I recently gave a speech at an event of the Euractiv foundation about the future of policy-making in Europe. Following the event, I was asked several questions. Rather than answering only to the person, I will answer the questions on this blog. This is a way for me to experiment with Q&A, a tool I very much like. This is an experiment in preparing for the Policy-making 2.0 conference which we hold in June in Dublin (more information to follow)

The first question is about how to integrate best online and offline engagement. This is something I addressed many times, when animating the  Digital Agenda Assembly and many other European events.

Online engagement and offline are not substitute, but complementary. Online tools can be used before, during and after an event to augment its relevance and impact..

Before an event, it serves the purpose of preparing the discussion and framing it in a way that is clear to all participants. Questions should be asked to and by participants, or the keynote speaker should present its key ideas. The discussion that follows helps putting people on the right wave-length for the event. An additional tool I used is crowdsourcing (voting) to identify the topics to be discussed and the people to invite. To make this meaningful, it is crucial to report the results of the online discussion at the beginning of the event.

During the event, we mostly use twitter to get feedback from people in the room and outside. This creates a back-channel that facilitates peer-to-peer connection between participants and releases possible tensions created by the limited time, since people can voice their opinion online. We usually report during the event on “what’s being tweeted”. The role of twitter is dramatically different if the event is being broadcasted or not: if yes, twitter is mainly a way to let people participate remotely in an active manner. The best practice in this sense for me remains the Public Services 2.0 workshop in 2009.

After the event,  online engagement helps turning the energy of the one-off event into a more sustainable collaboration. It is crucial to ensure online spaces for follow-up and link between participants, such as an online discussion forum or a mailing list. While this can be easily made on the fly through free online tools such as Google Groups, it is best organised and launched before the event (such as the DAA website).