The following principles and guidelines aim to improve the inclusiveness, equality of participation, scale and scalability, capacity building, platform knowledge, and integration of e-participation, as well as to serve as initial guidelines for best practices in online meetings.
E-participation principles and guidelines
2. Equality of participation
3. Scale and scalability
4. Capacity building
6. Integrating e-participation
E-participation is a set of resources which allow increased openness and inclusiveness, particularly in international policy processes.
- Inclusiveness begins with the preparation of online meetings, followed by proper co-ordination and consultation with targeted stakeholders. This step also includes the issues of affordability.
- Gender, generational, rural/urban, economic, and other divides should be addressed.
- Communication should be multilingual, moving beyond the current focus on English (e.g. session transcripts), and should include non-English transcripts when possible.
- E-participation tools should be integrated with onsite tools.
- Both online and in situ participants should be able to see all attendees (as is possible onsite) and participate in the conversation, as appropriate for each meeting, and following privacy guidelines.
2. Equality of participation
E-participation is not only about technology. It is primarily about people and the equality of participation.
- E-participation opportunities should be clearly advertised in advance and include topic guidance.
- Registration and participation should be as frictionless as possible, but without compromising data security and privacy.
- E-participants should be able to register for meetings just like in situ participants.
- Time zones of venues and compensating strategies should be considered to ensure effective e-participation from around the world.
- Special efforts should be made to facilitate the e-participation of individuals from countries and regions with limited access to the Internet.
- As with in situ participants, organisers should, during registration, ask e-participants if they require additional assistance or information (as is done in situ for persons in wheelchairs).
- Hosts and moderators should consider online and in situ participants as equal. Online presenters should be given equal footing with in situ presenters and panellists.
- Online participants should be clearly addressed as part of the audience and panel. All statements that address the audience should include both online and in situ participants.
- In situ and online participants should have an equal chance of speaking, though this may not be possible for every event.
- Organisers must ensure that online/in situ chat is projected on-screen in the meeting as part of an e-participation screen, which might include social media streams if desired, to add a layer of networking and ‘corridor’ communication that is often missing for e-participants.
- A clear procedure should be established on how to encourage active participation of both online and in situ participants.
- The equal participation of online and in situ participants should be ensured through planning, meeting strategies, appropriate panel organisation, and by teaching moderators how to work with e-participants.
- The addition of e-participation should not degrade the quality of in situ participation, and organisers must protect the integrity of the in situ meeting.
- E-participants should present themselves in a manner appropriate for the meeting venue (e.g. dress code).
- Participants must follow online etiquette: be on time, enter quietly if late, mute themselves when not speaking, respect turns to speak, and ask for the floor silently (by raising their hand or via chat).
- Organisers should provide a variety of technical and Internet options, or asynchronous participation, for those without the resources to attend in situ.
- E-participation points made during planning and open consultations strategy sessions should be taken into account.
- Online channels and communities should be promoted through pre-meeting publicity.
- Organisers should facilitate and leverage various social media tools and platforms to support e-participation.
- Online interventions should be presented as unique input, not aggregated as a summary of e-participants’ comments.
- Exclusive e-participation co-ordinators and moderators should be assigned (i.e., those who are not responsible for in situ interactions).
- Tools should be used for improving the intangible social layers of meetings that include e-participation (e.g. corridor networking using breakout rooms, online coffee breaks, and informal sessions). These should all link online and in situ participants on a social and human level.
- E-participation should include both hub-to-hub and hub-to-meeting networking and interconnecting.
3. Scale and scalability
E-participation should be flexible and adaptable. It should be open to participants’ ideas and recommendations, and there should be a clear commitment to problem-solving and troubleshooting.
- Both online and in situ participants must exercise openness, flexibility, and adaptation to available environments and resources.
- Organisers must scale-up to facilitate increased e-participation and all-online meetings.
- E-participation options should exist for the development of the e-participation process itself, both in general and for specific meetings.
- Hosts, facilitators, and chairs should receive clear and comprehensive guidelines on e-participation, its moderation, as well as session and post-session reporting.
- E-meeting budgets should include expenses associated with e-participation.
- Funding mechanisms must be sought for follow-ups on e-participation.
4. Capacity building
Capacity building is not just technology-oriented. In addition to technical training for hubs, online participants, and background support, capacity building should include moderating and facilitating skills.
- E-participation must address the need for basic digital knowledge and skills.
- Technology and methodology training are essential for ensuring effective and optimal e-participation, and should include e-participants, onsite panel moderators, and onsite and online moderators.
- Moderators should be trained on how to provide support for e-participants with disabilities (e.g. hearing, vision, autism).
- Moderators should clearly identify panel members, speakers, and participants, both online and in situ, before each intervention.
- Online participants should prepare for their participation in much the same way in situ participants do. In the same way that in situ participants make travel plans, e-participants should learn about platforms and prepare the technology they need in order to participate. They should additionally have backup plans in case of connection problems: prepare texts, audio, and video recordings, and be able to alternate between pre-tested devices.
- Moderators and presenters should avoid the unnecessary use of insider terms, jargon, and acronyms. When their use is appropriate, they should be clearly explained.
Multiple platforms and media should be used for e-participation, such as those for web conferencing, webcasting, streaming, chatting, and social media communication.
- Testing of tools and installations should take place live before an event.
- E-participation should include formal and informal channels of participation.
- Both high and low bandwidth options should be available to improve e-access.
- Platforms must offer free bridge/access numbers for solving low bandwidth problems. This will especially include regions with only mobile coverage.
- E-participation technologies should use open standards to enable integrations and flexible use (bringing transcripts, videos, audio, chat, and social media together).
- E-participation should be built using open source software to support innovation, creativity, and inclusiveness.
- E-participation should foster the sharing of inclusive and affordable platforms among organisations.
- E-participation platforms should support customisation for local languages, and include translations and interpretations when appropriate and possible.
- Platforms must be accessible to persons with disabilities.
- Platforms must ensure that the systems in place are transparent and secure, and that they protect the privacy of all participants.
- Organisers need to provide appropriate security and privacy measures.
- Both in situ and online participants must be informed as to how their personal data will be collected, used, stored, transferred, and disclosed.
- Platforms and applications must ensure that the collection, use, storage, transfer, and disclosure of e-participants’ personal data are compliant with data protection laws.
- All participants must be informed which actions are delegated to artificial intelligence (AI), especially when there will be human-AI interaction (e.g. when chatbots are used with non-native English speakers who could think they are chatting with a real person). All ethical aspects given in the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence developed by the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence should be considered.
6. Integrating e-participation
E-participation needs to be integrated into the processes of onsite meetings.
- Policies must clearly define what ‘e-participation’ is and which actions are considered ‘participation’.
- Policies for e-participation must be explained, including explanations of when and how e-participation can be included, and how it should be implemented.
- Local governments, communities, and organisations should be educated about e-participation to understand its importance. This can be done through capacity-building activities that would lead to integrating e-participation principles in policy-making.
- Moderators and panellists should find ways to integrate online and onsite participants into one group.
- E-participants must use all the means at their disposal to make their voices heard, especially when the main communication channels are insufficient. Challenges can be overcome using flexible approaches, timing, and technology.
- The introduction of e-participation can lead to the fragmentation of conversations or confusion regarding input. This is why, at the beginning of a meeting, moderators and hosts need to clarify how they will provide input and assign co-hosts to follow every channel used (e.g. live chat and YouTube chat).
- Information about the meeting (such as speakers’ names and affiliations) should be prepared in advance and made available to online moderators so they can offer important complementary information in chat boxes, and reply to basic queries from e-participants.
- Clear indicators are required for measuring the success of e-participation in policy-making processes.
- Incident reports from every event should be logged and analysed so as to avoid similar errors in the future. These should, amongst others, include hacking incidents, poor quality of slides, and poor video or audio.
- A post-event survey should be completed after every event.
This draft of the E-participation principles and guidelines was the output of a collaborative activity during the Online Meetings for Diplomacy and Global Governance course, March-April 2020. The development of the E-participation principles started at the 2011 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Nairobi, Kenya, continued at the 2012 IGF in Baku, Azerbaijan, and resulted in a first draft at the 2013 IGF in Bali, Indonesia. The previous version, E-participation principles final draft, was presented at the IGF 2015. Using a system of collaborative editing, many people have contributed to the development of these principles and guidelines.
Download at E-participation principles and guidelines 2020