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Public Consultation

12 Terms for Public Consultation



Defining community engagement can be tricky.  Indeed, even deciding what to call it is a challenge.  At PlaceSpeak, we  use the term community engagement; however, there are several other terms that are used to describe similar activities.

Map of selected countries and typical engagement terminology

Source: IAP2

Part of the challenge in settling on a term is that there is no one definition or conception of public participation that can be generalized across all cultures, places or political systems. This has important implications for practitioners who operate and communicate in various contexts and languages.  For instance, the terms community, public and stakeholder are often difficult to translate into other languages. Additionally,there is a great variety of meanings attached to terminology, so what works in one country, culture or language may not work in another.

Another challenge in defining community engagement stems from the fact that engagement isn’t a single activity, but rather a spectrum of processes.  According to the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), this spectrum consists of at least 5 distinct processes, including informing, consulting, involving, collaborating and empowering. But even this spectrum doesn’t capture the entire gamut of what is considered public participation.  In some cultures, activities like volunteering, community festivals, reporting potholes, and even paying taxes are considered forms of participation or engagement.

To give you an idea of the spectrum of terms and activities that fall under the community engagement umbrella, we have created the following table based on data from the IAP2.


12 Terms for Community Engagement

Country Common Terminology Example of Engagement Activity
Australia Public Consultation Community Cabinet
Brazil Public Management Participatory Budget Process
Cambodia Co-management Commune Development Planning
Canada Public Participation
Citizen Engagement
Questions Projects
China Information Disclosure
NGP Partnerships
Ivory Coast Public Survey
Public Investigation
Listening Centers
Mexico Citizen Participation Federal Agency Advisory Council
New Zealand Community Vocies Random Selection Processes
Scotland Partnership Community Planning Forums
South Africa Consultation Imbizos
Sweden Lokalembohr Breakfast Meetings
United States Civic Engagement Community Asset Mapping



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