U.S. Public Participation Playbook

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

Learn how to use data to inform decisions about public participation.

Reading time: 3 minutes

Play 11: Use Data to Drive Decision Making

Use data to inform decisions about engagement efforts and public participation. Data can help you decide the best format for your engagement effort, the best tools to use, the most receptive audiences and more. Data will help you get the desired results and adapt your engagement effort along the way.


  • Define your goals and establish key performance indicators.
  • Continuously reconsider metrics to make sure they are still the best ones to use.
  • Educate employees about open data policies and publicly available datasets.
  • Ask data-literate employees to attend and participate in public engagements.
  • Include a public feedback track into all decision-making processes–anything from project management to policy decisions–as early and often as possible.
  • Assign a member of the team to routinely keep track of public feedback systems, such as, but not limited to: Web Analytics, Emails, FOIA requests, popular datasets on and beyond.
  • Prioritize next steps based on public feedback in an iterative process and solicit fresh feedback at each incremental step.
  • Solicit feedback across platforms, mediums, and from all of the public.

Case studies

  • Govcode is a website that features government open source projects. Open source projects that utilize the ‘help wanted’ tag proactively solicit contributions from the public on government technology projects.
  • Public Participation in Government Web Design: The team integrated feedback from virtual, online, face to face testing, and social media platforms to dramatically change the site design in response to customer needs.
  • Web Design Changes? Let the Metrics be Your Guide NASA metrics showed that mobile use of initially outpaced desktop use, confirming their decision to change to a mobile-first design.
  • Government CX: Finding the Metrics That Matter The Export-Import Bank measures transaction processing times and ease of use to create the best experience for their stakeholders.
  • Analyzing Who’s Using your Agency’s Data with FOIA requests GSA’s Open Data Point of Contact reached out to the agency FOIA office to survey FOIA requesters on how they used requested information to get a better sense of the data demands of the public.


  • is a rich resource for civic hackers, tech entrepreneurs, data scientists, and developers of all stripes. It includes information about APIs, open source projects, and relevant developer resources across government.
  • Enigma is amassing the largest collection of public data produced by governments, universities, companies, and organizations. Concentrating all of this data provides new insights into economies, companies, places and individuals.
  • API Release Kit describes the elements agencies should include in federal API releases.

Metrics: How do you know you’re successfully facilitating participation?

  • Measure the % of decision-making processes – anything from project management to policy decisions–that have a public feedback track.
  • Measure how often “next steps” in a decision-making process are informed and prioritized in accordance with public feedback.
  • Measure how effective public feedback platforms and mediums are at reaching an equitable representation of the public.
  • Measure how the timing of public feedback solicitation affects the outcomes of decision-making processes.
  • Determine the value and effectiveness of the use of public feedback data, such as, but not limited to: Web Analytics, Emails, FOIA requests, popular datasets on, as public sentiment indicators.