U.S. Public Participation Playbook

A resource for government managers to effectively evaluate and build better services through public participation.
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Establish goals

Learn how to clearly define and communicate your objectives.

Reading time: 2 minutes

Play 1: Clearly define and communicate your objectives

Federal agencies understand the importance of meaningful public engagement. The type of engagement will differ for each organization, depending on resources, audience and mission. Every agency must set goals that align with its unique definition of success and empowers the public to engage with agencies in order to influence government priorities.


  • Identify what goal(s) you aim to achieve.
  • Develop a plan that includes a timeline, and strategy – ramp up and drawdown.
  • Evaluate organizational capacity for engaging and managing public participation.
  • Identify internal and external stakeholders and partners.
  • Evaluate and change strategy based on feedback and performance data.

Case studies

  • ePolicyWorks is an initiative by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. The tool is designed around a clear policy-making objective and addresses specific challenges in collaborative policy making.
  • Agencies can use the portal during the commenting period to consider public input and make relevant, appropriate revisions. is a portal that simplifies finding, reviewing, and submitting comments on Rules and Proposed Rules that appear in the Federal Register.


Metrics: How do you know you successfully established goals?

Metrics will vary according to the platform you use. Some broad examples include:

  • Surveys – responses should drive learning and improvement.
  • Web – Google Analytics or heat-mapping shows participant engagement.
  • Email – click rates, bounce rates, unsubscribes, participation in a call-to-action.
  • Social Media – participant engagement analytics, reach, changing behavior, hashtag use.
  • Apps (native and mobile) – use statistics, are “transactions” being completed, is there input or feedback from the field (i.e. uploading multiple photos in citizen science app), are people actively using a native app (i.e. logging in multiple times).
  • Online Video Chats (i.e. hangouts) – participation rate, views.
  • Discussion Threads (i.e. chat rooms) – number of participants, input from the public, up votes/down votes.
  • Blog – viewership, comments, action audience takes next.
  • Transactional – hard numbers related to online transaction completion.
  • Rates of completion for public participation opportunities (e.g. Comment form submissions to federal agencies)
  • Rates of API participation and usage, e.g. number of API implementations, queries received via API, successful submissions received via API.