Flagship Initiative, Participation: Open Government Steering Committee

Aligned to goals:
  • 2.1: Provide more insight into the agency's decision-making process.
  • 2.2: Provide regularly updated project maps, dated milestones, and financial data regarding open government and other key initiatives.
  • 2.3: Collect and use input from the public and other stakeholders in decision-making
  • 4.1: Encourage openness and communication about effectiveness within the Department.

Investigate Strategies for Holding More Open Meetings

The Open Government Steering Committee is charged with overseeing open government activities within the Department, including oversight of the progress of the work described in this plan. The committee wants to undertake experimental and forward-looking activities relating to open government. It hopes that some or all of these experiments will be models adopted on a larger scale within the Department and perhaps elsewhere.

To ensure that the principles of open government are reflected in the ongoing work internal to the Department, the Open Government Steering Committee will investigate methods for more inclusion of the public in internal meetings. This could include publishing agendas of meetings, accepting moderated comments on the meeting agenda, and other strategies. The committee wants to explore forward-learning strategies that it could share later with other groups in the Department (e.g., making available and/or broadcasting video of more ED meetings and events).

Open Government Policy Document

During a recent meeting the steering committee identified an opportunity to clarify how open government functions. One potentially confusing outcome of open government activities is opening numerous avenues to connect to the Department. Some of these avenues might appear open when in fact they are not. For example, while the Department currently uses Twitter as a forum to communicate information to the public and bring members of the public together to engage each other in conversation, the Department does not currently systematically monitor its Twitter timeline for input and responses from the public. On the other hand, comments submitted in the online Web forum for the National Education Technology Plan were rigorously examined and are being incorporated into the final product. Similarly, ideas from the public on the Open Government Plan were included in the analysis process for developing the plan itself. These varying uses of public input can create a potentially confusing situation for the public, as it may not always be clear whether their input is being heard or how it is processed once it is heard.

To help remedy this situation, the Steering committee will develop an Open Government Policy (similar to "privacy policies" developed by many websites). This policy document will describe in plain language how and where public input is used. It will describe how to reach the open government steering committee, and will provide other appropriate information. Of course, the public will be asked for input on what information should be included in this document, and the document will be updated periodically to reflect changes and new information. The first draft of this document will be released in fall 2010.