Insight for Governance

Stakeholder Engagement with Dialogue and Deliberation

Co-Authored with Tom Attlee, Director of the Co-Intelligence Institute 

The NSTIC governance NOI highlights the government’s role should be in an ongoing way to protect people’s interests. I invited Tom Attlee to co-author this section with me because of his 10+ years of research into a whole range of inclusive citizen engagement processes. The Tao of Democracy is his book that looks at how the best of them effectively synthesize the people’s perspective on whether their interests are being protected well enough.

I worked with Tom Attlee in 2006 to explore which emerging electronic collaborative tools (blogs, wikis, online forums etc.) could be used to augment and complement proven deliberative processes that were developed before the web existed (chart in Appendix 6). They have proven very effective, but also expensive and labor intensive. Based on this work with Tom, I wrote a chapter in the Personal Democracy Forum book Rebooting America on how these methods could be used to gain democratic insight that is deeper then from voting or polling. (text Appendix 5)

The authors of NSTIC did a good job of bringing forward clear overarching principles and guidelines for the development of an ecosystem.  Naming these guidelines and principles is a great starting point; they are in alignment with citizen’s people’s interest. Turning to the “private sector” (inclusive of advocacy groups and civil society) to encourage the further development of accountability frameworks and networks is good.  Clearly there are many private sector uses for more trusted identities, and the government can make use of them too.

There are currently many uncertainties about the market viability of technologies that provide verified anonymity. Dr. Stefan Brand’s U-Prove technology has been around so long that the patent has almost expired. It has been involved with four startups before it was acquired by Microsoft. They have opened up the technology under the Open Specification Promise, even releasing code.  The OASIS IMI standard is based on the work of Kim Cameron and the ideas of Information Cards being tokens for individuals to manage the sharing of claims using software agents on their machines. It looks like none of these technologies will get commercial support or be deployed.

The private sector has found that these technologies either reduce costs or increase revenue. In fact they increase costs (user ID systems and logins must be changed at great expense) and reduce revenue. For example, a publishing site not knowing a user’s ID (e-mail address or URL) that can be looked up at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Yahoo!, etc. means they can’t know enough about the user to effectively target ads at them.

To make the vision presented in NSTIC real, deeper insight, consensus, collaboration and innovation is needed.

However taking on the responsibility of a whole ecosystem requires this group having broad insight into how the ecosystem is growing, evolving, working and earning legitimacy from stakeholder groups and the people with identities who are using the system.

As highlighted above, the number of self-identified stakeholder groups already exceeds 75 and could conceivably include every individual on the planet that uses digital networks.  So the questions are:

How does the steering group incorporate a broad range of stakeholder perspectives? In particular, how does it incorporate the perspectives of regular people from very diverse backgrounds and life stages (see Appendix 3) who are doing transactions in the Identity Ecosystem as it evolves?

How is legitimacy earned, from the many organized stakeholder “groups”, but also from regular people?

Legitimacy of the NSTIC steering group will emerge when a broad range of stakeholders, even those with “opposing” views, are following recommendations and working together towards the development of a coherent Identity Ecosystem. How can this happen? What processes could significantly increase the likelihood of this emergent property of legitimacy?

The answer lies in not having the members of the “steering group” itself be the origin of the “steering” from their perspective. It should be a group that is serving as a steward of and coordinator of proven systemic dialogue processes that regularly engage a wide range of stakeholders.  The steering group takes action and makes recommendation based on the clarity and wisdom surfaced from regular, systematized stakeholder engagement online and offline. This section outlines a proposal of how this could work.

What does the Steering group do?

  1. convenes periodic (at minimum every 6 months) stakeholder conversations (which include but are larger than the steering group) to get input on how the Identity Ecosystem Framework is working,
  2. publicizes the recommendations and their status to the stakeholder community using online tools and collaborative platforms that invite response from stakeholder individuals and groups.
  3. adopts the recommendations of those conversations (or explains in detail why they cannot).

The steering group ensures that participants in subsequent periodic stakeholder conversations have read or are adequately briefed on the previous period’s comments in the online stakeholder forums.

We suggest a twice-a-year Creative Insight Council (CIC) of 36 participants with six members randomly chosen from selection pools of each of the six primary stakeholder groups: government, business, academia, standards development and technical organizations, consumer representatives, and privacy and civil liberties advocates .

Ideally, from the CIC on alternate quarters there would be

  • a open World Cafe of all stakeholders (potentially up to 450 people) who wished to participate
  • an Open Space unconference (similar to the Internet Identity Workshop) of all stakeholders who wished to participate, with the results of both posted for public/stakeholder review.

These three processes (CIC, OST, TWC) allow both a 2x/year rigorous microcosm conversation with coherent recommendations AND two broadly participatory creative conversations open to any and all interested people that allow for innovations to surface, provide systems, and create coherence.

With some experimentation, these methods could be complemented with some online components; however at their core, they must remain face to face processes. To ensure their legitimacy and the inclusion of a broad range of perspectives (diverse geography, financial ability, etc.) compensation could be provided to regular citizens for participation in, for example, an Insight Council or Citizens Jury.

Engaging international stakeholders and people in the Identity Ecosystem living outside the United States may involve hosting or convening dialogues outside the US. There are efforts that are somewhat similar around the world and it may be possible for those efforts to also adopt these processes, and results could be shared.

Assumptions in this proposal:

  1. The best way to (a) formulate and administer good evolving policy and standards for the ecosystem and (b) engage the voluntary cooperation of all players in the ecosystem on an ongoing basis is to periodically involve the full spectrum of stakeholders in co-creating each iteration of that policy and those standards.
  2. Effective co-creation requires conversation among a full spectrum of the players to ensure all angles are adequately addressed and to stimulate creativity to deal with divergences among their diverse interests and perspectives.  To the extent this inclusive conversational work is not done, whatever was not adequately addressed in the policy and standards formulation will come back to disrupt the ecosystem.
  1. Each iteration of policy and standards will produce unexpected consequences and opportunities which will need to be collectively noticed and dealt with in a timely way for the ecosystem to thrive; thus the need for iterative engagement of all the players.  This is a form of collective intelligence to monitor the ongoing evolution of the Identity Ecosystem.
  • To accomplish these ends, the conversational processes and facilitation used must move beyond simply allowing all participants to speak but must also
  1. successfully engage the creativity of the group and all its members;
  2. successfully use differences and conflicts as grist for that creativity; and
  3. help the group satisfy its goals and expectations without controlling the conversation or pre-determining outcomes.

These requirements allow unforeseen problems, solutions, and possibilities to emerge and be addressed by the group, thus further reducing the chance of ill-conceived or inadequate policy results.  Among the processes that serve this purpose well are Dynamic Facilitation, Open Space, and The World Cafe.

How is the Steering Group Composed? and What Processes does it use 

If the purpose of the group is to hold space for the broad range of stakeholders to share insights, then it will be a far less “political body”. It is important to have a body that is diverse, but the mandate to listen and respond to the overall ecosystem makes it not “about” the members having the power to decide how to steer for all the stakeholders of the ecosystem because they were elected as their “representatives”, but rather their mandate is to convene periodic stakeholder conversations with well-tested proven methodologies and to act on the recommendations and insights they generate.

Since the NSTIC NOI asks respondents to directly answer this question, I am sure there will be many answers. Any number of steering group formations could work for this proposal to have its main function be effective stakeholder convening that surface issues.

Our proposal for a steering group is a stakeholder body made up of two representatives from each of the six main stakeholder groups elected by members of their stakeholder groups by nomination, instant-runoff voting, two-year terms (with the highest initial vote-getter in each stakeholder category having a 3-year term so that annual turnover is not total) and recall elections.

The primary stakeholder categories are:

  • government,
  • business,
  • academia,
  • standards development and technical organizations,
  • consumer representatives, and
  • privacy and civil liberties advocates
  • other additional appropriate groups

The steering group also includes two members chosen at random from a pool of public volunteers.  Their decisions should be by supermajority. The relatively small size of the steering group (14 people) increases their operational efficiency, while the conversational and input systems described below maximize the inclusivity, depth, and effectiveness of their management capacity.

Other Possible Options for the Steering Group

Suppose each time a vote is taken, only half of the 14 people vote , picked from the group by random selection immediately before the vote is taken. In other words, only seven of the members (in my existing model) would vote on each decision, and it would be a different (unpredictable) seven each time. (This is similar to the story of the mother dealing with her kids arguing over who gets the biggest piece of pie; she has one kid cut the pie and the other one pick the first slice.)  Since none of them know which of them is going to be empowered to vote next time, it is in their interests not to screw each other this time, and to support a process that helps them find solutions they can all buy into (like dynamic facilitation or a process that focuses on explicitly asking for and handling concerns).

Processes and Structures for Distributing Power and Ecosystem Evolution

Of course the number of sectors, organizations and reps could be adjusted in a variety of ways.  My effort was to limit the size of the steering committee to increase its efficiency, while making it hard for adversarial power centers to battle and dominate, due to the open nonlinear (i.e., hard to control) elements I’ve injected into the voting process and the subsequent conversational protocols.

The power held by the steering group is real, but limited by the conversational context of its operations. The ability of any one entity in the ecosystem to skew outcomes is limited by the equalizing and randomizing factors put in place.  In the system as specified here, there is FAR more motivation to seek solutions that integrate one’s own needs with those of others than there is to seek solutions that benefit oneself at the expense of others.

Some Answers to NSTIC governance NOI Questions

2.2. While the steering group will ultimately be private sector-led regardless of how it is established, to what extent does government leadership of the group’s initial phase increase or decrease the likelihood of the Strategy’s success?

If government leads by convening conversations of stakeholders rather than designing the steering group, the creativity and relevance of those conversations will determine NSTIC’s success.

2.3. How can the government be most effective in accelerating the development and ultimate success of the Identity Ecosystem?

By quickly convening stakeholders in the mapping processes outlined in the prior section and in parallel hosting well designed, adequately inclusive, and wisdom-generating conversations using the methods outlined in this section.  It must ensure that the charter that creates the steering group    does not just articulate how it is formed but also that it must convene regular meaningful stakeholder engagement processes to ensure broad public confidence, legitimacy and ultimately trust in the Identity Ecosystem.

2.4. Do certain methods of establishing the steering group create greater risks to the Guiding Principles? What measures can best mitigate those risks? What role can the government play to help to ensure the Guiding Principles are upheld?

Failure to engage all parties in productive conversations will endanger the Guiding Principles, because all the interacting factors will be insufficiently taken into account, increasing the chance that blind spots and biases will shape the outcomes.

2.5. What types of arrangements would allow for both an initial government role and, if initially led by the government, a transition to private sector leadership in the steering group? If possible, please give examples of such arrangements and their positive and negative attributes.

Government-convened conversations will enable a transition to private sector leadership, making sure that this includes an institutionalized principle of inclusion that reduces the chances any sector will unduly bias the evolution of the ecosystem.


Processes to be utilized by the Steering Group 

Dynamic Facilitation (DF)

Dynamic Facilitation ( is a powerful nonlinear creative process designed to use the group’s diversity, conflicts and potential co-creativity and sense-making capacities to generate breakthrough solutions to intractable problems.  It is based on several deep dynamics of individual psychology and group functioning:

  • a.  When people feel truly and fully heard, they tend to become less defensive, less assertive, and more open to the views of others and to novel possibilities.
  • b.  When all perspectives are respectfully collected into a whole, a picture of the situation is revealed that is both more messy and more comprehensive than the initial perspective of any individual participant.
  • c.  If all participants have been truly and fully heard, their collective response to the messiness of their collective “map” of the situation is to try making collective sense of THAT — i.e., to find a solution that includes or transcends all their individual perspectives.

As part of the DF process, disagreements and conflicts are legitimized as “concerns” and are duly heard and recorded by the facilitator.  Furthermore, any statement of a concern or articulation of the problem, once fully heard, is followed by a question like “What do you think should be done about that?”, giving the whole process a solution-seeking vector.  Taken as a whole, the entire process constitutes one of the most powerfully creative conflict-digesting processes available.

Creative Insight Council (CIC)

A Creative Insight Council ( is a small, legitimately representative microcosm of a community or stakeholder system that uses Dynamic Facilitation to help participants and others grow toward a more systemic understanding of the issues involved, by listening deeply to the various perspectives reflected in the group.  As needed, a Creative Insight Council can draw upon the specialized knowledge of experts, outside stakeholders or leaders. However, instead of “lecturing,” these experts present their views within the context of a dynamically facilitated conversation.

Open Space Technology (OST)

Open Space Technology ( is a simple process through which a gathering of people passionate about some subject or concerned about some situation can self-organize to talk about and/or take action on that topic. It is the main process used in the Internet Identity Workshop. Participants originate, announce, and post breakout sessions with titles of their choosing and, when all sessions are announced, work out their own individual participation schedules.  Session times and locations are standardized but fully flexible, and participant meandering among sessions or not attending any sessions at all is fully legitimized (deemed productive).

Session conveners take responsibility for making sure some notes are taken and turned in for publication to the entire group.  The whole group gathers at the beginning and end of each day’s activities for sharing news and experiences.  The chaos that results from this process is, in fact, surprisingly orderly and, perhaps most importantly, very energized and productive, regularly producing significant insights, new collaborations, and unforeseen possibilities.  It is a potent tool for “covering the ground” of a complex topic, evoking useful responses to a shared inquiry, and assisting the players in a complex situation to self-organize into more productive roles.  If done over multiple days, the iterative dynamics (issues arising in one day being addressed during subsequent days) tend to process the material at an increasingly deep and creative level.

The World Cafe (TWC)

The World Cafe ( can engage dozens or thousands of people in productive conversation on a topic of shared interest over several hours or days.  TWC is set up like a cafe with 3-5 people at each of many small tables, usually with paper tablecloths and writing materials for taking notes, sometimes flowers.  This familiar setting itself facilitates the desired spirit of conversation.

The shared topic is framed as a question (powerful question design being a specialty of TWC practitioners) which participants discuss with each other for 20-60 minutes in each of several timed conversational rounds.  When each round ends, participants mix and move to other tables so that in each round they are talking with different people.  As each round starts, participants are encouraged to share with their new tablemates highlights from their conversation in previous rounds.  Their question may remain the same in subsequent rounds, or change to guide the conversation to new or deeper territory.  In final rounds, participants are usually encouraged to seek together deeper patterns in the topic being explored.

TWC concludes with a “harvesting” process in which individuals can share insights or developments with the whole group.  TWC by design provides each member of a large group considerable airtime and opportunity to interact in a small group, while simultaneously ensuring that good ideas get spread around and processed by the whole group.  Quite often significant new ideas and possibilities emerge out of TWC’s complex, randomly organized iterative dynamics.

Using These Processes

Dynamic Facilitation, Open Space and The World Cafe can all be convened outside of any decision-making process, simply as powerful forms of public/stakeholder engagement.  However, within the context of a decision-making effort, all three are best viewed not as decision-making processes themselves, but as forms of dialogue that facilitate deeper group understanding and creativity prior to the formal decision-making process (e.g., voting).  That said, good solutions often become so obvious in the dialogue process that voting becomes a formality to record the emerged consensus.

There are many other processes that could be used to gain insight from the community of directly engaged stakeholders and engage the larger public. The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation Resource Guide on Public Engagement is one of the best resources for considering options (several pages from this guide are excerpted in appendix 7) .


This post is from pages 43-50 of Kaliya’s NSTIC Governance NOI Response please see this page for the overview and links to the rest of the posts. Here is a link to the PDF.

This is the section before: Effective Information Sharing

This is the section after: The Importance of Public Legitimacy

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