Core Principles for Public Engagement

I’d encourage people to join or pay attention to the work of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) and its Canadian cousin, C2D2.  NCDD has been actively building its core practices and bringing organizers together across the US in response to the Obama’s administration’s call early in 2009 for engaging in bottom-up participatory democracy.

The Public Engagement Principles (PEP) Project was launched in mid-February 2009 to create clarity in our field about fundamental components of quality public engagement, and to support Barack Obama’s January 21, 2009 memorandum on open government.  A set of core principles were developed collaboratively with and through NCDD, found here as the 12-page Core Principles for Public Engagement document. These include the following:

The Core Principles for Public Engagement

These seven recommendations reflect the common beliefs and understandings of those working in the fields of public engagement, conflict resolution, and collaboration.  In practice, people apply these and additional principles in many different ways.

1. Careful Planning and Preparation
Through adequate and inclusive planning, ensure that the design, organization, and convening of the process serve both a clearly defined purpose and the needs of the participants.

2. Inclusion and Demographic Diversity
Equitably incorporate diverse people, voices, ideas, and information to lay the groundwork for quality outcomes and democratic legitimacy.

3. Collaboration and Shared Purpose
Support and encourage participants, government and community institutions, and others to work together to advance the common good.

4. Openness and Learning
Help all involved listen to each other, explore new ideas unconstrained by predetermined outcomes, learn and apply information in ways that generate new options, and rigorously evaluate public engagement activities for effectiveness.

5. Transparency and Trust
Be clear and open about the process, and provide a public record of the organizers, sponsors, outcomes, and range of views and ideas expressed.

6. Impact and Action
Ensure each participatory effort has real potential to make a difference, and that participants are aware of that potential.

7. Sustained Engagement and Participatory Culture
Promote a culture of participation with programs and institutions that support ongoing quality public engagement.

There’s a real need for this. Remember the healthcare town hall meetings across the US? Even though these principles are guidelines for larger-scale public engagement, they apply equally well in organizational settings and problem solving workshops.