Online Health IT and Privacy Discussion
Days before a critical presidential election, citizens and stakeholders from around the nation were part of a unique online dialogue that tackled the key issue of how we can realize the benefits of Health IT while safeguarding privacy. AmericaSpeaks worked with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) and Delib, to host the ten-day citizen-driven online conversation. Participants discussed challenges, generated ideas, and recommended principles.
During the week that the dialogue was open, more than 500 ideas and comments were posted on the site and unique visitors hailed from every U.S. state and territory. The dialogue highlighted points of agreement and emerging themes, guiding participants to a consensus in real time. A group of informed experts were on hand throughout the week to contribute a diverse range of viewpoints.
The dialogue targeted individuals and groups with an active interest in this issue but was open and accessible to everyone. Participating stakeholders included: consumer, disability and patient rights advocates; federal and state government staff, health care providers, insures and industry representatives; large and small businesses; open government advocates; researchers and students; and non-profit organizations.
This project marked the successful development of an innovative online tool for government engagement with the public. Using this new tool, the project collected ideas and perspectives on the issue of health IT and privacy from over 3,000 citizens. These contributions were then compiled into a report to OMB, the Federal OIC Council, Obama’s Transition Team, and participants. Since then, this tool has been used more than a dozen times by federal government agencies to involve the public in their work.
Participants Join National Discussion at Virtual Tables
As 1,000 people across 16 cities joined AmericaSpeaks National Town Meeting on autism policy in 2009, dozens of others took part in the discussion at virtual tables. At the event, families living with autism, adults with autism, advocates, elected officials, service providers, and other community members shared their perspectives about the policies need to support adults with autism. The participants discussed and rated strategies for addressing policy issues such as, housing, employment, and community life. They then prioritized the top strategies within each of the three topic areas.
Virtual table participants watched presentations from the national discussion online via a webcast. When it was time to discuss the issues, virtual participants joined volunteer facilitators on a conference call line and chat room. As they came to agreement, their ideas were submitted online to a team of analysts who integrated them with those of participants in the rooms across the country. Online polling keypads enables virtual table participants to vote on their priorities over the course of the day.
The policy agenda that emerged from the discussion was presented to Members of Congress and other leaders at a summit in Washington DC several months later. Participants were invited to join a national consortium to continue to address these issues locally and nationally.
Citizens Remember and Rebuild
Soon after the 9/11 attacks, stark differences over the future of the site began to divide survivors, business leaders and residents. Civic leaders and members of the general public feared that business and political interests would prevail unless a broad public consensus emerged and shaped the redevelopment effort. To address this need, the Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York asked AmericaSpeaks to develop a project that would transcend these differences and provide decision makers with areas of agreement about the redevelopment of the site.
In addition convening 21st Century Town Meetings for 5,100 people, AmericaSpeaks convened 800 New Yorkers in a two-week online dialogue about the rebuilding process. The online dialogue used Web Lab’s Small Group Dialogue platform to enable diverse groups of New Yorkers to deliberate in small groups and then vote on polling questions about their preferences for the rebuilding process. Facilitators worked with the small groups to find common ground positions and keep the discussion going. Periodically, online participants met online with decision makers and leaders to talk about rebuilding issues. A theme team reviewed ideas being generated in the small groups and fed those themes back to the whole group and used themes to develop polling questions.
Listening to the City demonstrated that it is possible for thousands of citizens to come together, deliberate about difficult issues and reach consensus within a charged and complex decision-making process. The process was praised by many decision makers, the media, and architecture and planning leaders as a model for the future. Following Listening to the City, decision makers announced that a new set of plans would be developed for Ground Zero, largely based on the criteria that emerged from the public discussion.
Americans Discuss Social Security
Americans Discuss Social Security (ADSS) directly engaged Americans of all walks of life in a national dialogue about Social Security reform and urged Congress to support legislation that reflected citizen preferences. Over 15 months, the project engaged nearly 50,000 Americans in 50 states in direct discussions on Social Security reform and more than 12 million through the project’s media and public education efforts. Over the course of the process that concluded in 1999, President Bill Clinton and 120 members of Congress actively participated in town meetings and teleconferences, giving them a unique opportunity to discuss the issue with a diverse group of constituents.
The national conversation included a pioneering online dialogue that engaged thousands of Americans across the nation. Online participants were recruited through an outreach effort that included 175 national organizations and an advertising campaign. 1,500 people actively took part in the discussions and 10,000 people observed the dialogue as it took place. Moderated online round tables with Members of Congress and policy experts enabled participants to ask questions and dialogue with national leaders on the topic.
ADSS had an immediate and direct impact on the Social Security debate. The project demonstrated the intense public interest in the future of Social Security reform and showed that Americans had more of a “middle ground” approach than special interests or lawmakers had believed. For example, contrary to insiders’ expectations, participants overwhelmingly supported raising the cap on payroll taxes. These results were considered credible because of ADSS’ neutral stance on the issue, the diversity of participants, and lawmakers’ direct involvement in the process. Eventually, each of the major reform proposals being considered by policymakers included raising the cap on payroll taxes.
A Region Rebuilds Its Economic Future
21,000 people from across Northeast Ohio came together to set an action agenda to revitalize the region’s ailing economy. This massive public deliberation, called Voices & Choices, was the result of an unprecedented partnership between AmericaSpeaks and a coalition of 80 local foundations. One of the largest public deliberations ever convened, Voices & Choices combined a variety of approaches for mobilizing the region’s citizenry, including one-on-one interviews, online forums and large-scale town meetings.
Thousands of residents learned about and weighed in on regional challenges through online Choicebooks, designed by Ascentum. For each of six regional challenges, participants could learn about the issues, weigh the trade offs and vote on how to deploy the region’s resources by spending “NEO Bucks.” A local host for each Choicebook personalized the experience. At the conclusion of the Choicebook experience, participants received a report that compared their priorities with the views of others across the region who had participated in the process. /p>
Once the regional agenda had been formed, participants were invited back online to take part in small group dialogues about how to implement the regional priorities. As participants shared their ideas for action with each other, they were able to rate others’ submissions and use emoticons to quickly signal attitudes that they wished to convey.
The Fund for Our Economic Future took the priorities that came out of Voices & Choices and created a set of action steps called Advancing Northeast Ohio. Each action step will be implemented by a collaboration of partners responsible for a specific initiative of the plan. The Fund for Our Economic Future and Advance Northeast Ohio, the engine for implementation, issues regular reports regarding the results of specific initiatives and the overall performance of the region’s economy.