THE USA PUBLIC FREEDOM ACT
Expanding and Improving Domestic and International
Collaborative Governance Opportunities for All Americans
A Proposal Summary
Since the 1600s, U.S. citizens and Europeans have held a shared value fundamental to our democratic heritage, of what we once called, public freedom. In the U.S. and French tradition of the eighteenth century, the idea contrasted with individual or private freedom. Public freedom meant having the means to effectively and regularly exercise first amendment rights through participatory decision-making in shared governance(1). It is a term synonymous with public sphere or collaborative governance(2)—the original expression of participatory democracy. As the main group activity for maintaining civic health, it was regarded as the basis of political accountability and community.
The USA Public Freedom Act is a transpartisan measure to strengthen deliberative democracy opportunities for U.S. citizens in each of the 435 congressional districts, including the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories. As a strategic policy framework for the participation component of the Open Government Directive, it expands opportunities for individuals of all ages to serve as collaborators in federal public policymaking. Its introduction to the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the White House is especially important now, when so many communities are struggling to deal with critical social, economic, and democratic deficits.
I. The Act Authorizes a Commission to Design Implementation Plans for Institutional Structures that Facilitate Opportunities for Americans to Regularly Participate in Collaborative Governance to Craft Federal Policy: To build on the success stories across the globe of deliberative democracy in the service of federal collaborative governance, whereby federal policymaking partners with citizen-initiated policymaking, this first provision of the Act authorizes the creation of a focused Commission. The Commission will within three months of the Act’s passage:
• Develop and present to the U.S. Congress an institutional plan of implementation for the institutionalization of several measures for the Open Government Directive, including measurements of progress and evaluations of effectiveness.
• Survey the results and apply the lessons of Open Government from around the globe, including, but not limited to the following: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s tools for democratic watershed collaboration; the work of dialogue and deliberation in European Citizen Consultations; and the Citizens’ Parliament of Australia. Craft recommendations and action plans, including budgets for a Presidential Delegation consisting of 50 members representing all 50 U.S. states and territories, dedicated to identifying targeting resources to new, untested community organizations that seek to connect the input from and results of deliberative democracy programs to federal government policymaking schedules.
Footnotes:(1)Arendt, Hannah, On Revolution (New York: Viking Press, 1963; Penguin Books, 2006), 109. Arendt writes, “If the men who, on both sides of the Atlantic, were prepared for the revolution had anything in common…it was a passionate concern for public freedom much in the way Montesquieu or Burke spoke about it…”
(2)Weil, Frank A. The Weil Program on Collaborative Governance at Harvard University. Collaboration, as an equitable working partnership at the international level, occurs frequently in Track II and cultural diplomacy already serves the purpose of negotiated resolutions under the same ethic: Namely, non-officials (academic scholars, retired civil servants and military officials, public figures, social activists, etc.) engage in dialogue and deliberation with the aim of conflict resolution or confidence-building.
• Recommend a Fellowship program for scholars focused on pioneering interdisciplinary, institutional implementation plans for embedding permanent structures for cross-sector and intra-sector collaboration among foundations, federal institutions, local and state governments, institutions of learning, the private sector, etc. related enhancing simultaneously specific areas of national need such as Education, the Public Sphere, Open Government, and Government Ethics and Accountability.
II. The Act Establishes a New Federal Mandate for the Office of Public Engagement to Empower All U.S. Communities with One Centrally Located Local Public Assembly Center for Collaborative Governance: The White House Office of Public Engagement will within three months of the Act’s passage:
• Expand and the enhance the public sphere(3) by recruiting 250,000 U.S. citizens as national deliberative democracy participants to 250,000/year via outreach, information/ communication technologies (ICT) and an annual nation-wide town meeting series of 100 meetings in all 50 U.S. continental states. As part of a new national commitment to addressing national challenges in health care, education, climate change, foreign affairs, and the global economic crisis.
• Devote $50,000,000.00/year for U.S. National Deliberations of one federal policy the public votes to pursue and incorporate plans from several established and emerging nonprofit organizations, consultants, and scholars, including the Democracy Delegates Demonstration Project (for summary plan see www.democracydelegates.org) inspired by the Federal Forum Project of 1932-39, sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the U.S. Office of Education.
• Establish one memorial to the history of Open Government in a location to be voted by the American people.
• Communicate via a Presidential Address that this Act should be taken as a multi-generational solution, imagining the next generation of civic engagement as a systematic means to enhance public policy-making standards and accountability—the results of Open Government.
• Provide funding for a national convention to convene all of the cross-sector collaborators involved in the Demonstration Project called Democracy Delegates. As a national initiative, it seeks to extend the responsibilities of representative democracy to local citizens who could individually bridge the divide between the legislative process and citizen deliberation that optimizes the policy maturation process. As a first step, after the Act’s passage, a diverse group of scholars, students, NGO professionals, teachers, foundation leaders, news media professionals, Capitol Hill staffers, retirees, technologists, as well and dialogue and deliberation practitioners and various collaborators will collaborate in strategic, project planning sessions at a national convention. The convention would be dedicated to convening representatives of civic engagement across the country to deliberate resolutions and joint-responsibilities for a pilot project version of a nation-wide forum series with members of Congress, tentatively called, Democracy Delegates.
Footnote: (3)The public sphere is an area in social life where people can get together and freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action.
• Creates the Obama Education Award of $7,000 to keep up with the rising cost of college, and links it to Pell Grants so it will continue to increase in the future. The Award can be used for pay for higher education, including student loans for students in full or part-time programs involving undergraduate or graduate coursework related to advancing the capacity of congressional districts and their communities to create and sustain deliberative democracy, focused on community organizing, volunteerism, civic engagement, deliberative democracy, political communication, public policy, philosophy, sociology, or information technology.
III. Support Increased Collaborative Governance Opportunities for Students. Public service toward open government early in life will put more youth on a path to a lifetime of service enhancing the results of government business. The Act:
• Strengthens the current program of the Partnership for Public Service and the National Academy of Public Administration, as well as other institutions, and authorizes a Summer of Inter-Agency with the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Office of Science and Technology for high school seniors.
IV. Support Increased Collaborative Opportunities for Retirees. Many retiring citizens are ready, willing, and able to be involved in deliberative democracy and collaborative, federal priority-setting, agenda-setting, and policymaking and have skills needed by our communities. The Act:
• Strengthens and expands the financial and social capital of all current NCDD U.S. members—scholars and practitioners alike – to implement deliberative democracy experiments that build the capacity and service delivery resources and permanent structures necessary to sustain and enhance the delivery of open government transparency, collaboration, and participation.
• Enhances incentives for retirees to give a year of public service through the new Office of Public Engagement (OPE), by enabling them to transfer their educational award to a child or grandchild.
• Creates OPE Fellowships to help retirees participate in longer-term open government public service.
V. Support Increase of Volunteerism for Collaborative Governance by Persons All Ages. Many Americans who are not able to make a significant time commitment to collaborative policymaking or information sharing can offer their public service in other ways. The legislation:
• Expands the volunteer pool by establishing a “Millennial Generation Fund” to assist nonprofit organizations in recruiting and managing additional volunteers from high schools whose students have the option to pursue formal civics courses. For every high school student who participates in the program, an additional $2,000 shall be disbursed from the U.S. Department of Education to high schools who agree to allocate the funds into an endowment for preserving secondary civics education.
VI. Support Innovation and Collaboration in the Public-Private Sector: Entrepreneurs who have launched innovative organizations or businesses such as Mediators Foundation, AmericaSpeaks/Global Voices, Ashoka, IDEO, the Drucker Institute—to name just a few—are experimenting with new solutions to pressing problems. The Act:
• Recognizes and supports the effective role of social entrepreneurs in meeting community and national challenges by establishing an “Open Government Fund” to serve as venture capital to help the nonprofit sector seed new, untested nonprofits, recruit talent, and collaborate with each other and the private sector in connecting public consensus on policy with government-initiated legislation schedules and implementation efforts.
• Allocates $250,000,000.00/year equally among the U.S. states and territories. A full twenty percent of this fund shall be allocated to annual state-wide town meetings that incorporate the best methods of community organizing, dialogue, deliberation, and collaboration among members of the public as a whole, inclusive of people from all walks of life. A full ten percent of the investment shall be put toward additional revenue generating mechanisms such as for-profit enterprises, individual donor strategies, and the pooling of foundation and individual peer-to-peer funds across U.S. communities.
VII. Intra-Executive Branch Collaboration: The Act strengthens inter-agency and inter-commission collaboration by devoting federal dollars to public-private partnerships via federal contracts. The legislation:
• Charges the Open Government Commission to identify existing public and private sector firms able and willing to assist the White House in convening interactive, innovative group process fora for the purpose of providing agencies increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefit of their collective expertise and information.
• Charges the Open Government Commission to convene a series of meetings for a Open Agency Coalition of leaders and their staff from a sample of the following independent federal agencies, including the traditional non-independent entities such as the Dept. of Defense:
o National Endowment for the Humanities
o National Endowment of the Arts
o Government Accountability Office
o U.S. Institute of Peace
o The International Atomic Energy Agency
o Office of Government Ethics
o Peace Corps
o U.S. Institute of Peace
o Presidential Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
o Postal Service Board of Governors
o U.S. Extension Service
o U.S. Libraries
o Corporation for Public Broadcasting
• Provides $1,000,000.00 to the Open Government Commission to facilitate the Open Agency Coalition’s ability to create an implementation plan and budget for making Government more collaborative with one year of this Act’s passage. Specifically, the purpose of such meetings shall facilitate the ability of participants to work together in the service of collaborative governance toward creating a plan for increased, regular and productive opportunities in deliberative democracy within every U.S. political jurisdiction (city or township) concerning every piece of federal legislation on the White House and U.S. Congress docket.
• Provides $50,000.00 for each congressional office to hire one public liaison or collaborative legislative affairs staff person to convene congressional district constituent-based policymaking with public officials for joint-policymaking and working partnership in the delivery of services and the consent of the governed per policy per political jurisdiction.
VIII. Support International Collaborative Governance Opportunities: The Act strengthens the current “Track II” or “Smart Power” programs of the U.S. Institute of Peace and the U.S. Department of State, or the National Endowment for Democracy, which coordinates and supports short-term international citizen-diplomacy opportunities for skilled professionals in developing nations. The Act:
• Recognizes and supports the emerging the cross-sector learning collaborative in the field of diplomatic and policymaking experiments, called the Global Leadership Laboratory (GL2), currently under the auspices of the EastWest Institute and the Mediators Foundation.
• Supports the efforts of the GL2 to create an environment in which decision-makers’ capabilities are optimized, which currently does not exist. Therefore, the U.S. Department of State shall allocate $40,000,000.00 to fund its development and implementation, including the participation of one-hundred U.S. Federal managers both inside and outside of the U.S. Department of State, including U.N. liaisons, to devote on average at least 5 hours a week toward tackling international collaborative governance or policymaking among nations. The fund divided equally in $10,000,000.00 increments to five dimensions of the project will address the following four dimensions of the project:
o Principle 1. Includes all strategically relevant perspectives in real time. The network of conveners of the Lab will be so diverse geographically and politically that stakeholders could be systematically and rapidly included in the conversation.
o Principle 2. Employs state-of-the-art visual data management and presentation methods. (GL2) will set a new standard for including global problem-solving software, skillful human-computer interface, GeoEye and Google Earth geographic data, etc.
o Principle 3.Applies remote meeting technologies for rapid convening of virtual conversations. By using either Hewlett Packard’s HALO Systems technologies or Cisco’s TELEPRESENCE tools, (GL2) will enable almost anyone anywhere to be “present” at short notice.
o Principle 4. Organizes and designs workspace that invigorates, catalyzes and inspires. Unlike current venues, (GL2) will bring in the environmental attributes that have been proven to raise levels of human performance.
IX. Support the Construction of One Building for Deliberative Democracy: The White House Office of Public Engagement will within one year of the Act’s passage:
• Support the effort to host and facilitate a design competition and construction of one 10,000-20,000 sq. foot building dedicated deliberative democracy and open government. The building shall provide indoor and outdoor environments in which citizens’ capabilities for dialogue and deliberation toward democratic participation and collaboration in the process of local, state, and federal policymaking are optimized. Therefore, the U.S. Department of Education shall allocate $30,000,000.00 to fund its development, implementation, and programmatic maintenance, including the participation of fifty U.S. local public officials of the political jurisdiction surrounding the physical site of the building, including White House liaisons, to devote on average at least 5 hours a week toward facilitating the national collaborative governance or policymaking process for government-to-citizen constructive partnership. The location of the building shall be determined by a citizens’ panel made of fifty-one citizens, one form each continental U.S. State, including the District of Columbia.
Author of USA PUBLIC FREEDOM ACT: Alexander D. Moll
Why Is This Idea Important?
This summary of a piece of legislation called, The USA Public Freedom Act, offers a public policy corollary to the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Whereas the Serve America Act reauthorizes and expands national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Public Freedom Act introduces a national policy framework for instituting deliberative democracy, specifically, and participatory democracy, generally, in the way communities across the U.S. form the consent of the governed and general political representation per policy, instead of only per election or per candidate. Whereas the Corporation engages four million Americans in result-driven service each year, the Public Freedom Act seeks to engage millions of Americas in result-driven deliberative democracy each to enhance local, state, and federal government efforts to maintain the ingredients of open government: transparency, participation, and collaboration within policy making the overall business operations of governance.
Without such a national policy and supporting permanent structures to execute such policy--in detail--beyond the initial first step of the Open Government Directive, the U.S. shall continue to lag behind other nations in terms of democratic governance as a part of open government. Without significant fiscal and social capital investments in how we as a nation administer democratic representation in the consent of the governed per policy, unless we erect the necessary networks, technology, and infrastructure for representing public will per policy with government will, the disconnect between the people and their representatives will continue to be compromised by layers of bureaucracy, special interests, geography, and lack of public trust between the two entities.
Only a collaborative, constructive partnership in open government, protected under such national policy and its resulting investment in democracy, can bridge the divisions of our government sphere with our public sphere. This demonstrates why the proposed Act is important and must be refined by the Open Government Initiative, its author, and the people of the United States.