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April 15, 2005

Civic Engagement in Rulemaking, Policymaking

Who would have thought that it would prove easy to engage the public in regulatory reform, policymaking, and more? And maybe it won’t prove all that easy. But at least for now it is looking ever more doable as our society becomes more web-savvy. Our little venture “Forest Policy – Forest Practice “ is just one of many emergent Internet possibilities.

Two years ago Robert D. Carlitz, Executive Director of “Information Renaissance” suggested possibilities in Once in a Lifetime: Opportunities for Civic Engagement. In proposing a way forward, Carlitz recommended:

  • A series of pilot projects that use the Internet to facilitate expanded public input on selected upcoming rules or policies.

  • Programs to educate the public about rulemaking, its impact on their lives and the roles they can play in the process.

  • Development of techniques for (a) identifying and notifying stakeholders, (b) online dialogue on rules, (c) creating materials that enable a broad variety of people to understand and discuss selected public issues, (c) quantifying and evaluating online input, and (d) scaling up to very large online events, which are technically feasible but would at present rapidly overwhelm the ability of any agency to digest the information received.

  • Assessment of efforts to increase public involvement in rulemaking, and dissemination of best practices.

  • Development of ethical standards. As online involvement processes for rulemaking and other areas evolve and broaden, standards will be needed in areas such as notification of stakeholders, provision of background information to the public and transparency.

Now many of his recommendations seem to be coming into reality. You can find some ongoing Information Renaissance dialogues here.

Last Wednesday NPR radio did a story on The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness and its Electronic Regulatory Forum. It looks like they are setting up to web-log many important regulatory rulemaking efforts, opening up to the public what has until now only been open to the special-interest few.

This could indeed become a “Once in a lifetime Opportunity.” And it may be an enduring one, ongoing for the rest of our lives.  Let’s hope so!

Posted by Dave on April 15, 2005 at 02:40 PM | Permalink


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