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Citizen Engagement is Important for Local Government
Increasing citizen engagement throughout the decision-making process in all forms of government is an integral part of our democratic process. A community’s future is impacted negatively if there isn’t active citizen engagement.
Keeping the public informed has been a priority for municipalities both past and present.
Communities now are focusing on citizen engagement to help broaden the development dialogue. When citizens become active agents in the process, it identifies key areas whereby government should focus and develop programs that cater to those needs.
The main reason people are likely to participate is that their engagement will shape decisions.
Increasing citizen engagement isn’t easy. Institutionalized methods of receiving and responding to citizens need to be developed; both are neither cheap nor easy to implement.
An online collaborative platform that shares valuable information to public stakeholders, enabling them to actively partake in the process is key. Finding ways to collaboratively gather feedback is the key component to effectively increasing citizen engagement.
There are many forums to do this, but the difficult part of this whole process is gathering and analyzing the information. Generally, the citizens who are engaged the most are represented by the vast majority, leaving marginalized groups exempt from influence.
Developing comprehensive communications strategies is imperative for municipalities to increase citizen engagement.
Attending in-person events
Society and the way we communicate has changed and this has given all levels of government the ability to effectively collaborate to potentially create an inclusive institution.
This public support and direct ownership inevitably help strengthen support for important reforms.
Having a successful communication and engagement strategy can ultimately improve the quality and delivery of public services. It will bring about greater transparency, accountability and inclusion by enhancing the overall management of public finances.
Citizens will experience tangible improvements in their lives when local government can implement an effective citizen engagement and communications strategy.
Guiding principles that ensure a community’s Public Engagement Strategy
is meaningful and effective:
1. Be accountable – Provide information to citizens and stakeholders on how their public engagement feedback was considered and adopted or why it wasn’t adopted.
2. Be inclusive – Remove all potential barriers to participation by providing engagement activities that are accessible to all citizens and stakeholders; If a communication strategy is actively planned it will eliminate barriers citizens and stakeholders may face
3. Be open and transparent – Throughout the public engagement process provide clear, relevant and complete information outlining the purpose and expectations
4. Be timely and organized – Make sure the communication strategy is well coordinated in a well timed manner, so there’s sufficient time for input and how public input will be used.
5. Be adaptive – Ensure the engagement strategy is well thought out and is centered around the tailored topic, but keep in mind that the strategy may need to be modified during the process. Be prepared to encounter unknowns and different obstacles; Always evaluating and improving the process to improve the quality of the engagement process over time.
6. Be engaging and co-operative – Increase the overall effectiveness of a public engagement strategy by maintain positive, respectful and fulfilling relationships with citizens and stakeholders throughout the community.
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