Public participation is most useful to policymakers when it goes beyond merely expressing outcome preferences or intensity of feelings. "Better" participation happens when participants give reasons, engage thoughtfully with competing interests, offer new information or ideas, and evaluate possible alternative outcomes. These participation skills don't come naturally to many people--especially in the online environment.
Everything about SmartParticipation is designed to signal to users that this is a place for informed, thoughtful and civil engagement in important policy questions. Encouraging this kind of participation is the primary purpose of facilitative moderation, using the platform's moderator interface to employ simple techniques of discussion facilitation. But even if you aren't going to actively moderate the discussion, SmartParticipation gives you several tools for helping users increase their participation literacy. One of these is to create a Learn slide on effective participation; for an example, see Regulation Room. Another is the comment support tips that appear when the user is ready to submit their comment.