal or other documents being discussed are not made available to the public.

[Transparent? Check "No".]

 

"Was it Participatory?"

 

--> At some public meetings, members of the public are allowed to attend, but are not given an opportunity to ask questions and comment on the proposal being discussed.

[Participatory? Check "No".]

 

"Was it Collaborative?"

 

--> Even when a public meeting allows for public *feedback* on a proposal, it may have skipped over the step for public *input* could have shaped the proposal differently.

[Collaborative? Check "No".]

 

Of course, different citizens can have different judgements about the very same meeting. But, just like a "customer survey", a review of the collected checklists should provide some objective evidence about the quality of public engagement.

 

ALSO, this standard checklist should be developed and promoted by government agencies - now - in order to gauge their current effort *before* they attempt improvements. Otherwise, they won't know - later on - if they are doing any better. (You know: it's like weighing yourself *before* the diet.)

 

[NOTE: The League of Women Voters (LWV) have some local chapters with an "Observer Corps" that use checklists to rate public meetings. However, different chapters have developed different formats. The LWV's experience would be helpful in creating a federal checklist for "citizen observers".]

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Idea No. 285