Participation and Collaboration
HHS depends on participation by and collaboration with the public to realize its goals – a statement that is underscored in the Department’s Strategic Plan. In fact, citizen participation and collaboration with stakeholders is so central to the operations of the Department that it is featured as one of the key objectives within our Strategic Plan. Goal 2 of the HHS Strategic Plan (Advancing Scientific Knowledge and Innovation) sets forth an entire objective to “Foster Innovation to Create Shared Solutions.” 
Since the development of our first Open Government Plan, HHS has made enormous strides in promoting and expanding participation and collaboration in departmental activities. This section of the report features a number of new and planned collaboration and participation initiatives that fall broadly into one of seven areas:
- Using challenge competitions for problem-solving
- Collaborative consortia, networks and learning communities The creation of collaborative databases, registries, and tools for information sharing.
- Collaborative metrics development
- Web-based strategies for enhanced sharing of HHS resources.
- New approaches for enhancing stakeholder input and feedback.
- The expanded use of advanced communication technology by our HHS Federal Advisory Committees.
A number of factors contributed to HHS’s ability to enhance its collaboration and participation activities. Among them is the introduction of an internal “consulting team” that was formed as part of HHS’s broader Community of Practice in 2010. This team worked with a number of agencies to analyze new approaches for fostering collaboration and participation, and has assisted several programs in the launching of new initiatives. Another notable forum that helped to promote collaboration and participation activities across the Department is the HHS Innovation Council. This Council was established in January 2010 and is composed of representatives from across HHS. It meets on a monthly basis to examine best practices and share new approaches to promoting innovation across the Department. In addition to engaging outside experts and sharing internal strategies, the Council’s various subcommittees actively develop and disseminate tools and toolkits for innovators throughout HHS to use in promoting collaboration and participation. Finally, the Council has a leading role in working with offices across the HHS to identify barriers and develop creative solutions to overcome them.
One major barrier that the Council identified relates to the use of social media by HHS program and personnel. Social media technologies (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and electronic chat rooms) are becoming increasingly popular methods of communication that our stakeholders use to exchange information with each other. Yet, access to these technologies has been used inconsistently, with some agencies embracing them, and others blocking access to them. Another important barrier to the effective and appropriate use of these powerful connecting tools is the lack of experience by the workforce. A New Media committee was established across the organization to enhance dissemination of knowledge, share best practices, and advance access to these tools through terms of service agreements. This group is planning to further enhance their work and optimize the ways these tools are used to engage public participation. In March 2012, the HHS Office of the Chief Information Officer published a revised Department-wide social media policy to more pro-actively and uniformly embrace social media technologies. The new social media policy has been significant to the Department’s collaboration and participation activities to the point policy has changed from a default of avoidance to now embracing social media technologies.