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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Last updated: July 1, 2017

What is ParticipateDB?

ParticipateDB is a collaborative catalogue for digital engagement tools (often referred to as tools for online community engagement, web-based engagement, online participation, e-participation, e-consultation, online dialogue, online deliberation etc.).

The site offers a comprehensive directory that enables people to easily share, discover, explore and compare the tools available today and learn about how they can best be applied.

ParticipateDB was launched in September of 2009 (that's 3016 days ago) and currently contains 350 tools, 301 projects and 256 references, joined by a total of 978 associations. The site is maintained by 99 contributors.

Who is behind ParticipateDB?

ParticipateDB was first launched by Intellitics, Inc., a digital engagement firm based in San José, CA (USA). Intellitics helps its clients in the public, private and non-profit sector drive participatory governance and community engagement through the effective use of information and communications technologies.

As of July 1, 2017, ownership of the project has been transferred to the Center for Applied Community Engagement, LLC, a newly-formed social enterprise whose mission is to support and connect the growing professional field of community engagement and public participation practitioners from around the globe.

How do you make money?

ParticipateDB is a non-commercial initiative serving the public good. As one of the premier community-driven resources in this field, the site is free for anyone to use. The site continues to create a lot of value, and we hope it will reward its volunteer contributors in many, albeit non-monetary ways.

Do you have a media kit?

No, but this FAQ is a good starting point. If you plan to write about ParticipateDB, feel free to give us a heads-up and we'll answer any additional questions you may have. There's a number of ways you can contact us.

Alpha, beta... what's your roadmap?

As of July, the site is still in public beta.

How can I contribute content?

ParticipateDB is open for anyone to contribute. Simply create an account and start adding or updating content. Alternatively, you can always contact us. to send us any leads.

Who owns the content?

Except where otherwise noted, all content on ParticipateDB is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Really? No privacy policy or terms of use?

We strive to protect our users' personal information and would never do anything harmful with your data.

With the July 1, 2017 transition in ownership, providing these standard policies is now back on the agenda and should be completed by the end of the year.

Do you cover the United States only?

No! ParticipateDB collects tools and projects from around the world, not just the United States. With content from more than 40 countries, things are already pretty international. We especially appreciate contributions from non-English speaking countries.

How do you define "tools"?

We define tools fairly broadly as any kind of information and communication technology (ICT) that is being used in or being developed for the purpose of public participation or related areas. We expect the majority of entries to be web-based services of some sort but don't want to exclude other interesting approaches to e-participation.

How do you define "projects"?

A project is usually defined as a temporary endeavor (meaning it has a defined beginning and end) undertaken to create a unique product or service. In the case of public participation, this could include certain deliverables informing the decision making process and, ultimately, the decision itself.

For the time being, however, we include examples of ongoing participation efforts as well (often called programs). We'll worry about proper categorizations later.

How do you define "references"?

A reference to us is any kind of related information on the web that can provide more context and detail with regard to any of the tools and projects covered on ParticipateDB. For example, this may include but is not limited to: product brochures, white papers, video tutorials, any kind of academic research, case studies, media reports, or interviews.

How do you define "participation"?

We like how James L. Creighton defines public participation:

Public participation is the process by which an organization consults with interested or affected individuals, organizations, and government entities before making a decision. Public participation is two-way communication and collaborative problem solving with the goal of achieving better and more acceptable decisions. Public participation prevents or minimizes disputes by creating a process for resolving issues before they become polarized. Other terms sometimes used are "public involvement," "community involvement," or "stakeholder involvement."

We realize there are many overlapping definitions, and public participation is only one of the terms that are frequently used to describe similar things.

How do I know if my tool or project fits ParticipateDB?

Great question! We find helpful what the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) has defined as their Spectrum of Public Participation (PDF, 624KB), which defines five interrelated levels of public participation:

This is not to say that other ways of looking at the world aren't relevant (far from it), but if your tool or project involves any of the above it's likely that it deserves its place on ParticipateDB. And if in doubt, we'll probably still want to add it anyway (for now, at least).

For the much broader area of civic engagement (going beyond the decision making context), question you might ask include:

Aren't you competing with existing resources?

No, quite the contrary. Lucky for us, there is a healthy ecosystem of people and organizations who care about participatory processes. A number of online resources already exist that capture knowledge about public participation work in the U.S., in Europe and elsewhere – each from slightly different angles, each with a slightly different focus. Increasingly, their materials include information about online tools. ParticipateDB is not in the business of replicating any of the work that has gone into creating these in-depth resources. Instead, ParticipateDB will simply link to these references whenever possible. ParticipateDB’s main focus is to document:

  1. The fact that a tool exists, and
  2. how it is being applied in practice.

For the most part, we expect any detailed analysis beyond these basics to occur elsewhere on the web.

Listed below are a few of the valuable resources we have relied on in the past to discover interesting tools, projects or references:

Other sites we've monitored in the past but which have since gone extinct:

How did you come up with the idea?

The idea for ParticipateDB grew out of many conversations with people in this field at various conferences and events since 2005. As the interest in digital engagement continues to grow, the need for an online resource like this one was commonly expressed.

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Need more answers? Just contact us, and we'll get back to you. Thanks!