Public engagement

April 24, 2011

I take my hat off yet again to the Consultation Institute for giving space to a couple of good documents on the topic of public engagement. One is the 2010 Community Engagement Handbook  (1.6 Mb PDF) from South Australia, whilst the other is a report, Sustaining Public Engagement (2.7 Mb PDF), by Elena Fagotto and Archon Fung published by Everyday Democracy and the Kettering Foundation in 2009.

I’ve blogged before about the work of Archon Fung on e-democracy and the democracy cube. In this paper Fagotto & Fung take several examples of what they see as good practice. They then look for where the gaps occur between where participation is embedded and where it is more fragile before finally establishing some tentative measures.

The Community Engagement Handbook, from the City of Salisbury in Australia, is just that, it’s a highly practical and well laid out guide to gaining public participation in decisions. It is based on the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) model, which identifies and defines levels of community engagement, and is built upon other work in South Australia.

There are now no excuses for getting it wrong!

Public consultation

March 22, 2011

My thanks to the ever useful Consultation Institute newsletter for a link to a paper by John Gastil, entitled ‘A Comprehensive Approach to Evaluating Deliberative Public Engagement‘, which is available via their Knowledgebase. Although this is not directly related to e-democracy or e-government, there is by necessity the comprehension of what is expected of deliberation, which this paper quite neatly provides. For example on page 4 it states “the social component of deliberation is what makes it democratic deliberation by requiring equal opportunity, mutual comprehension and consideration, and respect. The social requirements also make clear the implicit emphasis on inclusion and diversity in deliberation”.

Whilst I entirely agree with the sentiments and suggestions of the essay, having personally spent years observing politicians I am afraid that actions like “mutual comprehension” and “respect” are rarely observed in any meeting room or chamber, particularly when an election is in the offing! However, rather than let any cynicism blind me I can agree that Professor Gastil’s criteria for evaluation, if they could be established with some sort of measure might be very suitable for observing progress.