Obama's Policy Changes Now Open for Discussion

New policies announced by the incoming Obama administration highlight how social technology will be used to shape policy making. While Obama’s administration is clearly playing it safe when it comes to appointee online participation, for fear of embarrassing the new President-elect, it doesn’t mean that Obama doesn’t support leveraging the online medium for connecting with the people.

According to CNet, Obama’s transition team will be posting policy documents from official meetings with outside organizations publicly on the team’s site Change.gov. The site itself is intended to be a transitional website, aimed at forming a conduit for ongoing discussions between the administration and the people. So in a way, Change.gov becomes a socially-driven forum for conversing about policies and related questions and concerns having to do with the organizations meeting with the Obama administration.

To that end, visitors will be able to download PDF versions of he documents, or upload their own materials to the transition team for review purposes, under the section called Your Seat at the Table. Comments are also encouraged–just visiting the Change.gov website makes it quite evident that Obama’s transition team is still interested in hearing from individuals that would like to contribute to the site.

What makes this stance different from previous President-elect transition teams is that the meetings with outside organizations typically took place behind closed doors. By becoming more transparent than others have in the past, Obama’s administration is further establishing that it will be taking a completely different approach in many aspects of Obama’s term, and including the comments and concerns of the people.

As far as the actual site goes, the Your Seat at the Table section of Change.gov brakes the larger agenda down into various categories, such as the economy, the war in Iraq, and health care. For each PDF that’s uploaded to the site by the transition team, visitors are invited to leave a comment or submit additional ideas and documents to accompany the available files. So far, documents are searchable by keyword, though if such a format of transparent and discussion-laden file sharing is to be used by the administration I hope that additional filtering methods are employed for better search, filter and organization options.

I imagine this sort of crowd-sourced outreach will continue through Obama’s presidential term. The format has worked very well so far, and there’s no reason to stop while the going is good.