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Journal cover: Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy

Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy

ISSN: 1750-6166

Online from: 2007

Subject Area: Industry and Public Sector Management

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Regulation Room: Getting “more, better” civic participation in complex government policymaking


Document Information:
Title:Regulation Room: Getting “more, better” civic participation in complex government policymaking
Author(s):Cynthia R. Farina, (Cornell Law School, Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative, Ithaca, New York, USA), Dmitry Epstein, (Cornell Law School, Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative, Ithaca, New York, USA), Josiah B. Heidt, (Cornell Law School, Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative, Ithaca, New York, USA), Mary J. Newhart, (Cornell Law School, Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative, Ithaca, New York, USA)
Citation:Cynthia R. Farina, Dmitry Epstein, Josiah B. Heidt, Mary J. Newhart, (2013) "Regulation Room: Getting “more, better” civic participation in complex government policymaking", Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, Vol. 7 Iss: 4, pp.501 - 516
Keywords:e-Government, e-Participation, e-Rulemaking, Participatory literacy, Situated knowledge
Article type:Case study
DOI:10.1108/TG-02-2013-0005 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Acknowledgements:The Regulation Room design and technology team is Rebecca Younes (lead technologist), Austin Eustice (design), and Brian Post (programmer). This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. NSF IIS-1111176. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Abstract:

Purpose – Rulemaking (the process agencies use to make new health, safety, social and economic regulations) is one of the US Government's most important policymaking methods and has long been a target for e-government efforts. Although broad transparency and participation rights are part of its legal structure, significant barriers prevent effective engagement by many citizens. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach – RegulationRoom.org is an online experimental e-participation platform, designed and operated by Cornell e-rulemaking Initiative (CeRI), the cross-disciplinary CeRI. Using the Regulation Room as a case study, this paper addresses what capacities are required for effective civic engagement and how they can be nurtured and supported by an online participation system.

Findings – The research suggests that effectively designing and deploying technology, although essential, is only one dimension of realizing broader, better online civic engagement. Effective e-participation systems must be prepared to address procedural, social, and psychological barriers that impede citizens' meaningful participation in complex policymaking processes. The research also suggests the need for re-conceptualizing the value of broad civic participation to the policymaking processes and for recognizing that novice commenters engage with policy issues differently than experienced insiders.

Practical implications – The paper includes a series of strategic recommendations for policymaking seeking public input. While it indicates that a broader range of citizens can indeed be meaningfully engaged, it also cautions that getting better participation from more people requires the investment of resources. More fundamental, both government decision makers and participation designers must be open to recognizing non-traditional forms of knowledge and styles of communication – and willing to devise participation mechanisms and protocols accordingly.

Originality/value – This paper describes lessons from a unique design-based research project with both practical and conceptual implications for more, better civic participation in complex government policymaking.



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