Salsa Scoop> tag: ”blog.communications“

An open model for the future of citizen engagement

by Wayne Moses Burke

I was lucky enough to speak at the Salsa Labs Community Conference with Anne Dougherty from Clean Water Action and Alan Rosenblatt from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The title of the panel was "Ready, Set, Action! Translate Online Actions into Offline Results".

Each of us presented a very different perspective on this topic. I discussed the future of citizen engagement and how to get involved in bringing it to fruition. Alan presented his impressive social media strategy for creating offline results, and Anne presented ways to use Salsa to enhance the effectiveness of online campaigns.

Below is a brief overview of my presentation:

The Problem

Today, the communication channel between citizens and their elected officials is circuitous, complex, and primarily only runs in one direction at a time. It's rare to receive any sort of meaningful response to a message or to see a connection between the messages that are sent and the actions that an official takes.

Now, this is not always true, but it is more the norm than the exception.

The Reason

While we tend to glorify technology as a provider of solutions, it also has the capacity to create problems. A large part of the reason for the disconnect between citizens and elected officials is the volume of messages that emails and other electronic communications have enabled. This deluge is simply overwhelming for offices on the Hill.

What to do?

If technology created the problem, doesn't it make sense that technology can solve it?

While that's a good start, it's not enough. There have been a lot of smart people working on this for over a decade and still the problem seems to worsen as easier and easier ways of communication become available, eg. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Sometimes technology requires more than just clever implementation - it also requires an actual paradigm shift in the expectations of the users.

How do we do that?


I'm working with a core group of developers and vendors of citizen engagement software to build a community that will define and implement this new paradigm. The founding members include Salsa Labs, two vendors that sell to Congressional offices, a nonprofit, and several small start-ups.

These are the people that are building citizen engagement software today and they all understand that any legitimate solution needs the input of its proposed users. That means you.

Please check out the Open Model for Citizen Engagement at You'll see that we have begun to lay the foundations for the future, including:

  • documents that describe
    • Problems with the Current System
    • Goals for the New Paradigm
    • Guiding Principles to get there
    • Standards that need to be implemented
  • working groups and discussions that you can participate in, including
    • Writing working group to clarify the issues and what to do about them
    • Map working group to create visual representations
    • Implementation working group to create standards

Your input is needed. Please join us and contribute your unique perspective.