Reading: What makes a good e-consultation?
According to Cucus and Kusnadi , there are five main types of e-consultations:
- Discussion forums integrated within government websites, where citizens can post their views and questions, and receive feedback from respective authorities. These forums can be both synchronous and asynchronous and are typically moderated. An example of a synchronous forum is the diskussionforen organised by the German Bundestag.
- Online polls that are used to understand citizens generalised opinions on specific public issues. Examples of these are the e-consultations on the portal of the European Union, as well as simpler polls that are often launched through government websites.
- E-petitions, also called e-testimonies, aim to enable citizens, individually or in groups, to file complaints or requests directly to the government. These can be initiated both by citizens and by governments, as in the case of the Petitions-UK Government and Parliament. This service, which is hosted by the official website of 10 Downing Street, the historic home and office of British Prime Ministers, is a good example of e-democracy. All the petitions signed by 200 or more people are answered by the Prime Minister’s Office, but some of the more popular petitions, reaching thousands of signatures, are answered by the Prime Minister in person.
- E-panels are more specific and sophisticated. Through these methods, policy makers recruit and invite samples of citizens to provide and exchange their views via online discussion forums, online surveys, and other means, mixing expert’s opinions with citizens perceptions into the decision making processes.
- Editorial consultations where citizens and civil society representatives are invited to comment on policy initiatives. These usually take place through moderated on-line discussions followed by consensus-based redefinition of specific policy documents.
But what makes a good e-consultation? Based on the work of the International Association for Public Participation, the core values that these activities should promote are:
- The involvement in the decision-making process of those who are affected by a decision;
- The presence of input from participants in designing how they participate;
- Participants should be provided with all the information they need to contribute meaningfully;
- The interests of all participants, including decision makers, should be recognizable and communicated;
- Public's contribution to influence the decision should be enabled;
- It should be communicated to participants how their input will affect the policy decision.
The Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process of the Council of Europe has also elaborated some important principles that should be considered for civil participation: participation, collecting and channelling views of concerned citizens to shape the political decision-making process; trust, as honest interaction between actors and sectors; accountability and transparency at all stages, from both NGOs and public authorities; and independence of intermediaries.
 Cucus, A., & Kusnadi, E. (2013, August). The Developing Of e-Consultations For Effectiveness of Mentoring Academy. In International Conference on Engineering and Technology Development (ICETD).