A big public engagement problem is that people just don’t show up. It’s because the value proposition isn’t clearly stated.
Let’s face it, your public and stakeholders aren’t sitting around waiting for you to invite them into your decision making. Even if they were it might give you an edge, but in no way would it guarantee the attendance needed to get the information and credibility to support durable decision-making. So what is it that people need before deciding to commit their time and energy (physical and emotional) to help you make a better decision?
The International Association for public Participation (IAP2) lists seven values that guide authentic engagement (http://www.iap2.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=4). These values aren’t a recipe for public engagement super stardom but they do help to define a space within which you are likely to find success.
Public engagement is like negotiating a contract; each party gives up something in order to get something else in return. The process of negotiation creates the relationship that supports collaboration. So, like with a contract negotiation it is important to stake the value proposition up front in order to get the parties engaged. Generally speaking the value proposition goes something like this:
Sounds simple, but with public trust in government and business at an all time low we need to go back to first principles.
An August 2007 EKOS public survey report, titled Rethinking Citizen Engagement, found that the very best way to increase participation rates is to make sure that the decision-maker and / or subject matter experts are available to answer questions and to be sure participants know there will be a full report on engagement inputs and how these influenced the decision. These two actions articulate the foundational values of engagement: transparency and accountability.