Collaboration Site enables direct citizen editing of Social Policy documents for the Government of Alberta, Canada
The Province of Alberta is a large, vibrant, prosperous Province in Canada. It is home to over 3.6 million people, and possesses some of the world’s largest reserves of oil and gas. It is also physically huge, with over 660,000 square km of land.
Its significant growth and development opportunities posed challenges to the Government of Alberta in trying to ensure its geographically diverse citizenry had ample opportunities to contribute to its key social policy framework and development blueprint.
Key issues were:
- Enabling direct citizen contributions to key policy documents in a moderated format.
- Enabling expanded contribution rights to authorized representatives of important government and non-government organization representatives.
- Providing tools which fostered an open discussion forum for key social policies, allowing citizens to easily track community discussion on topics of interest to them.
Direct citizen participation in government policy development is a new concept for social networking. Not knowing what to expect, it would be easy for citizens to go to the site and become confused about how they could realistically contribute to social policy development. The site needed to both present citizens with a complete picture of what this was all about while not overwhelming them with so much information that they wouldn’t know where to start.
The moderation format and the authorization rights enabling this were also critical to ensure the site was not dominated by just one small group.
The PowerfulCMS Team designed an eye-catching “Getting Started” button and process inviting citizens to register and participate. The designer team also designed a clean, well-laid out home page with clear entry points to the Social Policy Wiki, Library resources, and associated blogs. Once users navigated to a document, they were presented with easy options to either directly participate or comment, and to track future comments and changes on only the sections of the document of strong interest to them.
Moderators were also given tools to grant expanded contribution rights to authorized representatives of government and non-government organizations, where the organization that individual represented was clearly associated with all of their contributions and comments. Other tools enabled Moderators to maintain constructive contributions while not appearing to overly control or direct these contributions.
Anticipating strong, unpredictable participation in the site, PowerfulCMS hosted this site on a multi-server load-balanced setup in the Amazon Cloud, enabling rapid response times and the ability to quickly scale to differing load levels.
Less than two months after launch, the Government of Alberta Social Policy site has attracted many thousands of unique visitors and hundreds of direct and indirect contributions to its policies and blogs. Elected government officials have set up blogs enabling them to directly elicit feedback from their own constituents on these policies and other matters.
There has also been strong participation by numerous non-government organizations representing significant communities and groups of constituents, collaborating to create important social policies for all of the citizens of Alberta in fully transparent manner.