Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How Are You Speaking?

As a follow up to “Who Are You Speaking For,” I am wondering when we will step up to contemporary methods of collaboration and public participation. We have watched voting go from the first whatever Tuesday (after the first Monday) in November to whenever before the first Tuesday in November (due to the increase in voting by mail). We are familiar with open source software, and at least the concept of open access research. When will we be ready (and I am ready already) and willing for open access collaboration on many more public issues?

Within our contract with the Department of Human Services as the Community Centered Board for Broomfield and Boulder counties, we must hold a “public forum” to gather information and listen to community comment related to issues of people who have developmental disabilities. Well, meeting the contract is no problem; we schedule an evening date for a couple of hours and voila.

Wouldn’t it be interesting, though, in addition to a public forum, to include all the information we gain from the engagement of our communities using social media tools? People can share comment when it is convenient to them and when the issues are clear in their minds. Plus, it does not require any public speaking skills.

How about this example, from an invitation I received recently: “You are invited to join us (Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing) for a public forum regarding Colorado’s application to participate in the national demonstration program, Money Follows the Person. This opportunity will enable you to provide input into the direction of CO-ACTS and to learn more about the Program.”

This is a two hour event scheduled for December 16th at 4:00 at the downtown Sheraton in Denver. The event will be web-enabled from Grand Junction. The “public” in this case is presumably the literal population of Colorado, and in particular anyone who might be affected by this demonstration project.

How would you know if that might be you? I don’t know – I guess you have to show up to find out. What better opportunity to engage a public online collaboration tool? How much better for the public servants who will administer CO-ACTS to know what the “public,” and I mean the real “PUBLIC,” really thinks?

Imagine - real public input.

Go ahead have the local meeting in Denver, but add a feature that has a video description of the program, a PowerPoint display and short narrative so the real public knows what the heck you are talking about. And then ask for input in a way that comments and thoughts can be coat-tailed and enhanced. We have brilliant people who will not be able to make the meeting. We have brilliant people who have no idea what this “public forum” is all about. Bring them to the table. Let their voices be heard.

Look at this picture of Alexander Graham speaking into one of the first telephones. That technology brought about a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Social media represents another fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Let’s start embracing that shift and opening up discussions to include many more stakeholders in the conversations that directly impact the lives of those we serve.

Then again, what do I know?

1 comment:

  1. So agree with you! I have also participated in meetings on the phone - usually they stick a speaker phone in the middle of the table. You can't hear half of what is being said or when it is your turn. You also can't tell when people roll their eyes at you! Seems to me that we should utilize the fabulous technology out there that would allow true public input - assuming that is what they really want!