Focus Forums

Custom-designed events that target a specific issue for an agency or organization, draw on outside expertise, and share the results so others may benefit. These events can be private and invite-only or push the limits of openness, engaging remote participants in new and innovative ways.

Focus Forums are the next iteration of the popular OpenGov Community Summit series, moving beyond abstract discussion of Open Government to:

  • focus on real issues that agencies are dealing with,
  • aggregate the collective wisdom of the individuals working to implement Open Government across multiple agencies, and
  • prepare a written guide that captures this knowledge in a meaningful way.

Each event is hosted by a government agency and custom-tailored to their unique needs. Our process includes:

  • helping to determine appropriate goals for the event,
  • designing a unique format to meet those goals,
  • training agency employees to help facilitate a better event,
  • follow-up meetings to ensure success,
  • preparation and management of the creation of the guide.

One of the things that differentiates these events from your average conference is the multiple levels at which they operate. On the surface, the event is designed to accomplish specific goals, and they do so more effectively than most. This is due to the fact that we are simultaneously utilizing open government principles in our design and planning processes.

By engaging in the creation of the event, agencies are practicing the principles that they are trying to implement. Our training sessions and the event itself further this experience by:

  • engaging more people from the agency than just the Open Government office,
  • reaching deeper into other agencies by utilizing the focus of the event to reach beyond the OpenGov crowd,
  • involving agency employees in the facilitation of the event,
  • creating an event that gives attendees a positive experience of the benefits of collaboration.

Put another way, Focus Forums don’t just convey information or accomplish goals. They empower the participants to explore the subject from their personal perspective. By doing so, everyone who attends become responsible for gaining something from the event., as well as for the overall success of the event itself.

The secret to this is establishing a solid and easily understood structure that is unexpected. This allows the participants to operate comfortably, while also breaking the normal order of things. The small amount of chaos that ensues creates opportunity for conversations, realizations, and discoveries that wouldn’t happen otherwise.

The first Focus Forum was hosted by the Office of Personnel Management on February 18th, 2011, titled ‘Owning Transparency: People, Processes, and Technology.’ We expect to have the Guide prepared and publicly available by the end of April.

We have several more lined up, but are not able to announce the details until each agency is ready to publicly announce it themselves.

If you’re interested in hosting one at your agency, please contact Wayne.

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