Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for September, 2010

Success Criteria For Online Communities That Accelerate Positive Change

by September 9th, 2010

How can we unleash the power of self-organizing groups that want to collaborate online to accelerate positive change? After managing, researching, and/or participating in online communities for almost 15 years, I’ve discovered the following success criteria for geographically dispersed groups that are trying to accomplish common goals:

1. Focus – Are the goals imposed from the top-down or developed in collaboration with the stakeholder communities? In Washington, one innovative environmental network collaborated with government, education, business, and citizens at the state, regional, and local levels to create a plan for environmental education that will touch every citizen in the state. The E3 Network subsequently created a custom online platform to help members implement the plan.

2. Audience – The most active, committed, and productive communities have members that need to share information to succeed in their jobs. For communities outside of work, passion for the subject matter increases participation but engagement tends to ebb and flow because people involved in one good cause often have multiple commitments. The good news is that many Seattle seniors are actively involved in social media so there’s an opportunity to build the multi-generational communities that are needed to address our greatest challenges.

3. Credibility – Thought leaders and experts are more likely to engage in online communities that are comprised of their peers. However, if a community is important to the success of an organization then the leadership team should participate. To make it easy for busy people to chime in, online discussions might be scheduled at specific times. If membership in an online community is open to the public, you might want to pre-approve members and home page content, or your network could be vulnerable to a spam attack or angry people who want to vent.

4. Action – What is one inspiring project or campaign your community can focus on that will produce a positive result in less than a year? For example, the Compassionate Action Network asked Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and the City Council to become the first city in the world to affirm the Charter for Compassion. Now, 35 cities around the world have expressed an interest in affirming the Charter that won the 2008 TED Prize for Karen Armstrong.

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Washington State Database On Insurance Providers

by September 9th, 2010

Today on my regular weekly KOMO-AM 1000 segment featuring the work of our Public Data Ferret government transparency project, I talked with “Nine To Noon” co-anchors Brian Calvert and Nancy Barrick about another consumer-friendly government database. It’s from the Washington State Insurance Commissioner’s Office, and lets consumers check for disciplinary actions against insurance companies and agents, by name and by year. A related database at the site provides information on the financial background of long-term health care providers. Here’s the original Ferret write-up, plus the audio segment. The transcript follows.

Washington State: Audit, Department Of Early Learning

by September 7th, 2010

SUMMARY: The Washington state legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) recently audited the state Department of Early Learning (DEL) which is responsible for supporting access to safe, healthy, and quality early childhood development throughout Washington State. The department regulates settings where children receive care, works with partners to improve child care and early learning services, and works with other agencies on the state’s child care subsidy program. DEL was formed in 1996 after the consolidation of three state programs: The Working Connections Child Care Program, from the Department of Social Health Services; The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), from the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development; and the Early Reading Initiative, from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Upon DEL’s creation in 2006, the legislature also called for an audit of the DEL (JLARC). The audit found that a series of improvements were needed in the areas of integration of programs, management controls and monitoring of licensed child care facilities and ECEAP sites, and great variance in the availability of subsidized child care.