Before Our Energy Policy was able to launch as a company, it needed to find a vendor that would enable it to create a forum for experts in the energy field to partake in a cohesive discussion. While options such as wikis and Google Docs were considered, after SharedBook was recommended to the foundation, Squadron says it was a fairly clear decision. He found that it was a very quick process to begin working with SharedBooks to build a solution.
Squadron says that since Our Energy Policy needed something "more directed and elegant," a wiki was not a very logical or effective choice since anyone viewing the document would also have the ability to change it.
"Our needs are for a platform that supports a serious, substantive discussion. That's the kind of ‘dialogue' we are creating, with the goal that it will be extremely helpful to policymakers wrestling with difficult issues," says Squadron. "Creating a coherent record, therefore, is very important."
During the decision-making process, Our Energy Policy did not do a formal request for proposal but looked carefully at several options. "We identified the key elements that we needed for this kind of meaningful dialogue to take place and serve as a resource," says Squadron.
Within a month, SharedBook was chosen as Our Energy Policy's solution due to its capabilities. SharedBook's SharedDoc allowed Our Energy Policy to present different types of documents, including legislation, reports, studies, and papers, to a community of experts. These experts could then produce a discussion by highlighting a portion of the text-a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or any part of the document-and create a thread with that specific discussion. Squadron says, "This is precisely the kind of discussion we wanted to generate."
The site was put up only a few weeks after the decision to use SharedBook was made. Caroline Vanderlip, CEO of SharedBook, explains that no formal training needed to take place. But she says FAQs and information about how to use the site were distributed. Live customer service is also available to Our Energy Policy via phone, email, or live chat.
"Our Energy Policy Foundation provided the document they wanted experts to review and SharedBook implemented this document into its application," says Vanderlip. "In addition, SharedBook helped Our Energy Policy Foundation with other information that it wanted to add to the site-like information on the experts, resources, etc."
Part of the appeal of SharedDoc is the fact that while the dialogue would be available for the general public to view, only experts with knowledge about the energy field would be able to contribute to the discussion.
Vanderlip explains that SharedDoc was able to give Our Energy Policy the opportunity to have quite specific and detailed discussions take place: on a point, a sentence, a date, or a concept. "Secondarily, they wanted very much to enable that discussion among the experts but also to have the public be able to read the discussion." Unlike wikis and blogs, SharedDoc really ensured that only substantive dialogue would take place between knowledgeable people, while displaying the information to anyone who would read it.
"Having the ability to create these extremely articulate and coherent discussions was something that stood out," says Squadron.
SharedDoc also enabled the foundation to print out tangible records of the discussions that were taking place, allowing Our Energy Policy to widely distribute the conversation in any way it needed.