What is Citizen Engagement?
Citizen Engagement is the process of inviting feedback and input from citizens on programs, policies and services that impact their lives.
Governments have several reasons for wanting to engage citizens:
- Citizens should have a say in the issues that affect them and are more likely to support government decisions when they've been consulted and have had a say in shaping those decisions. Quality public engagement gives people a sense of ownership over issues they believe are important to both themselves and the province.
- Government doesn't have all the answers: many of the issues that face us today are complex topics like climate change; addressing these issues requires input from a lot of people – many of whom don't work in government - engaging these people in conversation and action will help us work towards positive sustainable solutions.
- Assisting government in prioritizing: engaging citizens helps government better understand peoples' interests and opinions, knowing what’s important to people can help lead to a more responsive and transparent government.
Why do public engagement well?
Poor citizen engagement creates problems—at a day-to-day level poor processes create pushback, or frustration in communities. At a strategic level, poor engagement can undermine public agreement with an approach or program, or spark public backlash.
Through experience, we have seen that British Columbians want to have an opportunity to provide their input on big decisions that affect their lifestyles, their environment, their personal privacy or their children’s future. They want good services and decisions from government, but they also want to be listened to. By meeting those demands we can earn the following:
- A reputation for listening;
- Protected investments;
- Support for reform;
- Allies, supporters and validators;
- A steady supply of quality input; and
- Informed, risk-managed decisions.
How does government engage?
By providing options of ways to give input, we can be more inclusive of diverse demographics and perspectives from around the province. There are many different ways for citizens to interact with government including:
- Talking about issues or concerns;
- Suggesting new ideas for government to implement;
- Contributing personal thoughts or opinions on issues;
- Helping set priorities; and/or
- Answering specific policy questions.
Some of the tools that have been used to gather this feedback are face-to-face meetings, townhalls, focus groups, surveys, blogs, online discussion forums, Twitter or Twitter Townhalls, direct comments on public documents and/or sending emails or letters.