In my previous post I shared my frustration with the ambiguous difference between participation and collaboration in the Open Government Directive. In drafting my advice to Gartner clients about how to develop their Open Government Plans, I have highlighted this ambiguity and made the following assumption:
The distinction between participation and collaboration is very subtle and may create some confusion. On the main, participation is more geared toward policy-making, whereas collaboration expands beyond that, to areas such as government service delivery and operations
This being said, I thought it would be useful to distinguish two types of participation and two types of collaboration, as follows:
- Continuous (or on-going) participation, where the public can make general comments about the agency activities (e.g. general feedback forms, online surveys, etc).
- Focused (or one-off) participation, where the public is explicitly invited to provide feedback on specific issues or draft policies (e.g. policy blogs and wikis) over a limited period of time.
- Planned (or top-down) collaboration concerns initiatives that are driven by the agency (or by another government agency) where the scope for collaboration from external stakeholders is somewhat constrained. Examples would include crowdsourcing a problem resolution to the public.
- Unplanned (or bottom-up) collaboration concerns initiatives that are started by external stakeholders and are mostly self-organized: in this case the agency needs to be aware that they exist and seek ways to add value. Examples include the many discussion fora and social networks where people discuss quality of and improvements to government services.
I am not entirely sure that every single participation or collaboration initiative would fall exactly into one of these buckets. But at least it’s a start, isn’t it?