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The Prize Policy

January 6, 2010

During the festivities, you may have missed out on the news that the Tories will, if they get elected, offer a £1 million prize to anyone that comes up with a suitably functioning website to engage the public in policy making.

I have mixed feelings on the idea. On one side, I do think it would be interesting to see how larger groups of people can be involved in devising policy. I am a big advocate of ways of getting ideas in the public arena; projects such as Social Innovation Camp and the Global Ideas Bank are great examples of this. I also think it would be interesting to see how this would work when it is plugged straight into government rather than through civil society expressed online.

However, if I am being more cynical, it seems like an awful lot of money for the job and therefore risks becoming a project led solely by developers and techies who are driven by technological innovation, rather than something that is more simple that people will use.

There are of course already lots of ways in which the general public can be engaged in conversation about public policy already, but these have yet to be properly tested by policy makers. Surely these should be properly explored first? Alongside existing social networks and forum, there have been some examples of dedicated websites of public agencies to gather ideas from citizens, including change.gov and manorlabs.org from America.

The £1m trick is still an idea and we’ll wait to see if it comes to fruition. If it does, I can’t wait to see what attempts are made to try to tackle the issue of quality online deliberation. Voting on ideas is easy, how you iron out the details of policy through online discussion is much more tricky.

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