Get our free book (in Spanish or English) on rainwater now - To Catch the Rain.
Open involvement is proposed as a style or standard of community involvement, with the idea of a similar relationship to that between open source and software.
It is intended to be of relevance to two main situations, involvement of ordinary citizens and community groups with
- government - at any level
- civil society - any group, network or organisation
Civil society groups treating others as they would wish to be treated themselves
The more any civil society group pracitices open involvement, the more moral authority it has to advocate similar involvement with government.
Open involvement should include
"The challenge for public services is how to enlist users as co-producers and co-designers ...." Charles Leadbeater
The design stage of any project, program or process should be open to involvement. Design needs to be open as well as detail. Design here includes scope, remit, terms of reference and context.
Open to all
"We're going to look at every place that a reader or a listener or a viewer or a user has been locked out, has been served up passive or a fixed or a canned experience, and ask ourselves, "If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?" And I'm betting the answer is yes." Clay Shirky at a Web 2.0 conference, April 23, 2008.
Open to all in line with resources. If resources are used, for example to publicise a process, they should not be used in ways which unfairly discriminate against any stakeholders, including ordinary citizens or community groups, or in ways which favour only a few. 
Open involvement recognises that citizens interests are not one-dimensional in respect of
- place - citizens belong to a variety of different communities, for example via residence, and other purposes such as work and leisure
- time - citizens may become active in response to a particular threat to their communities, but it is clear some issues are long term and are helped by the opportunity for continuous dialogue. For example climate change is an issue which is not going to go away.
- topic - citizens are increasingly aware of interdependence. Enlightened government programmes such as Local Agenda 21 stimulate such awareness. In government rhetoric: "Joined up problems need joined up solutions"
- context - citizens are increasingly aware of context. Restricting involvement in wider or so-called strategic issues looks undemocratic. Through a variety of roles, citizens, especially when the wisdom of crowds is realised, can see issues from a variety of perspectives and approach consensus even on more contentious issues.
Active citizenry, especially when the wisdom of crowds is realised, will not be content to be treated as an inferior partner in respect of information and skills.
Open involvement avoids being tokenistic. Instead it is genuinely and extensively influential. To be seen to be influential an involvement process must contain evidence of influence.
To be transparently valued all substantive points must either have some sort of permanence within a co-created document or a reply which evidences their influence or it is transparent why the points have not been influential. What constitutes a substantive point is a matter for consensus.
As a matter of course all involvement via electronic recording is permanently open, valued and so properly and helpfully organised. Involvement via electronic recording is encouraged and supported as the norm rather than the exception. Atribution may tend to be open, but anonymous involvement is not precluded.
Rather than measures of success being foisted upon the community, or worse still simply being ignored, open invovlement gives a primary role to the community in judging how successful a project or programme has been.
Content available for reuse
- All content, including any design process, is freely available for reuse, via some sort of copyleft type license (to ensure that content remains free for reuse).
- Open involvement will tend create opportunities for ongoing relationships. Some situations, for example involvement between civil society and government about climate change, are likely to be best if there is sufficient openness for continuous dialogue
- Citizen to citizen communication is the norm rather than the exception
- Transparency, comprehensiveness and permanance of the electronic record encourages responsibilty over contributions, for example enabling the wisdom of crowds to counteract control freakery from wherever it might come
- where meetings or gatherings are invovled and there are calls for an agenda, the agenda specifically is open to be influenced by all
- this wiki!
- (note needed on misuse of stakeholder involvement processes)