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11 Feb 2015

Plays to Incorporate Public Participation in Public Services

Mariana Leytón

US Public Participation Playbook
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The US government published last week the first version of the Public Participation Playbook, a resource that allows public officials to “effectively evaluate and build better services through public participation using best practices and performance metrics”. This resource was developed according to the intention of identifying and sharing good practices on public participation declared in the first and second National Action Plan that the government presented to the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

The Playbook was developed collaboratively by over seventy leaders of dozens of sectors of the US government, representatives of civil society and international organizations (such as the OpenGov Foundation, the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, the World Bank, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the Sunlight Foundation) and citizens: it was open for public comment on three occasions through the Madison tool. (This tool allows users to make annotations and comments in public documents and thus show support or disagree with them.) Through this process, the Playbook was reviewed and various concerns were addressed and incorporated into it.

The document takes the form of a Playbook that describes what high level plays should be considered in any effort that includes public participation. Each of these steps includes a checklist that specifies what activities can be used to ensure that the play is executed successfully. The text also includes case studies and other resources to understand the practical applications of the suggested activities and indicators that can be customized as appropriate to assess the development of a play.

The plays

Following is the list of the plays; to understand them in detail and see examples, check out the Playbook.

Establish goals

Play 1: Clearly define and communicate your objectives

Understand the Playing Field

Play 2: Understand your participants and stakeholder groups

Play 3: Understand and communicate the benefit of participation

Play 4: Empower participants through public/private partnership

Design Participation

Play 5: Select appropriate design format for public participation

Play 6: Design for inclusiveness

Play 7: Provide multi-tiered paths to participation

Play 8: Provide effective and timely notifications

Play 9: Encourage community building through responsive outreach

Play 10: Protect citizen privacy

Facilitate Participation

Play 11: Use Data to Drive Decision Making

Evaluate and Report

Play 12: Transparently report outcomes and performance of participation


Note that this is only the first version of this resource, since the idea is that it is open for public comments and suggestions that will be incorporated monthly. Despite it being an effort by the US government, this resource offers ideas that can be implemented in different countries and contexts. In fact, the people in charge of the project have questioned how to improve the Playbook by wondering whether a Spanish version could be a good next move. For this reason, whoever wants to participate can comment or provide more ideas on the Madison platform or on GitHub.


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