Improving government-citizen collaboration at Forefront of Aspen Institute gathering

June 27, 2013

Contact: Tricia Kelly
Communications and Society Program
The Aspen Institute
202-736-5818 |

Knight Foundation and Aspen Institute present FOCAS 13

Washington, DC, June 27, 2013– Leaders and experts from the public and private sectors will meet to discuss transparency tools and approaches to improving the way citizens and governments interact at a roundtable discussion next month in Aspen, Colo.  The event, taking place July 10-13, will be streamed live at

The annual Forum on Communications and Society (FOCAS), a project of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, explores how public policy and private initiatives can better serve communities. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which promotes informed and engaged communities, is the forum’s primary sponsor.

This year’s FOCAS, “Beyond the Tools: Connecting Citizens and their Governments,” builds on the previous open government work of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and Knight Foundation. The forum brings together 35 experts to craft new approaches to citizen engagement, including ways that governments enlist citizens to help improve their democracy. The group will explore cultural and political barriers to change and come up with ways to spur innovation within government. An interactive report detailing these findings and recommendations will be published online later this year.

“We aim to enhance the relationships among localities and their publics through innovative, open approaches to government. This year’s participants will work together to understand how new innovative tools can involve the public in the co-creation and co-delivery of government services,” says Charlie Firestone, executive director of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program.

“Citizens and governments alike have created some fantastic tools to improve interaction,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation’s vice president for journalism and media innovation. “But this is still a nascent field and work needs to be done to involve the larger community in opening up government. This means making public information more relevant and useful to all citizens and leveraging technology to make government more participatory.”

Participants of this year’s FOCAS will range from established leaders in the field to heads of emerging start-ups and will include Textizen Chief Executive Officer Michelle Lee, Sunlight Foundation Executive Director Ellen Miller and Citizens for Self Governance President Mark Meckler. 

Beyond the Tools: Connecting Citizens and their Governments will mark the eighth year that FOCAS is live streaming the event on the web, thanks to generous funding from Knight Foundation.  FOCAS 2013 will be streaming live at at 8:45 a.m. MST July 11-13. Viewers are invited to follow the discussion on twitter @AspenInstitute and @AspenCS and to tweet about the event using #FOCAS13.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit Contact: Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications (305) 908-2646,

The Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program,, addresses the societal impact of communications and information technologies, and provides a multi-disciplinary venue for considered judgment on communications policy issues.

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