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Back to Participation 3.0

This is a pilot Participation 3.0 effort exploring avenues to make public meetings more open and transparent. Join the online Public Meetings Technical Working Group and watch the public meetings video introduction.

Through convening interested people, an open standards exploration, and concept promotion we seek to show how public meeting notices, agendas, documents, etc. can become vastly more accessible across the distributed Web 2.0 world.

Major Updates:

Also note:

Long-term vision - we imagine many websites from the local newspaper, an civic non-profit, to a state government, where the public may enter their address and keyword interests to be pro-actively notified online about public meetings and agenda items that matter to them ... not just from one isolated government, but ALL the government bodies that serve them. To help make this possible, the use of an open standard(s) combined with data aggregating via a new PublicMeetings.Info network would broadly share a new open data set with the core public decision-making information for public meetings.

Project elements include:

1. Open design process - Public meeting notice and agenda requirements and open standard draft

We are engaging the W3C E-Government Interest Group (initial pre-project engagement) via the eCitizen Foundation, the CityCamp Exchange and others to form a requirements document leading toward a draft standard on public meeting notices and agendas. This approach promotes a long-term, distributed solution to help governments and government-oriented technology vendors automate the process of providing open data sets containing real-time public meeting and decision-making information. This is likely the best path to the universal extension of greater meeting information access and dissemination to many local communities over the long-run.

2. Local prototype and data scraping initiative

We seek to demonstrate the power of a geo-aware tool for personalized alerts about upcoming public meetings from the dozens of public bodies that serve Minneapolis (and perhaps St. Paul). This will inform and seek to utilize the open standard draft but in this case the data will be "scraped" by us and converted into XML before being used by our site. We are inspired in part by the new UK-based open source-oriented site which is scraping and gathering data on the far more centralized local UK governments.

  • We are building a civic-minded open source technology team to implement this idea. We have a modest technology budget available of at least $5,000 US for this prototype. We seek either a lead project coordinator (who can lead doing) who will recruit and engage a number of technology volunteers or a compelling proposal by an individual or firm to execute this idea leveraging existing open source tools in a rapid fashion. The proposals must cover the time to set-up the required scrapers and assume a negotiated feature specification period (note our interest in discussing the item below). Please send us your resume and a one page outline on your approach to this and the item below:

3. Public meeting comments and ratings experiment

Depending up the resources available, we will explore hosting specific public comments/questions/requests for more information and rating of comments/questions/requests to determine those agenda-items with expressed community support, opposition or simple concern. A comment summary/tracking tool for local elected/appointed officials and staff would notify decision-makers on recent comments prior to meetings (comments would be allowed within an hour of when the government body releases the agenda and it is pulled into our system automatically). We will further connect awareness of new meetings/agenda and public comments directly into the 1,000+ participant online town hall Minneapolis Issues Forum.

Resources and Related Links

  • Rhode Island Open Meeting - State law requires that all government public meetings notices and agenda be shared through a uniform system online. This includes roughly 600 state bodies/sub-bodies and 1500 local government entities. Minutes are also required to be uploaded for executive branch decision-making bodies. Web feed and e-mail notification options are available. The service is very popular.
  • City of Arcata, California started to accept comments on public meeting agenda items.
  • ElmCity - Jon Udell's web service to collects online calendar events for geographic or topical communities.

Additional Notes

This project will test our open source-style design process designed to bring together democracy/participation experts, government staff/interest elected officials, and technologists/geeks in a group process that leads to the most effective results that actually serves the greatest public good with a sustainable "move the field" design as an end goal. This process is a possible model for our evolving Next Generation Ideas open specification process.

Review our detailed round two Knight News Challenge Public Meetings Submission on this idea. The deadline for that proposal pre-dated the more intentional exploration we are now in the process of executing and should be consider an input into the current process not the determined outcome.


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