I finally got round to reading the Saturday paper from a fortnight ago – I blame the kids for my tardiness. I was intrigued by this little piece by Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian which asks the question, “Is it true that for every subject, there are only two things you need to know?”
In essence this article says that there are only two things you need to know for every subject. Everything else about the subject is the application of those things, or not important. It gives the reply of an economist to the proposition, “1. incentives matter, 2. there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” This is, as the article says, a pretty good summary of all of economics.
It got me thinking; what are the two things you need to know about public engagement if you want to make a real difference to the lives of citizens? It wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be:
- Can you explain why you want to engage the public to anyone who asks? In other words, what is the purpose of the public engagement?
- If the public can’t change or influence the decision, then don’t engage.
I think that there’s a natural tendency for any ‘expert’ to want to complicate things, and I have many caveats, yeses, and ifs and buts to add. However, in the end I think that really does capture it; anything else is detail about how to go about engaging the public once you’ve got your head round those principles.
Do you think I’ve picked the right two things you need to know about public engagement, or would you say something different?
Picture Credit: Leo Reynolds