Man, this stuff is confusing.
This site grew out of a white paper that I published for a couple of years at the Wise Economy Workshop, my main platform and the name of my consulting firm / writing platform. The white paper was hugely successful, but it had a problem: the stuff changed too quickly for that format to work very well. Every time I did an update, I found that I had missed two or three new platforms or apps that should have been in there. New applications and web sites seemed to pop up all over, and there was no easy way to make sure that the white paper was up to date.
So I am moving that content to this site so that you know that you are getting reasonably up to date information.
This isn’t the first or only site to try to get its virtual head around this topic — Tim Bonnemann’s encyclopedic Participatedb.com, for example, boggles the mind with the array of sites, tools, widgets etc. that it includes. But most of you probably don’t have time to sort through every possible option, and a lot of of cases, a neat tool that someone else developed might be a one-of-a-kind that you can’t just acquire for your community.
So, to be listed on the Online Public Engagement Emporium, a tool or application has to meet a few criteria:
- Gets people involved in their community’s decisions. This can run the gamut — from information-sharing tools to surveys to detailed deliberation processes. But it has to include some kind of two-way street — people need to get information and give meaningful feedback. If it’s primarily for data sharing or analysis, PR, contact management, neighborhood bulletin boards, or broadcasting, you won’t find it here.
- Works for communities. This doesn’t just mean local governments – it means community nonprofits, grassroots initiatives, any kind of formal or informal community groups. But it does not mean sites that are specifically designed to work for corporations, employees, etc. Not that those aren’t important, it’s just that they often don’t fit non-company community needs very well. You can try to persuade me that your corporate widget belongs here if you’d like.
- Publicly available. You have to be able to email or call someone, and when you tell them “I want to use your product in my community,” they need to say, “no problem, sounds great, let’s get it going.” Tools can be paid or free, purchase cost or subscription, and providers can be for-profit or non-profit. But if a tool was special-built for one community, and you can’t get it in your community without rebuilding it from scratch, then you will not find that tool here.
- Reasonably turn-key. Every web site, app, widget, thingamajig requires some help from the seller with customization, set-up, figuring out the controls, troubleshooting, etc. But if someone has to completely run your public engagement site for you, then it’s really just an extension of consulting services. Nothing wrong with that, but the focus here is on the tools. So the tools you will find here are all designed for you to operate independently, to at least some extent.
OK? We will start with a summary list of tools, and hopefully, eventually, add some selecting or triaging tools. Have fun, and send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to share your online tool, ask a question or get some help.
Thanks. You’re nice.