Journal - January 2010 - Konieczka
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IJP2 - Volume 4, Issue 1 - January 2010

Special Symposium Issue "Obama Administration and Public Participation"

Practicing a Participatory Presidency? An Analysis of the Obama Administration’s Open Government Dialogue

Stephen P. Konieczka


Abstract. Early in his presidency, Barack Obama promised the most open and transparent administration in United States history (Obama, 2009). This article assesses that commitment in practice by examining the Obama administration’s “Open Government Dialogue” (OGD), a six-week, online public participation experiment conducted in the summer of 2009. Through the lens of the International Association of Public Participation’s “Core Values of Public Participation,” the author considers the extent to which the design and processes of the OGD reflected the administration’s stated commitment to public participation in government decision making. Based on an analysis of participant contributions during the OGD, and the reflections and critiques among public participation advocates and practitioners outside the formal channels of the OGD, it is concluded the OGD was a poorly designed and facilitated participatory experiment falling far short of the administration’s pronouncements about its commitment to public participation. Although this general conclusion is troubling, that the administration undertook such a large, unmandated participatory experiment, suggests it will continue to engage in public participation experiments. This article proceeds from a position of assistance to the administration and the public in learning from the mistakes and shortcomings of the OGD, as well as its successes. In the final analysis, the administration needs to better translate its expressed support of public participation into concrete practices through a stronger understanding of the purposes and design of public participation. The public, especially participation advocates and practitioners must decide whether to exert pressure on the administration to demonstrate in practice an understanding of public participation in government decision making as a right.

Keywords: Obama, Open Government Dialogue, Core Values of Public Participation, International Association of Public Participation’s, IAP2

Citation: Konieczka, S. P. (2010). Practicing a Participatory Presidency?: An Analysis of the Obama Administration’s Open Government Dialogue. International Journal of Public Participation, 4(1), 43-66.