A key to a successful eParticipation project is a good online community manager. A community manager is a cross between a guard and a friend making sure that everything is going the right way. When discussions are side-lined, you should get discussions back on track. And most importantly, don’t leave the young users alone for 24 hours. Being an online community manager is potentially more than a 9 to 5 job. However, it is understandably not possible for you to be online day and night. Therefore, before you launch your eParticipation project you should decide how often you will be available online, and then you should communicate this clearly to the young participants. If you can’t be present outside office hours, make it known to the young people when they can expect answers.
For the participants’ own sake, you have to keep a watchful eye on what the young are posting. You should remove posts which expose personal information or don’t live up to the Code of Conduct. If you decide to remove content, you should of course notify the user.
As previously touched upon it is important to consider how your project affects your participants’ privacy.* Based on these considerations you should set up clear rules for online behaviour in the form of do’s and don’ts. To keep the online participatory activities safe, it can be highly useful to organise a face-to-face meeting that kicks off the online deliberation. At such a meeting, you can explain what the do’s and don’ts in online dialogues are. You can also give the young participants the skills to become good online debaters. More on this in the Participation Phase, where you can also read more about the role of the community manager once the eParticipation process has been kicked-off!
*See the tip Ask the right questions in the right setting.