Because it’s not how to build community, it’s how you build your community.

Every agency, office, and department is unique, each with a specific mission, culture, and constituency. If you want to make the most of what you have, you have to understand and leverage these fundamentals. Yep yep, we can help with that.

9 November 2010

Your Input, Our Future. Projects.

This could also be titled, “How do we get there?”

In the first two installments of planning for the next five years, I asked you to Dream Big about the future of citizen engagement, and then to suggest Tangible accomplishments that will bring that future to fruition.

Now it’s time to talk about the specific projects that we need to work on today.


So what do you think?

  • Software? What does it do?
  • Events? To what end?
  • Education? Who are we educating? What are we teaching them? How are we doing it?

Help us answer these questions and this coming Saturday we will use your input to help determine what we’re focusing on for the next five years.

Thank you!

3 November 2010

Your Input, Our Future. Tangibles.

In the last installment of ‘Your Input, Our Future,’ I asked you to Dream Big about your idyllic vision of the future of citizen engagement. In this post, I’d like to ask you to think how we make these visions a reality.

There were several competing visions proposed, so please feel free to choose the one you like the most (or propose your own) as you answer this next question:


What do we need to accomplish in five years to be well on the road towards significantly better citizen engagement? Here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Solid technological infrastructure that enables easy communication between citizens and elected officials in ways that are meaningful and useful to everyone involved.
  • Internal government cultures that support meaningful engagement with and responsiveness to citizens.
  • The early stages of a rise of a global government norm to utilize technology that gives their citizens easy access to information and communication technologies.

I know that there are many more out there: what are they?

All of your comments will be part of developing the Open Forum Foundation’s five year plan beginning on November 13th.

26 October 2010

Your Input, Our Future. Dream Big!

We just turned two on October 17th and it’s time to look to the future and set our sights by establishing a five year plan. What better way to model our own assertions than by reaching out to the public for guidance? [That means you!]

This post is the first in a series exploring the Open Forum Foundation’s future, present, and past – all within the context of how we should move forward from here. Each post is designed to present a different aspect of who we are, and to elicit conversation about how this can be leveraged as we think about the future of the organization.

On November 13, your input will be used at our annual board of director’s meeting to determine the future of the Open Forum Foundation.

Dream Big

In this first post, I’d like to encourage you to dream big about the relationship between citizens and governments. The bigger, the better!! What is the coolest thing you can imagine? If you were writing a Utopian novel, what would that relationship look like for you? In the best science fiction you’ve ever read, how do the government and citizens relate to one another? Once society has solved all of its problems (I said Dream Big!), how will it work?

I’ve written a couple to get you thinking:

  • Every citizen on the planet deserves a voice in the decisions that impact their life, work, and family. Technology can enable this by connecting citizens not only to their government officials, but also to each other and to the citizens of other countries. This web of interconnectivity will work to empower citizens and ensure that the governments of the world work to protect and improve the lives of their people.
  • In an ideal world, every citizen would have a say in every governmental decision that they have an interest in. This is not to say that they would get to make the decision, but simply that good ideas would always rise to the top, and policies would always fairly balance the needs of the few with the desires of the many.

Come on!! Give us something good!

Part 2 of this series is Tangibles.

25 October 2010

Happy hour and workshop.

We’re running two events over the next month that are focused primarily on the Congressional space:

1. Citizen Engagement Happy Hour
Tomorrow, Oct 26 at Dupont Circle, DC
These will be happening monthly, so if you miss this one – don’t worry too much!

2. Workshop: Online Constituent Identity
Nov 12, Washington, DC

  • Uniting the identity and citizen engagement software communities
  • Creating sustainable online constituent identity solutions that serve the needs of citizens, advocacy groups, and elected representatives.

This is kind of a big deal! It’s gonna be cool.
Here’s the link for full details: – early registration discounts expire 10/29.

If you haven’t yet, you really should check out the Open Model for Citizen Engagement website at Yeah, we’re doing that also.

16 September 2010

Transparency is Dead. Long Live Transparency.

I’ve been writing a post about Transparency (and why it’s not enough) for sometime, but could never quite complete it until Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation provided the impetus recently.

I put it up at GovFresh, because it seemed a better venue for discussion of the concepts therein. Have a look if you’re interested: Transparency is Dead. Long Live Transparency.

1 March 2010

Week 98 Update

Oh come on! We all knew that I couldn’t consistently maintain a weekly blog post. That day will come, but I’m not there yet – and it’s been a really crazy month! More about that below:

  1. Gov20LA Every event I attend, I gain a new perspective on the constantly changing industry I work in (Gov2.0, OpenGov, Citizen Engagement – to mention a few names for it). Gov20LA was great for me for several reasons: 1. Networking – zowie! 2. Getting an outside the beltway view of what we’re all doing here – incredibly valuable. And 3. Amazing food. No seriously – DC has got nothing on LA – and for anyone that followed my tweetstream (@wmburke) during that time, you know what I’m talking about.
  2. Industry Focus The focus in this industry has been on ‘technology in government’ and is changing/ needs to change to ‘citizen-centric government’ (or perhaps ‘citizen participation’ or some other term that captures the idea even better).
  3. My Role My background is in ‘things’ – engineering, product design, manufacturing, etc. but what I’m being asked to do by others all relates to ‘people’. I’ve been struggling with this adjustment, but it feels right. My role is to bring people together, to educate and inform, to connect, to facilitate the creation of things that I alone would not be able to accomplish.
  4. ParticipationCamp is coming together, transformed and reborn from last year’s eDemocracyCamp. April 17th and 18th, right before POLC, with a focus on ‘advancing public participation in government by connecting government managers and staff, public engagement experts, online tool developers, and citizens’.
  5. Workshop: Creating GREAT Citizen Engagement Software is up and taking registrations at This is our first event that we are charging real money for and it’s coming together fabulously. It’s target audience is developers, and the goal is to really boost their ability to build great software in this market and work together to connect citizens to their representatives. Have a look and spread the word.
  6. HillCamp This is a little side project I’ve been working on for some time that is finally starting to come together. The idea is to have a staffers only unconference on Capital Hill to discuss use of social media for citizen engagement. After all, the staffers are the only experts in the sense of on-the-ground experience working within their unique situation. This could really boost comprehension and use of these tools within Congressional offices.

Alright, enough from me for this week (month). When I write it out all short like that, it doesn’t look like nearly as much as it felt like going through it. Nonetheless, I think we’re poised to have a GREAT month.

1 February 2010

Week 94 Update

January 25 – 31 went like this – lots of meetings, not as much actual work as I would have liked. The good news is there’s still time to get it done. The bad news is that means there’s more to do in the time that’s left.

  • The fabulous Kelli Shewmaker (co-organizer of Social Justice Camp) has agreed to help develop our volunteer coordination system. The goal is to make it easy for anyone interested in the future of government to get involved in making it better.
  • Art Bushkin joined our Advisory Board this week. Art has been around the Internet (or its predecessors) for more than 40 years and honored me by saying, “I meet hundreds, even thousands of people, but there’s a reason I’m sitting here with you.”
  • Preparing to launch a fundraising campaign focused on engaging 2,010 donors in 2010.
  • Working on several upcoming events that will be announced when they are ready!
  • Met with Britt Blaser to discuss the great work he’s doing with iVote4U. Is this the future of citizen to government communication?
  • Jim Gilliam made some minor tweaks on GovLuv that should improve its performance and stop those pesky error pages – we’ll see. They’ve been difficult to track down!
  • Discussed GovLuv with Karina Newton, Director of New Media for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office. She likes it! It’s easy to see why she is where she is – she’s intelligent, personable, quick-witted, and on top of her game. Impressive.
  • Met with Daniel Bennett of the e-Citizen Foundation during our (new, but planned to be regular) Open Gov @ Open City meetup. They’re working on some great stuff and we discussed ways that we could work together to accomplish even more.
  • Had my first discussion with Billy Grundfest (Hollywood writer – Mad About You, etc…) – he and I will be working together to manage the Language of Gov2.0 track at Gov20LA this coming weekend. He’s so much fun and quick to grasp ideas – it’s going to be an amazing weekend!

25 January 2010

Week 93 Update

I’m excited about these short weekly updates. The goal is to provide some real insight into what’s going at the Open Forum Foundation as a starting point to building awareness of the value of the work that we’re doing and engaging more people in it!

January 18 – 24 was a busy week.

  • Started off the week by meeting with Lucas Cioffi to discuss how the Open Government Directive Workshop had gone and to open a new idea, which is the next item.
  • Submitted to the eDemocracyCamp planning team that we should change its focus to that of bringing together the dialogue and deliberation community (eg, NCDD), developers working in the citizen engagement space, and government employees and staffers (credit where credit is due: Kaliya Hamlin originated this idea).
  • I re-organized myself with a GTD tool called
  • Connected with VoteSmart about updating information that we find wrong when working with GovLuv (for those unfamiliar, VoteSmart provides the back-end database of elected officials that we use for GovLuv).
  • Met with the ED and staff of the Republican Study Committee to show them GovLuv – they were very impresssed and are excited to pass it on to their 130 or so members of the House of Representatives.
  • I spoke with Britt Blaser on Friday. He is working on a citizen engagement platform called IVote4U that comes complete with a Facebook app. Doing some very exciting work!
  • Gong Szeto, thinker extraordinaire, and I had a great conversation about the future of the citizen engagement space during which he gave me a brilliant idea for a conference that we could facilitate. More on that as the details come into focus.
  • Finally, we ended the week with a fundraising meeting between myself, Meagen, and Dave. 2010 is about monetary sustainability and we’re taking it seriously.

I’m also considering doing these as short videos, although I haven’t gotten it all together yet. Let’s see if this tiny note provides any impetus for figuring that out…

21 January 2010

Week 92 Update

I’m reviving the Weekly updates that were short-lived so many weeks ago now! I’m sure nothing interesting has happened in the last 62 weeks however – ha!!

Anyway, here’s the brief of what happened the week of January 11 – 17:

  • Personally, I’m feeling better – Yay!! I’ve been sick since New Year’s Eve.
  • I attended the Open Government Directive (OGD) Workshop on Monday. This was a free event put together by Lucas Cioffi to give federal agency employees help and support in implementing the OGD on its tight timelines. It was well done and  seemed productive for the majority of attendees.
  • Tuesday I met with Kaliya Hamlin (, who was in town from San Francisco to facilitate the OGD Workshop (she also facilitated CongressCamp back in September). We discussed may things, including how to run unconferences and the need for one specifically focused on bringing together the dialogue & deliberation community, the techies working in the citizen engagement space, and government employees.
  • I sent a rough draft of a budget to Board members Nisma (Secretary) and Patrick (Treasurer) to review.
  • Board President Dave, Meagen (fundraising committee chair), and I had 2 fundraising meetings this week. 2010 is the year of monetary sustainability for Open4m. We have some exciting things coming together, but I’ll save the details for the official announcements!
  • Friday night I got the opportunity to facilitate an unconference on Saturday – Social Justice Camp was a rousing success ( and allowed me to practice my Open Space Technology skills (the process behind most unconferences). This was an important opportunity for me as I anticipate we will be running many more unconferences in the future.

Onwards and Upwards,

20 January 2010

We’re official!!

That’s right. We received a letter in a fat little envelope from the Internal Revenue Service last Friday saying:

“We are pleased to inform you that upon review of your application for tax exempt status we have determined that you are exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code… “

I think the fun part of it is that while we ARE exempt under section 501(c)(3), our Public Charity Status is:

  • 509(a)(1) & 170(b)(1)(A)(vi)

That pretty much rocks, huh? As in:

“Are you a 501c3?”

“We are exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, but we are actually a 509(a)(1) & 170(b)(1)(A)(vi).”

Do you think that’s said 170-B-1-A-V-I or 170-B-1-A-6? I don’t know, but I’m going to try to work it into conversation – we’ll see how that goes!

Here’s the actual letter if you want to read it and here’s a link to all of our legal documents with full details.

Now you know what that means! We can finally start a full-blown fund drive. They’ll be more about that in the next couple of days, but if you want to get a jump start on making us sustainable and donate today, please do.