What is Civic Engagement?
Civic engagement, public participation, community consultation—or whatever your preferred term is—is a process that uses resident input to influence the decision-making process. Civic engagement focuses on ensuring citizen and stakeholder are aware of—and involved in—civic priority-setting, decision-making, program development, and service delivery.
This is a growing movement. Many local governments are now expanding their efforts to engage residents through in-person and—increasingly—online engagement. While the purposes of civic engagement are varied and numerous, a set of common goals can be discerned. Increasingly civic engagement is being used to:
a) improve decision-making by increasing the quality of decisions reached and the effectiveness of programs and services provided; and,
b) help organizations improve how they address the range of issues that communities are now facing.
Contemporary civic engagement efforts also seeks to meet rising citizen expectations of openness and responsiveness. It is making information for residents easier to access, and offer more—and more varied—opportunities for residents to have input on topics that affect them.
At its foundation, civic engagement helps participants find common ground. It also helps to ensure that decisions are perceived as fair for all involved. Other benefits for decision-makers and residents include:
• Allowing policy makers and staff to hear new perspectives, learn new things, and gain more representative input. This should improve decision-making and the policies, programs, and services that follow.
• From the perspective of residents, Increased opportunities for residents to engage and collaborate with decision makers. This deepen residents’
impact on, understanding of, and ownership of the decisions reached.
How do you define civic engagement? What are its strongest benefits? Please leave a comment and let us know!
This post was based on material published by HB Lanrac for the City of Albany’s Digital Sustainability Conversations.
Image from page 9 of Digital Sustainability Conversations.