Crowdsourcing Pennsylvania

Last week, in coordination with three of my colleagues, I launched a new social media experiment: Crowdsourcing Pennsylvania. The idea has been an interesting experiment so far, and I’m curious to see how it winds up working out. In a nutshell, we are seeking to leverage the wisdom of the crowd to generate ideas in a specific policy area.

I got the idea from California Representative Mike Gatto, who is engaged in crowdsourcing a highly technical issue: probate law. Using a Wikipedia like platform, Gatto and a limited number of participants are working on improving probate law. I think this is a highly commendable idea and I’m a big fan of what he is doing, but I saw one major problem with it in terms of using the idea from a public involvement perspective: it’s too technical and the participants are too limited. I wanted to use a broader subject, stay less technical and involve more people.

The result was a Facebook group on urban problems in Pennsylvania. It’s an area that most people can comprehend, and using a Facebook group allows for a structured conversation, moderation (if necessary) and mass participation.

Here’s the plan going forward:

  • Phase One — Solicit input on three or four general areas of concern for most or all urban areas across Pennsylvania.
  • Phase Two — Using the most agreed-upon topics, start to develop specific solutions for each area of concern.
  • Phase Three — Present drafted bills to the group and request input and suggestions for improvement.

Thus far, the most discussed topic is one I am a big fan of – governmental regionalization, consolidation and shared services.  An interesting thread on blight just popped up as well.  I hope we can find some specifics in these areas.  To further develop the conversation, I may try to start a thread on each of the areas mentioned.  I’m also hoping we can get more people to participate, but I will say that the group has been growing and we are at ninety members today.

Any thoughts on the group or how to make it more successful?  Let us know in the comments!

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