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Threshold 2008 Final Report

From the executive summary:

Threshold 2008 is a community driven, nationally recognized effort to bring the voice of the informed public into housing policy decisions in San Mateo County. During 2008, Threshold engaged more than 1,000 citizens in meaningful dialogue about urgent housing problems and possible solutions. The project used three distinct methods of civic engagement to reach and consult members of the public in different ways, but in all forums participants were presented with similar information, choices, and opportunities to exchange views.

With regard to the online engagement that was part of the Threshold 2008 project:

Online Dialogue

The design and objectives of the Online Dialogue was different from the Countywide Assembly. Participants were not randomly selected, but rather recruited widely and ultimately self selected. The dialogue was open not only to residents, but also to anyone who works or has a stake in San Mateo County. The purpose of the dialogue was not to measure opinion change among a representative sample, but to increase our understanding of why people adopt the views they do, how different values are connected to different policy positions, what kinds of information people need to make informed decisions, and which questions remain most difficult to address.

The self-selected sample was not necessarily representative of San Mateo County’s population as a whole, but the opinions of Online Dialogue participants matter. They spent two weeks thinking about the issues and responding respectfully to the views of others. One might argue that the sort of person drawn to participate in this forum is probably more active than the average citizen in housing issues. If that is true, then their views should certainly be included in a broader public conversation, and should be refined through discussion and reflection. Broader public dialogue is important for those who are left out of the current conversation and for those who are intimately a part of it.

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