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Michael Cohen, How Online Civic Engagement Can Increase Public Trust in Government

Seminar Title: How Online Civic Engagement Can Increase Public Trust in Government

Banatao Auditorium, 310 Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley
Wednesday, March 11, 2015 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM (PST)

Online civic engagement has the potential to dramatically improve a government’s interactions with its community, and thereby increase public trust – but only if the online engagement augments participation, increases insights and avoids challenges related to the issues of undue influence, transparency, open data, privacy, responsiveness, civility and free speech.

The UC Berkeley spin-out, Peak Democracy Inc was founded in 2007 with the mission of providing online civic engagement services – in ways that increase public trust in government. The company’s cloud-based service, called Open Town Hall, has been used by hundreds of government agencies to power about 2,000 online forums that have attracted about half-a-million constituents.

This talk will feature at least a dozen live, case study examples from counties, cities and towns across North America.



Michael Cohen is co-founder of Peak Democracy, Inc and the Director of Innovation Ecosystem Development in UC Berkeley’s Intellectual Property and Industry Alliances office. Mike co-founded Peak Democracy Inc with the UC Berkeley physics PhD student, Robert Vogel. He also co-founded Cal’s Skydeck startup accelerator, the Berkeley Startup Cluster, the QB3 East Bay Innovation Center, and Netpulse.com. Mike is a recipient of the 2012 Chancellor’s Outstanding Staff award, and he is on the advisory board of UC Berkeley’s Data & Democracy Initiative. Prior to UC Berkeley, Mike worked in progressively senior product management roles at Sun, Mips and Silicon Graphics. Mike has an engineering degree from Tufts and an MBA from Harvard.

CITRIS Research Exchange logoFree and open to the public, the CITRIS Research Exchange Seminar Series is a weekly dialogue highlighting leading voices on societal-scale research issues. Each one-hour seminar starts at 12pm PST and is hosted live in the Banatao Auditorium at Sutardja Dai Hall on the UC Berkeley campus (*unless otherwise noted). Lunch is provided at UC Berkeley for those who register in advance.

Live webcasting of each CITRIS Research Exchange seminar is available at these CITRIS campuses and also online at http://video.citris.berkeley.edu/playlists/webcast:

  • CITRIS @ Davis: 1131 Kemper Hall, College of Engineering, UC Davis
  • CITRIS @ Merced: 322-Willow, Classroom and Office Building (COB), UC Merced
  • CITRIS @ Santa Cruz: Room 595B, Engineering 2 Building, Baskin School of Engineering, UC Santa Cruz

Ask questions live via Twitter using #CITRISRE. All talks may be viewed on our YouTube channel at least a week after the event.

The full schedule for the CITRIS Research Exchange Seminar Series can be found on the CITRIS site.