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NAPA’s Collaboration Project helps with government 2.0 policy and legal issues — highlighting the problems and starting the work on solutions

with 4 comments

One of the biggest obstacles to some of the using some of the government 2.0 tools are the government’s legal and policy frameworks, some of which were formulated long before there was an Internet. The National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project is taking a big step toward helping agencies deal with these sticky issues.

On Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we recently spoke to Marcus Peacock, who at the time was the deputy administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency. Peacock and former EPA CIO Molly O’Neill, before they left, got started a parallel government 2.0 comment process around air quality standards. We spoke to Peacock and O’Neill about the process. One of the things he told us was that many of the government law that at the time were designed to ensure public comment today actually prevent agencies from reaching out to encourage a broader public comment. The laws, for example, require public comment. Agencies post rules and regulations in the Federal Register — or on Regulations.gov — and then people can comment. Those comments are assessed and posted. In the end, you don’t get an open, transparent debate about the process. Instead, you get a lot of individual comments unrelated to one another. And it has seemed that there wasn’t an alternative.

Peacock and O’Neill, creatively, aren’t letting those laws prevent the EPA from trying something new. Instead, they are running a parallel process — following the old way and creating a new way.

My suggestion has been to open up regulations to a wiki — some broad way to allow people to change the rule in a way that they think would improve it. In other words, don’t just comment — make it better. We’re still a few years away from that.

(A historical aside: Dee Lee deserves a foresight award. More than a decade ago, Dee Lee, who I believe was the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, also ran a parallel comment process for a rule allowing people to comment on other people’s comments. It was very innovative for the 1990s. It’s only taken a decade for us to get back to this point.)

NAPA to the rescue

All of this is a long introduction to the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project, which has been working to help agencies find share lessons learned on these government 2.0 tools. They have been holding meetings about the policy and legal issues surrounding government 2.0 — and the issues are wide ranging. They go from the use of Internet Web cookies… to security and policy issues. Earlier this week, we spoke to NAPA’s Frank DiGiammarino about the legal and policy issues. NAPA has now posted a draft document seeking comment on those rules.

The document below represents a rough draft of the research agenda that will guide the Collaboration Project going forward. It is a living document and we are always looking for new additions to this list. In reviewing it, please consider some of these questions:

  • What are the issues on this list that resonate with you the most? Is there anything you see missing?
  • Have you or anyone you know had success in meeting these challenges? Do you have any best practices to share?
  • How, if at all, has your agency altered policies to enable better collaboration?
  • What are the actions the next administration and Congress could take to increase collaboration and the use of the Web 2.0 suite of tools?

If you have something to contribute, please don’t hesitate to contact us and send it in, or just use the comments feature at the bottom of this page !

As we told you earlier, the Federal Web Managers Council has created a similar but different document that lists the federal government social media challenges — perceived or real — and some possible solutions. You can see that document here. (Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Jason Miller spoke to GSA’s Bev Godwin about this document. You can hear that discussion here.) My challenge to the Federal Web Managers Council is that they often kicked the ball further down the field, recommending that there needs to be policy developed to solve some of these problems. We all certainly agree that there are new policies necessary in many cases, but my recommendation would be to offer short term solutions — what can agencies actually do — today — to resolve those challenges. The longer term policy development can still go on, but there is so much to be learned by doing, and I get concerned that agencies will avoid ‘doing’ because of the policy limbo. That being said, the Federal Web Managers Council deserves a whole heap of credit for this marvelous document. It is an excellent and very valuable document and they deserve credit for pulling it together.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Navy’s Web 2.0 policy — the first in government. You can read that policy here.

My other challenge is that I hope we can actually collaborate on these challenges. Too often, people operate behind closed doors. What better way to demonstrate the power and agility of collaboration?

Written by cdorobek

January 28, 2009 at 11:30 PM

4 Responses

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  1. Another good summary of what’s going on in this arena, Chris. Thanks!

    Your challenge to the Federal Web Mgrs Council is a good one, and one example of us meeting it is that many of us are working with various sites to get special terms of service. For example, at EPA, we’re talking, or preparing to talk, to 6 sites I can think of off the top of my head.

    And many agencies are doing a lot that simply doesn’t get much press, like the widgets usa.gov is now linking to (shameless plug: see EPA’s at http://www.epa.gov/widgets).

    Another example is the parallel process Marcus and Molly kicked off.

    So I guess one lesson is: don’t assume that what you know is the only thing happening (which is good advice on pretty much anything, right?).

    As always, your article serve to shed light on important things going on in our gov’t world, so many thanks again.

    Jeffrey Levy
    Director of Web Communications
    US EPA

    Jeffrey Levy

    January 29, 2009 at 12:27 AM

  2. […] Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris talking about some of the collaborative guidance that they are pulling together. (Hear that conversation […]

  3. […] the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project, and specifically its guidance on legal and policy issues… and the Federal Web Managers Forum’s guidance as well… and I will undoubtedly […]

  4. […] NAPA’s Collaboration Project helps with government 2.0 policy and legal issues — highlighting th… […]


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