ChangeCamp: Pulling people and creativity out of the public policy long tail

ChangeCamp is a free participatory web-enabled face-to-face event that brings together citizens, technologists, designers, academics, policy wonks, political players, change-makers and government employees to answer one question: How do we re-imagine government and governance in the age of participation?

What is ChangeCamp? It is the application of “the long tail” to public policy.

It is a long held and false assumption that ordinary citizens don’t care about public policy. The statement isn’t, in of itself, false. Many, many, many people truly don’t care that much. They want to live their lives focusing on other things – pursuing other hobbies or interests – but there are many of us who do care. Public policy geeks, fans, followers, advocates, etc… we are everywhere, we’ve just been hidden in a long tail that saw the market place and capacity for developing and delivering public policy restricted to a few large institutions. The single most important lesson I learnt from my time with Canada25 is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Did Canada25 get a new generation of Canadians, aged 20-35 engaged in public policy? I don’t know.

What I do know is, that at the very minimum, we harnessed and enormous, dispersed desire of many Canadians to participate in, and help shape, the public policy debates affecting the country. Most importantly, we did this by doing three things:

  1. we aggregated together the people who cared about public policy, we gave them peers, friends and a sense of community.
  2. we provided a vehicle through which to channel their energy
  3. by combining 1 and 2, and by using simple technology and a low cost approach – we dramatically lowered the barriers (and csots) to entry for credible participating in these national debates

Today, the technology to enable and aggregate people their ideas, to connect them with peers and to create community, is still more powerful. Our capacity to challenge, push, help, cooperate, leverage and compete with the large institutional public policy actors has never been greater. This, for me, is the goal of ChangeCamp. What concrete tools can we build, what information can we demand be opened up, what new relationships can we build to re-imagine how we – the citizens who care – participate in the creation of public policy and the effective delivery of public services. Not to compete or replace the traditional institutional actors, but to ensure more and better ideas are heard and increasingly effective and efficient services are created.

Long tail of public policy

Individually, none of us may have the collective power of a government ministry or even the resources of most think tanks. But collectively, linked together by technology and powered by our energy and spare capital, the long tail of policy geeks and ordinary citizens is bigger, nimbler, more creative and faster than anything else. Do I know that the long tail of policy can be set free? No. But ChangeCamp seems like a fun place to start experimenting, brainstorming and sharing ways we can make this country better.

16 thoughts on “ChangeCamp: Pulling people and creativity out of the public policy long tail

  1. Jim R.

    I use to be a strong supporter of Israel. After 1 week of authentic research, seeing what happenned in Gaza, and finally, after watching talks given by respected scholars: Norman Finklstein, Jack Berstein, Benjamin Freedman and numerous others; I have seen their true face. There are millions just like me. We were duped by the mainstream media and we were so ignorant. Shame on us. Trying to justify the murder of children in an open-air-prison [Gaza] after Nov. 4 instigation by Israel. According to Israeli souces, 79% of truces are broken by terrorist state Israel. Only one tiny fact out of thousands! It cost a lot of [childrens] lives but now, at least, we see these devils for who they truly are. You disgusting animals, change is coming.

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  3. Cimmetry

    Thanks for this post. I have recently been trying to get my head around changecamp, and I appreciate the context that you have provided here. Any thoughts on approaches to getting involved for a newbie?

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  6. Dave Macdonald

    This post explains a lot of what I felt from the VanChangeCamp meeting last week. There's something contagious about the energy that comes with community and engagement. There's innate feeling of inclusion while being involved with our communities and their organizational structures for folks like us – ChangeCamp seems to be giving us a way to be involved in a way that's consistent with our era. Embracing the long tail perspective now seems to make a lot of sense. Thanks for this, David.

  7. homemade solar energy

    Changecamp actually outlines a good mind frame in understanding and implementing policy at the individual level. i wonder how much awareness campaigns and public eductation can borrow from this model

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