June 24, 2010

GETinsight live web discussion: Budget & education tech cuts: time to crowdsource policymaking


This Monday, 12:00 p.m PST, 3:00 p.m. EST, 8:00 p.m. British Summer Time, I'll be hosting another of my regular 45-minute 'office hours' sessions with the GETinsight gang, looking at how leaders can look towards crowdsourcing techniques to make better policies that actually work on the ground.

Given the budget and education department cuts in the UK, and similar challenges around the world, the time has never been more ripe for those working in the public services, particularly in education, to harness the social tools around us and co-create policy, classroom strategies and tactics.

I come with the bias that the projects I've undertaken in these environments, such as eduBuzz, the BectaX process and the fairly hands-off development of 38minutes, have nearly always ended up more useful on the ground than they would have been had we organised things by committee in a Head Quarters building. Crowdsourced ideas tend to be more sustainable in the long term and free of the organisational red-tape that kills too many great ideas before they've got off the proposal paper.

My GETinsight blog post on crowdsourcing policy sums up the examples that come to mind from an educational perspective, and will be the starting point for Monday's live web chat. I've also been thinking recently about how business at large could benefit in these times from thinking about using the value of users/customers in their decision-making, instead of doing all the thinking themselves behind the metaphorical closed door of the intranet.

If you've got other examples you would add then please drop them into the discussion here, there or on Monday in the live chat. I hope plenty of you can join us as we hurtle into the summer holidays!

A quick pre-registration is required, and you will need to be sat near a telephone to take part in the WebEx discussion on Monday.


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Hi Ewan, I've done quite a lot on developing participatory educational policy, latest blog post on it uses the Policy Forest technique to look at Sustaining Innovation as part of an "Organisational Architecture of Participation;" http://architectureofparticipation.wordpress.com/. We did this for Harnessing Technology a couple of years ago as well.
I think there is a distinction between "crowdsourcing" in a representative democratic context, such as you describe in East Lothian, and actually creating participatory structures from which policy can emerge as a process, which the OAoP is about (published in BJET 39/3) We developed the OAoP from an outline we elaborated in Policy 2.0 at CAL '07. This was based on practical collaborative educational policy development in various contexts, some of which were rejected some of which we got to ministers. We crowdsourced policy views of FE Governance in England to most FE Governors and delivered their deliberations to Bill Rammell.
We think you need to develop the idea of Public Value to networked Public Value which would redefine stakeholders, along with their roles, and by sharing the processes by which decisions are made. We call it "adaptive institutions working across collaborative networks"
The key issue in this is of course where you take crowdsourced deliberations once you have them. My view is that social media enables a participatory and inclusive culture and we need to build a participatory society from education up, moving to participatory democracy developmentally in the process.
One of the things that we have realised from our Policy Forest work is that in the UK people barely understand how the political process works so often don't understand why or how they should participate in policy processes.

I really appreciate your point about "where do we take the crowdsourced decision" for someone to, erm, make a decision on it. I've always thought that there is a hierarchy in every apparently 'open source' or crowdsourced development - hard to ever suggest so, though, as the people in the hierarchy don't like being picked out.

I wonder if we ever get around that - at the moment it's hard to see how, given that decisions have to be made by someone. And the buck has to be seen stop there, somewhere, anywhere, too.

I've just logged off from the GETinsight discussion and there were one or two links I wanted to punt in the direction of Andrew Dalgliesh from Queensland Education and Training.

Firstly, Ewan's experience of simply getting lots of teachers and parents engaged via blogs sounded fantastic - a way of raising the capacity - but it seems to me that the way to solve the 'active citizen / netizen / hard-to-avoid / fanatic' problem is to recruit them in the crowdsourcing of a detailed description of the problem. There are a few - not entirely complete - tools that I've seen used for this purpose.

1. Debategraph - used quite well by OfCOM in the UK to anatomise the future of public service broadcasting but used by lots of other people as well

2. Debatepedia - a good way of getting people to describe the argument rather than get stuck too deeply into it

3. Mixed Ink - a good way of collaboratively authoring an agreed statement.

This is a good way of getting the balance of expertise v opinion right as well. Experts and the people who read them are the contributors here. Opinion, really, is the snagging material that needs to be neutralised and often, rival 'fanatics' can usefully cancel each other out.

But Ewan's right here; The key is to get people actually involved.

Andrew - one other thing: You mentioned the curse of public sector IT and the obsessive lockdown that your users route-around while you argue with your IT managers. You may find www.interactivecharter.org an interesting concept - it's something that I did a bit of work on last year. Look for the '50 obstacles' that get in the way of interactivity. It's our intention to gradually crowdsource strategies for getting around each of them.

Good points Paul, I think we need to link an understanding of what it means to be a citizen with what it means to be a learner. I was involved with running CoPIRG when I was in the Colorado, kind of a crowd-sourced Community Research project. US universities give degree credits for Community activism and Community Technology Centres run on that! CIRN & CUPP at Brighton have something similar. The Learner-Generated Contexts Group (OAoP) also have a model for civic-engagement using social media called Citizen-Generated Contexts which we have been trying to implement for some time. Working on it in Manchester and Lewisham at the mo. Happy to discuss, or write about on Local Democracy.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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