The Congressional Management Foundation has comprehensively evaluated congressional websites several times in an effort to improve Congress’s online communications with constituents. This year, we are changing our process and criteria slightly, as well as issuing our first-ever awards for social media.
The changes for the 113th Congress Gold Mouse Awards are summarized below:
- Increased emphasis on transparency and accountability: As we’ve noted previously, our awards are going to recognize those Members who are using their online communications to further transparency and accountability in government. For Member websites, this means focusing on the degree to which a constituent visiting your site can determine where you stand on the issues, how you’ve voted on key pieces of legislation, and what you’re doing in Congress on their behalf.
- Comprehensive evaluations will not be conducted for every website: We have reorganized our criteria into rounds that prioritize the most critical content. Member websites must meet a minimum threshold for accountability and transparency (see previous bullet), as well as for constituent service, to advance to the next round until we determine the finalists and award winners.
- Grades and “report cards” will not be issued: The focus of this new process is to highlight the best of the best in Congress, not provide a complete assessment of Congress’s online communications. By eliminating sites through rounds, only the finalists will be judged against the full set of criteria. This approach means we will not be issuing grades or “report cards” to offices noting how well your site performed in our evaluations. Instead, offices should look to the award winners as examples of what you could be doing with your online communications.
- Highlight innovations in social media: For the first time, CMF is going to recognize Senators and Representatives who are using social media in interesting and forward-thinking ways. Specifically, we want to highlight offices that are using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media to: improve communications with and information delivery to their audiences; foster transparency and accountability; educate users about what is happening in Congress or how Congress works; and/or engage and collaborate with their audiences. To be considered for an award in social media, you must nominate your office and explain to us how your social media use is innovative and how it sets you apart from your colleagues.
- PLEASE NOTE: While nominations are required for the social media awards, nominations are not required for website awards. All Member and committee sites are automatically in contention and evaluated by CMF, using the process described above.
If you have any questions about the Gold Mouse Awards, please contact us.