How Can U.S. Federal Agencies Use Social Media to Enhance Civic Participation?


Anna York and I have spent the last 6 months working on a report looking at how U.S. Federal Agencies can use social media to enhance civic participation. Our work focuses more on the civic participation side than the web 2.0 side, and we hope that this report will help agencies as they begin to implement their forthcoming Open Government Plans.

We would like to thank Kevin Bennett of the Federal Communication Commission’s Broadband Taskforce, without whose dedication and helpful direction this project would not have been possible.

Our advisors, Professor and Co-Director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Archon Fung
and the Institute of Politics Director, Mayor Bill Purcell were always encouraging and patient throughout this process, and provided helpful feedback during the year. Julie Wilson and Jee Baum were also generous in their assistance as we developed our methodological approach.

We would especially like to thank those practitioners in the field who took the time to speak with us at length about their experiences in online engagement. Several also generously helped us make contact with others – in particular Justin Kerr-Stevens, Steve Ressler, Dominic Campbell and Jeffrey Levy gave us great assistance in this regard.

Finally we are grateful to the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School for providing the financial support for our research.

Our main findings suggest what people tend to support in the field – its not about the technology, its about the systems, agencies, people, and goals behind these projects that count. However, conditions in this field are constantly changing (as they should be!) and this work simply highlights some interesting ideas and frameworks that emerged at a snapshot in time. We hope that it provides a useful framework and look forward to your comments and feedback.

The executive summary and some guidance and implementation tools can be found in the following:

[slideshare id=3650464&doc=socialmediacivicengagementexecsummaryandguidance-100406130124-phpapp01&type=d]

Here is a summary table of all our Findings and Recommendations:

[slideshare id=3650465&doc=socialmediacivicengagementfindingsandrecssummary-100406130219-phpapp02]

Finally, here is the full 86-page report for those who are interested in methodology, literature review, full findings, recommendations in action, our bibliography, and additional appendices:

[slideshare id=3650424&doc=socialmediaandcivicparticipationfinal-100406125922-phpapp02&type=d]

Categories : HKS


  1. Awesome Job! This should get a lot of people thinking more clearly about the opportunities facing us all. Especially, the need for mutual understanding of the people, technology and issues at hand.
    Congratulations on this well researched report.
    Alan W. Silberberg

    you2gov, April 6, 2010
  2. Thanks so much! It is so important to think clearly about all the moving parts in order for this work to be successful. It was a really fun report to work on, and I hope it is useful!

    yasminfodil, April 6, 2010
  3. Wow! Congrats Yasmin and Anna. I am downloading now…I’m sure it’s brilliant, but I’ll let you know specifically after I’ve had a look.

    kristin wolff, April 7, 2010
  4. [...] How Can U.S. Federal Agencies Use Social Media to Enhance Civic Participation? « We the Goverati (tags: participation us federal government gov20 harvard kennedyschool collaboration engagement) [...]

  5. [...] other talk I went to was on Citizen Engagement, and reinforced a lot of the findings I saw in my Master’s Thesis research on social media/civic engagement/federal govt. They also showed The best part was the viewing of Leadership Lessons from a Dancing [...]

  6. Good work getting away from the anecdotal by providing a framework for action.

    Doug Hadden, July 28, 2010
  7. Thank you! We definitely wanted to bring a more rigorous analysis to this work. Hope you found some of our tools useful!

    yasminfodil, July 28, 2010
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