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Notes from May 21st Call with White House Open Gov't Officials

Here are my notes from the conference call with White House officials that was held on May 21st, 2009 (the day after the official launch of the Open Government dialogue)…

I received an email from Greg Nelson, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, on May 21st inviting me to a conference call later that day with “senior White House officials… to discuss the launch of the White House open government initiative and the start of online public engagement on the open government recommendations.  Your organization’s participation in the process of crafting these recommendations is very important, so we hope that you are able to join us for the discussion.”

Note:  here’s an important tidbit that’s a bit buried in my notes, as Beth Noveck said this towards the end of the question-and-answer segment:

We’re counting on you; it’s the people you work with and talk to who are deeply committed and knowledgeable about the issues here.  Also, we’re getting the best ideas into the mix early; getting the people with both experience and expertise to share their ideas.

In other words, they really are looking for serious involvement from networks of practitioners and experts!

Here are my rough notes (sorry for the roughness!) from that call…

Greg Nelson – OPE – one of the areas he covers is technology

Thrilled to be here on launch of the Open Government Initiative.

Beth Noveck – Deputy Chief Technical Officer (CTO) for Open Government

Rick Weiss – OSTP

This is the day a lot of you have been waiting for. 120 days since the president signed his memo on open government, one of his first actions as president.  We launched a whole slew of things today as part of what we’re informally calling it the Open Government Initiative. whitehouse.gov/open

We launched a dialogue for the Open Government Initiative today. You and the rest of country can get involved to start putting these principles into action.

Beth Noveck…

The Obama campaign was the most participatory, engaged campaign in the history of US campaigns. Now it’s time to transition from the culture we saw in the campaign to a culture of an open, transparent, participatory administration.

Many of us were part of a transition team called the TIGR (Technology, Innovation and Government Reform) Team or TIGR group.

We saw combination of openness and series of new tools (wikis, listservs, etc.).

Launched today…

  • Unprecedented process of engaging the public in a policymaking process in a new way. Does not simply present an already-baked set of ideas, nor a process for addressing anything and everything under the sun, but asks for input in the area of open govt. Hoping you and your members and constituents will participate in the process we started today.
  • whitehouse.gov/open – innovations gallery – showcase open government in practice. Agencies are really using these values to demonstrate openness.
  • data.gov project – repository for making government more open
  • regulations.gov relaunch; redesign of practices for online participation in regulation rulemaking across agencies

The Open Government dialogue consists of a 3-phase discussion process:

  • Online brainstorming at opengov.ideascale.com (hosted by National Academy of Public Administration) inviting input on best ideas and topics we should consider in crafting suggestions for open government. Additional tools – rating and ranking. Open conversation and prioritizing until May 28th.
  • Public discussion process using blogging tool over the following 2 weeks, on topics that are the most compelling, interesting, difficult; discuss them and move into depth.
  • Third phase ends on June 19th. In this phase, we’ll draft the most compelling ideas raised into concrete suggestions for open government directive (wiki software). This will be transformed into an OMB directive.

Other forms of engagement in Open Government ideas – face-to-face, meetings, conferences… we welcome those and want to know how we can get involved and be supportive.

Our hope is that this won’t just be process of developing ideas on open government, but teach us ways to effectively engage with the public. This should help us build better participatory processes, and we are eager to have your involvement.

Q&A (sorry if these are incoherent; I’m just pasting my full notes on this segment)…

Patrice McDermott
interagency review, crafting recommendations, issuing directive
opportunity or request for comments from interagency review

Art Brodsky

recommendation process invites everyone to participate

Peter Sweyer
how do some cross-cutting issues fit in; accentuates the positive and new ideas

Jim Snider
explain moderation principles on these sites?

John Verde and Lily Coney
privacy coalition – we’ll let people know about oppty to comment
speak with coalition directly?
Send her email

Kevin Novack
congratulations on very sound process
w3cegov shows support

how can they connect us to each other – Beth says she wants to help us connect as much as possible

Sarah Peterson
Amer Assoc of people with disabilities

Ned Crosby
curious how many people are here in this call?

Rick Blum
__ in gov’t initiative
do you have a drop dead date for getting open govt directive out and complete the interagency review process

reasonable timeline for
ensure we have a funded mandate for ideas developed from this process

Shawn Molten
plans to have gov’t feed
this is not an end of a process, but beginning of a process
interagency comment and review, potentially more public participation and then additional action
planning process in which we’ve already gotten a lot of good input
framing questions

Stephen Goode
nature of most experiments is that they fail
policy outcome could become halted by the process
Beth – a lot but manageable amount of participation since it’s not a conversation about anything and everything; we’re counting on you; it’s the people you work with and talk to who are deeply committed and knowledgeable about the issues here.  Also, we’re getting the best ideas into the mix early; getting the people with both experience and expertise to share their ideas.

Marcia Hoffman
electronic frontier foundation
data.gov question…  how are agencies selecting the datasets to include in the catalog?


We’re interested in your feedback on improving the process. We want to make sure it improves and gets better as we go along.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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