Agenda setting or core question?

“Open Government-Collaborative Meeting”, as a type of policy discussion for citizen participation, has a similar but not the same idea as a regular deliberative meetings, called “finding the core questions.”

This link may be called “agenda setting” in the design of civic participation or deliberative processes. “Double Diamond”, also known as “confirmation problem definition”, is explained by PDIS as a feature of collaboration meeting: starting from the concept of service design, hoping that participants can try to use “How Might We?” Thinking as a question or challenge and start a discussion.

No matter what these details are called, the things they are doing are actually very similar, hoping to allow participants to discuss under a focused problem awareness.

In the reading of the Guide to Deliberative Democracy, when collating the differences between various review forums, Mr. Lin Guoming mentioned that the “agenda setting” is oriented towards: “some review modes, such as citizen consensus at the conference, the participants can set the discussion topics themselves, let the participants identify the problem and find solutions; some can only discuss the topics provided by the organizer such as a citizen jury, or from a set options to express opinions such as deliberative polls. “

From this we can see that the agenda is set up with the two ideals of “open up for the common development of the people” and “the organizers have set up in advance”, and collaborative meetings can hardly be classified as either. The reason is that most of the launch of the collaborative meeting comes from the public’s proposal, that is, from the “idea” of the National Development Association’s public policy network participation platform (Join platform). The current mechanism, in addition to the ministry’s own proposals, is usually the National Development Council that first counts the proposals that have reached the threshold for joint signing, and then enters the monthly meeting of the PO (Participation Officer, Open Government Contact Person) to vote and select the topics for the collaborative meeting. The authority responsible for this issue will be the host of the collaborative meeting.

Is it for the “Public” or “Government” to decide?

Since the source of the proposal originates from the people, the general direction of the issue is of course highly related to the content of the proposal, but the proposal comes from the people. The executive organs of the meeting are held.

In fact, according to the design process of the “Double Diamond” mentioned above, in the first half of a collaborative meeting, a divergent issue inventory will usually be performed first, and then the “core questions” defined by participants expect will be summarized. So ideally, this process is at the scene of the collaboration meeting, which was jointly formulated by government agencies and the participating people, such as Case 4 of the collaboration meeting: “Promote the concept of universal driving, improve the quality of the driving environment of the entire public, and lift the slow lane of the embargo machine. “Release the forced two-step left turn”, on the day of the meeting, through the brainstorming of the participants, the major issues of the proposal were condensed, such as: the proportion of driving safety and traffic smoothness, because the two-step pending transition was unclear or sub-topics such as poor design, and extended discussions on the basis of consensus.

However, there are also many collaborative meetings that emphasized the “find the core questions” during the preparatory period, and adjusted the agenda before the formal meeting. Taking the collaborative conference in the second half of 2019 as an example, the so-called “issue setting” link, or the process of “finding the core questions”, actually takes place in more advanced preparation processes, such as the “work conference” and the “pre-conference meetings”. These preparatory processes have public verbatim records that present the context of discussions at the conference site. From the many records, the most important process of the pre-conference meeting of the collaborative meeting is the PDIS team and the main co-organizer confirm the “core questions” discussed on the day of the collaborative meeting. And usually the title of a public proposal is not the same as the “core question.”

Pulling the setting of “core questions” from the conference to the early stages of preparations seems to reflect that the organizer has “the power to set the agenda” before the conference. Why would such intervention be needed? Although the ideal of a collaborative meeting is to follow the shape of “Double Diamond”, it is actually difficult to condense all the links in one and a half days. As a result, the collaborative meeting developed links such as “ex-ante interviews” and “writing topic manuals”. First, the work of the first Diamond should be completed as much as possible, which is equivalent to using mental maps to try to face various issues and issues as much as possible. Inventory is complete. I hope that at the conference site, we can focus on “core questions” for discussion under the situation of information synchronization and confirmation of disputes.

My core question is not your core question

Based on my limited observations at the moment, the on-site discussions are not always in the direction of the “core questions” expected by the PDIS team and the organizer, and the participant may still emphasize the points he originally intended. However, the tool list designed with the core questions and chaired by the small table leader during the group discussions can indeed make the scope and focus of the discussions more biased toward the “core questions” expected by the organizer. There are good and bad ways to do this, and what to do depends on the positioning of the collaborative meeting.

No matter where the core questions are formulated, there may be situations where “my core is not your core”. For example, the proposal on the Join platform in 2018 (Collaborative Meeting No. 38): “Revised the implementation of the memorial day and festival in Article 5, section 2 and paragraph 4, adding paragraph 5 that police, firefighters in during the collaborative meeting of the Police Festival and Fire Festival, we issued the direction of “regression problems and analysis from the causes of overwork”. Although we can claim that this is the “core of the problem”, we should extensively check and find out a “fundamental” solution, but the proponent believes that “the conference should not discuss the issue of overwork, but should focus on the feasibility of a day off as a tangible benefit for the frontline police.”, which shows that he still hopes that his proposed solution is the focus of this focused discussion.

Core questions are not rigid

Some collaboration issues seem to be “core questions” have been “set” first, but at the scene of the collaboration meeting, members of the PDIS team will play the role of hosting and recording during the meeting. The core questions will also be adjusted in real time depending on the state of mind map inventory and the content of live speeches. Before the collaborative meeting was held, the ministry also conducted interviews and data collection based on the problem awareness of the proposal, and the original title of the proposal was used as the name of the meeting at the scene and live broadcast of the collaborative meeting.

On the day of the collaboration meeting, before the discussion begins, the step will arrange the first report of the sponsor to remind all participants of the starting point of the collaboration meeting. The “core questions” set through the collection and consolidation of data in advance are the driving force that the organizers hope to guide, but not every case can be carried out at the scene as expected. Trying to balance the “core questions” that different stakeholders care about is the hardest and most important task for the host team.

Meaning of civil participation

Not only does the case 38 of the above-mentioned collaboration meeting have a process of “pulling back higher-level structural problems, taking a broader inventory, and finding out the core of the problem based on factual information,” many cases of holding collaboration meetings have opinions or solutions from the public, going back to the higher structure system to explore the retrospective process of core questions.

From the perspective of the people, it seems that the government has not directly responded to their need. However, from the perspective of the administrative departments, “civic participation” does not mean that the administrative departments must accept 100% of the public’s suggestions. After all, the 5,000 people attached to the Join platform proposal do not necessarily agree with every point of the proposal, only the problems and dilemmas behind it. If a collaborative conference can truly become a routine and normal operation mechanism, and encourage more administrative agencies to take the initiative to organize a conference of convening multiple stakeholders and promoting communication and dialog, the importance of taking into account the position and opinions of the host and co-organizer when setting agendas are greatly enhanced. Moreover, the administrative departments related to the issue are equivalent to the stakeholders.

The PDIS team encourages administrative agencies to first disclose the feasible solution scope of the policy. In this way, they have a better chance to deal with the issue and achieve the desired effect of the public. As the administrative agencies and the public have different positions, understandings, and familiarity with policies, it is necessary to find a pragmatic agenda direction that is taken into account by all parties. Because if the proposal is too far away from reality, or if it is implemented only in accordance with the literal recommendations of the public, it may face short-term obstacles and difficulties, and the scope of the solution will not significantly improve the issue itself.

In summary, the PDIS team implements the “open government” business. In the implementation process of the open government, it must pay attention to the original intention of the people’s proposal. In addition to playing a more neutral role (relative to the main ministry) in the presiding process, it must also from the perspective of the executive, the public sector is convinced that “citizen participation” is not so far away from them, and “cooperative meetings” are a dialog platform for mutual understanding, rather than a role that is only one-sided and passively accepting needs.

Breaking away from the dichotomy between the public and the government of the proposal, if it is expected that the discussion results of the collaborative meeting can become the direction of policy participation, the alignment of internal positions of the agency and the scope of the solution are inherently necessary. Many constructive opinions and solutions are the effects that collaborative meetings trying to promote.

From the proposal of the people, the space for discussion was started, and then the administrative organs thought about the setting of a meeting, until the on-site opinions were run in. This cross-sectoral process that enabled participants to “discover” together an unsatisfactory but acceptable solution is, to me, one of the most interesting and unique aspects of PDIS “collaborative meetings” that sets it apart from other “citizen participation” or “deliberative meetings”.