Published on October 8, 2014

Public engagement, not just about the public

By Carolina Johnson

Carolina is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is visiting Involve for a month while conducting research locally for her dissertation on democratic outcomes from local participatory budgeting reforms.

Public engagement, not just about the publicIn this briefing paper for Involve, Carolina Johnson (University of Washington) makes the case that:

The engagement of the public is just one aspect of effective public engagement; the commitment and support of government officials and relevant stakeholder groups are also critically important to its long-term success.

Opportunities for engagement are ineffective or even harmful where the public, government and stakeholder groups do not share strong motivations to participate or acknowledge a process. The need for broad sup- port means paying equal attention to the motivations and experiences of each group. Experiences with engagement and the expectations for its consequences build on each other over time to support or undermine chances for public engagement to become a sustain- able part of government.

The design and implementation of public involvement process can help support or undermine broad support for public engagement. This briefing paper synthesises existing research on what motivates each group to engage and provides an overview of the specific elements of the design and implementation of engagement that can shape these motivations in the long term.

The paper outlines some of the common incentives and disincentives government officials stakeholders and the public have for engaging, and the implications for engagement design.

You can download the publication here: Public engagement, not just about the public

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