Discuto

Discuto

eParticipation – top down, bottom up or both?


In a recent article, Prieto-Martin et al (2012) voiced criticism over resource-intensive eParticipation projects organized by established institutions “top down” and advocated a low key grass roots approach “bottom up”. We want to look into this issue by comparing the results of a number of eParticipation projects managed by Cbased where documents were discussed and voted on the paragraph level by different types of communities.

Table 1 summarizes the results of five public consultations sorted according to size of the document discussed and the number of participants. Dedicated web sites were set up (see http://www.cbased.com/en/consultation/plattform-forschungsinfrastruktur-rat-fur-forschung-und-technologieentwicklung, http://expectations2012.eu/en), http://www.forschungsstrategie.at/, http://www.iktstrategie.at/, http://www.energieforschungsstrategie.at/) and awareness campaigns were conducted to promote participation in these projects.

 

Users

Size

Votes

Comments

Votes/

User

Relative

Comments/

User

Relative

EU Youth Expectations

217

51

2431

190

11,20

21,97%

0,88

1,72%

Research Infrastructure

155

64

1500

212

9,68

15,12%

1,37

2,14%

Energy Research Strategy

750

192

8000

806

10,67

5,56%

1,07

0,56%

Austrian Research Strategy

411

269

6828

713

16,61

6,18%

1,73

0,64%

Austrian National ICT Strategy

67

729

1231

151

18,37

2,52%

2,25

0,31%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Austrian National ICT Strategy

67

729

1231

151

18,37

2,52%

2,25

0,31%

Research Infrastructure

155

64

1500

212

9,68

15,12%

1,37

2,14%

EU Youth Expectations

217

51

2431

190

11,20

21,97%

0,88

1,72%

Austrian Research Strategy

411

269

6828

713

16,61

6,18%

1,73

0,64%

Energy Research Strategy

750

192

8000

806

10,67

5,56%

1,07

0,56%

Table 1 shows a quite uniform picture, with 1.5 comments/user and 13 Votes on average. Also the participation rates were close to the average of 20%. The feedback per user increases slightly with document size, as this provides more opportunities for feedback. However, the perceived relevance seems to decreases with size, as indicated when the votes and comments per user are set in relation to the document size. Though weaker, a similar effect can be seen with increasing community size.

Table 2 contains the results of private consultations (for further information on these projects see https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cbased/150967281630948). Most of the projects were conducted using the standard Cbased web design and invitation mails were the only means to create awareness (for an example see http://www.cbased.com/de/consultation/cluster-manifesto). Here one can observe higher feedback rates, but also much more variety. Also the participation rates ranged from 1% for Concept Master Program over 20% for the EU Cluster Manifesto and the Journalrating to 75% in the case of the Organisational Handbook and Postdoc Career Development. Nevertheless, document and community size still seem to play a role. One can therefore conjecture that smaller scale projects yield more intensive discussions, albeit at a risk. The reason for this phenomenon could be that it is easier to communicate the relevance of a more focused issue to a smaller group than a broader more abstract one to a more heterogeneous group. In the latter case the differences are averaged out, while in the former one there is the risk that the issue is not considered relevant at all.

 

Users

Size

Votes

Comments

Votes/

User

Relative

Comments/

User

Relative

EU Cluster Manifesto

111

19

500

171

4,50

23,71%

1,54

8,11%

Concept Master Program

34

29

43

15

1,26

4,36%

0,44

1,52%

Postdoc Carreer Development

48

30

543

159

11,31

37,71%

3,31

11,04%

Rating Agencies

71

32

293

76

4,13

12,90%

1,07

3,35%

Journalrating

111

55

889

70

8,01

14,56%

0,63

1,15%

Governance Codex

39

197

1205

125

30,90

15,68%

3,21

1,63%

Political Program

303

200

4039

328

13,33

6,67%

1,08

0,54%

Organisational Handbook

23

476

1211

378

52,65

11,06%

16,43

3,45%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organisational Handbook

23

476

1211

378

52,65

11,06%

16,43

3,45%

Concept Master Program

34

29

43

15

1,26

4,36%

0,44

1,52%

Governance Codex

39

197

1205

125

30,90

15,68%

3,21

1,63%

Postdoc Carreer Development

48

30

543

159

11,31

37,71%

3,31

11,04%

Rating Agencies

71

32

293

76

4,13

12,90%

1,07

3,35%

EU Cluster Manifesto

111

19

500

171

4,50

23,71%

1,54

8,11%

Journalrating

111

55

889

70

8,01

14,56%

0,63

1,15%

Political Program

303

200

4039

328

13,33

6,67%

1,08

0,54%

Should we therefore stop public consultations? We think not. Even though in such cases one cannot expect that same intensity of participation than in more focused undertakings, the feedback gained is far higher and media rich than, for instance, in the case of traditional market surveys. In fact, the Austrian Research Strategy project was perceived as very successful and for this project the initiator Austrian Council received the "European Public Sector Awards 2011 (ESPA 2011)". Nevertheless, eParticipation projects involving complex tasks for large groups entail considerable and tailor-made effort to create awareness and to communicate the relevance and trustworthiness of the effort. If properly done, however, the risk is limited.

Potential initiators of bottom up projects lack the budget for such activities, but might be able to count on the intrinsic relevancy of the issue under debate. Due to the higher relevancy risk, this group of initiators does not need sophisticated configurable systems for engagement but rather a standardized and easy to set up tool so that the effort lost in case of a relevancy gap is limited. Therefore, based on the experiences made, Cbased has decided to offer two platforms: the cbased platform, on which custom-made projects are made, and discuto, which provides a set up within minutes and a fully automated project management.

Literature

Pedro Prieto-Martín, Luis de Marcos, Jose Javier Martínez: The e-(R)evolution will not be funded: A transdisciplinary and critical analysis of the developments and troubles of EU-funded eParticipation, European Journal of ePractice, 15, 2012, 62-89, 


About the author :

Alfred Taudes