Many years ago I remember running some community engagement training in South Australia (SA) where we talked about tools and techniques for engaging communities in decision-making. We covered everything from surveys, site tours, world cafes, open space, interviews, and at the time, probably glimmers of online engagement.
I distinctly remember teaching the participants about the concept of a Citizens’ Jury. A Citizens’ Jury is an engagement tool whereby participants are randomly selected ‘every day’ people and they are able to cross-question ‘expert witnesses’ to provide different perspectives on the topic to collectively produce a summary of their conclusions, typically in a short report. As an engagement practitioner I loved the concept, but at the time it was quite remote to my public sector trainees. I even remember a few giggles and mutterings along the lines of ‘that’ll never happen’!
So you can only imagine my delight when I heard the news that Premier Jay Weatherill commissioned the services of the newDemocracy Foundation to run a Citizens’ Jury to answer the question “How can we ensure we have a vibrant and safe Adelaide nightlife?”.
The process has been fascinating to watch unfold. I’ve loved hearing that the jury is ‘sitting’ over various weekends. There have been some great video summaries along the way and I’ve felt inspired to know that a group of randomly selected people were taking the time to consider an important local issue in great depth, with the support of a team of people able to pull on ‘experts’ to provide ‘evidence’ as necessary. It was particularly assuring to know that the random selection process focussed on achieving a good cross-representation of the community. There are no squeaky wheels here!
I should warn you however that I have already gained a bit of a reputation for rolling my eyes when I hear the words “Citizens’ Jury” in SA. It’s a similar eye roll when I hear the words “Food truck”. I love and support both concepts with an absolute passion. But we do have a bit of a tendency here in SA to jump on the latest bandwagon without first asking if its the right engagement tool for the situation.
Before we decide what tool to use, I can’t emphasise enough that we need to first determine so many factors including identifying our key stakeholders; identifying the decision that needs to be made, or problem solved; what value engagement with the community will add to our process; risk identification; and so on. In my opinion, choosing the tool or technique for the job comes secondary in the planning process.
On this occasion the Citizens’ Jury was definitely the right tool for the job and you can read their final report here.
Some recent ‘hot’ SA topics that I think a Jury process could have worked beautifully on are -
- Urban sprawl versus higher density living – as part of the 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide it would have been great to include some specific work with a Jury around some of these really difficult topics that caused a high level of concern and outrage within affected communities
- The great Royal Adelaide Hospital debate – renovate the existing location or build a new hospital (The Government opted for the latter)
- Rezoning of open space in places such as St Clair
These are what I call the ‘meaty’ topics that really need some heavy-weight engagement processes in place. The engagement needs to be in-depth, transparent, representative and considered. A Jury is a perfect tool.
So as we prepare for a flurry of Jury processes across the state, let’s embrace this exciting new era of engagement. I’m confident this won’t be the last Citizens’ Jury we see here in Adelaide. As my eyes roll, don’t confuse my apathy with my elation that finally we are starting to see some incredibly cool engagement.
But please. If I hear you suggest a Citizens’ Jury to decide which Food Truck we’re going to have lunch at today, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.
It is Tuesday afternoon at Council, much like any other. An email arrives.
TAKE YOUR CONSULTATION AND SHOVE IT!
72pt Times New Roman. Red. Following this surprise introduction are multiple paragraphs of emotional outrage.
We build resilience to these situations after a time, but we are all only human. Being on the receiving end of these kinds of communications, again and again, can just plain get you down.
In emotionally charged engagement projects rumours and hearsay spread through local communities like wildfire (in the absence of information, misinformation flourishes people!), but that is a whole other blog post. I would instead like to briefly dwell on the changing nature of communications in engagement projects today.
A conversation includes far more than just words. Emphasis, body language and facial expression (to name just a few things) also play a vital role in how we communicate and more importantly how we emotionally interpret information.
By being a step removed from the communications receiver, does the writer feel a step removed from being accountable for their words?
There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the depersonalisation and de-emotionalisation (yes I made that word up) associated with electronic text based communications has led to a significant shift in people’s communication behaviours. SMS, forums and email even have their own languages associated with them these days. The potential for misinterpretation, instant nature and permanency of electronic communications can sometimes get us into trouble.
Back to “take your consultation and shove it!” So how does one deal with being on the receiving end of these troll like communications?
My advice is, personalise it!
1. Don’t reply to the email
An escalating emotional email ping pong match will generally only to grow the tension. Email communications leave too much space areas for misinterpretation and possibly fuel outrage.
2. Ring them up
When you call someone you are a person, no longer a faceless official. You are also demonstrating that you genuinely want to understand the issue at hand and the reasons behind the emotion. Personalised contact will often take the heat out of a charged situation.
3. Have a conversation
A conversation is a two way exchange of information, more often than not a polite one. In my experience emotional emails are often due to misunderstanding and misinformation. Take the time to discuss real project information. Perhaps it is you with the misinformation and misunderstanding.
4. Develop the relationship
Motivated people are of great value to an engagement project. An outspoken person can become your key local community liaison or even your greatest project advocate. Fostering good relationships with community members is a much underrated mutually beneficial scenario. Social capital is a beautiful thing!
Thank you for listening!
Valli works in Local Government as a Community Engagement Coordinator. She is a recently retired rollergirl and believes that: “In order to fly, all one must do is simply miss the ground” (Douglas Adams).
Since Becky invited me to do a guest blog I have been reflecting on my personal experiences with community engagement of late. I am a bit conflicted at the moment but I know it has to do with the shifting space around community engagement and the direction it may be heading. So in keeping with Becky’s 5 – 10 themes approach here are THREE themes and the rest will have to wait for another blog:
Now if that all sounds a bit too deep, maybe it’s because it is. With public participation comes the responsibility of really understanding what we are doing so we make better decisions.
Barbara Chappell is an experienced community engagement practitioner living and working in South Australia with an International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) license to train participants in public participation and emotion and outrage management. She holds a Masters of Conflict Management, a Diploma of Human Resource Management and a Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment. Barbara has a background in the development and implementation of community engagement framework models in local government.
Something very interesting is happening in Adelaide.
For engagement professionals like me, there’s seems to be a certain ‘buzz’ in the air. I’m not sure if it is excitement for the upcoming IAP2 conference to be held in Adelaide, the new local collective gaining momentum called ‘Engage2Act’ or the great work being undertaken by all levels of government to improve the way we make decisions with our communities. (Think State Government’s commitment – Better Together and Adelaide City Council’s – Engagement Strategy)
This ‘buzz’ however is not just about a new document or upcoming conference. Over the last few years I’ve seen a steady increase in the level of interest and commitment from organisations to improve the way they consult with their stakeholders and local communities.
It doesn’t really matter what your organisation is calling it (engagement, consultation, partnerships, collaboration, co-creation or place making) what really matters is that the time is right. It’s a great time to influence your organisation.
Change often starts from within, and many organisations in SA are working internally to build their understanding, capability and capacity to deliver meaningful engagement activities.
For those like me who are driving this change from within – it’s both challenging and exciting.
In the spirit of sharing, here are ten tips for building organisational capability and embedding engagement into your organisation.
1) Increase organisational awareness by using a range of communications tools. These can be guest speakers at a leadership event, monthly reports, an internal blog, staff induction, 1:1 mentoring or sharing a good news story over a shared lunch. Consider the uniqueness of your organisation and modify your tools to reach all teams, departments and staff.
2) Recruit your own team of Engagement Champions, especially if you work in a large organisation. Focus your 1:1 training and support to key staff who are self-motivated or have been nominated by senior management. Your champions will work with their respective teams to educate and identify approaches that are suited to achieve their outcomes.
3) Deliver staff training and provide ‘engagement ‘101’ sessions for your organisation. Place emphasis on your overarching engagement principles as well as practical ways to plan for engagement activities. I have found that using a real life project to complete a ‘Project Engagement Strategy’ enables staff to see how important the planning stage is.
4) Develop a Corporate Brand for all your engagement opportunities. This will provide a consistent look and feel for all your engagement projects, whilst providing a standard ‘call to action’ so when people see it, they immediately know they can get involved and influence an important decision.
5) Design a flexible engagement process that supports the widest variety of projects that your organisation undertakes. Engagement is complex and will be different for each project. Break it down into stages or a step by step approach (eg Plan, Do, Report) so it doesn’t feel too overwhelming to follow.
6) Develop a range of staff resources to support the planning, delivery and reporting of engagement activities. Not sure what they need – well why not ask them? I have found that an engagement planning template, staff guides and toolkits (methods) are likely to be requested.
7) Provide a variety of online opportunities for feedback by a creating a dedicated place on your website or with an ‘off the shelf’ engagement platform. It will improve transparency in your processes, allow you to report back final decisions and provide the potential to re-engage participants on other decisions important to them.
8) Build an internal ‘one-stop-shop’ intranet site which outlines your new engagement process, staff resources, training dates and an engagement planning calendar. You and your champions can build this site over time to include other things like new resources, case studies and best practice examples.
9) Provide ongoing project support, but focus your energy during the planning stage. Planning is where you will have the greatest level influence to ensure engagement is meaningful and robust. Don’t forget that each time you provide support it’s an opportunity to educate staff and build their confidence and capacity.
10) Celebrate and share your success stories internally via case studies and lunchbox sessions. Leverage projects that went well or had positive outcomes by curating them a case study and/or hosting a casual discussion over lunch with your champions. You will be surprised how much an informal chat can draw our key learnings for your organisation.
Don’t forget that each organisation is unique and different, and so will your engagement journey. I hope these tips have given you a few ideas of how to embed engagement into your organisation.
What tip do you like and do you have any others to share?
Happy travelling, Dan.
Dan Popping is the Community Engagement Officer at Adelaide City Council.
After the Community Alliance formed, our many member groups spent a lot of time, and used a lot of butchers’ paper, coming up with what we call our ‘Platform for Change’. It included statements on the reforms and processes we want in order to bring about genuine community engagement, such as “Community Alliance SA is calling for reform based on a genuine partnership between communities, government and the development sector” and “Our goal is the establishment of a planning and development system that engages all parties in an open, transparent, accountable and sustainable process from the initial design concept through to implementation”.
The two of us recently attended a ‘Stakeholder Engagement’ workshop held by Becky Hirst. This helped us to understand how a good engagement process works. One of the most exciting aspects of being part of this workshop was that we were representatives of the ‘other side’, members of the actual community that governmental bodies need to engage with.
Of everything we learnt from Becky, the most crucial and informative was the description of the different levels of engagement from informing, consulting, involving and collaborating to empowering.
This and the other knowledge we gained will help us to better focus on the kind of engagement required and will, of course, help us advocate for what we and our group members want! The workshop also helped us understand the difficulties involved in carrying out really good engagement practices.
The Community Alliance recently held a public forum on the planning and development system in South Australia. We were heartened by the recognition so many of the politicians and experts gave to the need to involve and truly engage the community. These are our top ten quotes on community engagement from the forum (in no particular order) -
1. “Communities need to be informed and engaged so that they can in turn inform and engage government”
Nick Xenophon, Independent Federal Senator
2. “Rob Crocker (Secretary of the Community Alliance SA), and all of the Alliance, I would like to recognise you for being so passionate about people and place”
Vickie Chapman MP, Deputy Leader Liberal Party and Shadow Planning Minister
3. “Respectful engagement with local people can lead to a better outcomes and is a fundamental part of our democracy. These are decisions that affect your lives and your neighbourhoods”.
Mark Parnell MLC, Parliamentary Leader Greens SA
4. “I do think it is critical that we find a way to ensure communities are more embedded in the (planning) process and I do agree with this objective”
John Rau MP, Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning
5. “The current system of public consultation is terribly inadequate. There is a lack of genuine public engagement”.
Prof Rob Fowler, President Conservation Council SA
6. “You have to engage the public from day one”.
Kevin O’Leary, Adelaide-based planning expert
7. “Engagement is one of the areas that we would love to do more work in…..that is one of the reasons we are here tonight”.
John Hanlon, Chief Executive, Dept Planning Transport & Infrastructure
8. “I am all in favour of conflict. Unless you listen to dissenting voices and what they are saying, we are not going to achieve the outcomes that South Australia deserves”.
Dr Iris Iwanicki, President Planning Institute of Australia SA
9. “You will not get an engaged public unless you give options. This is a fundamental ingredient of a good planning document”.
Kevin O’Leary, Adelaide-based planning expert
10. “The best way to address social planning is to sit in the community space and listen”.
Dr Iris Iwanicki, President Planning Institute of Australia SA
With a good engagement process…..we can ‘put the people back into planning and development’.
Helen and Tom
Helen Wilmore is Treasurer and Tom Matthews is President of the Community Alliance SA, an umbrella organisation representing resident and community groups dedicated to ‘Putting the People back into Planning and Development’. Our goal is a planning and development process that is accountable, transparent and sustainable, and that guarantees genuine community consultation.
I was thrilled that my recent post about empowering communities received such positive and welcoming responses, particularly within the IAP2 Australasia LinkedIn group. Some 45 comments later, I have been left inspired by a suggestion from Fran Woodruff that the term “Have Your Say” is dead!
It’s a phrase that has really boomed during the last 5 or so years and you could certainly say that it has become a bit of a trend. Just a simple Google search of the phrase brings up pages and pages of ‘decision-makers’ using the phrase alongside their engagement activity (I stopped scrolling at page 30, but it look to continues on and on). It’s a phrase that makes sense and to be fair has brought about a much clearer marketing and communications message to promote the opportunity to get involved in civic life.
But what has really changed? Has this boom in using catchy phrases seen any greater public influence over Government decision making? Sure, the numbers are probably slightly higher but that is probably more likely due to an increase in online engagement during the same time period which has broadened (slightly) the number of people able to ‘have their say’. I checked out Google Trends for the worldwide popularity of the phrase ‘Have your say’ from 2004 until now and there’s quite a clear growth pattern!
In reflecting on the over use of the phase, Barbara Chappell said that she has long been irritated by the phrase. Quite rightly, she sees it as an ‘out’ for decision makers and a dead end for community members. So you have had your say and then what?… Barbara wants to see the shift from a parent-child relationship between Government and community to an adult-adult relationship. Hear hear!
The questions we need to ask are whether we are hearing that communities are connecting better with Government? Are we witnessing communities being heard by decision-makers once they’ve ‘had their say’? Are we seeing better, more sustainable decisions being made by Government? Hmm… I’m not so sure. What do you think?
As for me, I’m out. No more “Have your say” here. It has developed a reputation for being over used and under delivered. It’s officially banned.
Long may it rest in peace.
Effective and responsible community engagement requires careful monitoring of the professional ethics of a process.
Some guiding principles can help, in my experience.
1. Distinguishing between community engagement and communication.
THIS MEANS: Making a clear distinction between the work of public relations, communication and marketing personnel and those undertaking community engagement processes and not allowing a “PR” approach to dominate approaches.
2. Reaching and engaging hard-to-reach groups and individuals.
THIS MEANS: Developing specific approaches to target hard-to-reach and marginalised groups (older people, people with disability, Indigenous people, young people, members of CaLD [culturally and linguistically diverse] communities, isolated and/or rural residents….) and monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of those approaches.
3. Encouraging and resourcing sustainability debates.
THIS MEANS: Actively pursuing community education and capacity-strengthening to offer local people genuine opportunities to explore the implications of sustainability agendas and develop an interest in exploring options they might not have previously considered. Helping local people understand the implications of the discourses about sustainability and growth issues and building community capacity about options.
4. Addressing issues of cultural diversity by actively engaging culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) communities.
THIS MEANS: Finding ways to target non-English-speaking and other cultural groups and build bridges between and among cultural groups to open up a community conversation about options. This has significant resource implications in terms of translation and interpretation of all processes. Processes employed with non-English speakers must not be seen as abbreviated or lesser than processes for English-speaking community members.
5. Intergenerational participation: involving children and young people.
- Developing discrete, creative, tested and appropriate ways to engage children (up to 18 years) and young people (up to mid-twenties) and incorporating the results of those engagement processes into reports. This will require a deep understanding of evidence-based research on effective engagement with children and young people.
- Helping adults understand the wisdom of children and young people and ensuring that their contributions are treated with respect are key considerations.
6. Governance and influence: ensure that community engagement outcomes are actually fed into planning and design processes and that participants can track voice and influence.
THIS MEANS: An integrated processes that clearly indicates when and how community information and opinions will be taken into account to influence decisions at key target dates and deadlines. Feedback loops and governance structures established so that community members can see how their views are being taken into account and track their influence and voice.
7. Representativeness and tracking of community engagement activities and successes.
THIS MEANS: Ensuring that participants are representative of the wider community; developing and using deliberative democracy and other emerging processes that enhance representativeness; regular monitoring of representativeness issues and including ways to increase representativeness.
8. Relationships between and among various advisory groups, servicing and governance structures.
THIS MEANS: Developing clear draft terms of reference for each advisory group, including draft working protocols, assisting groups in refining these terms of reference and protocols and establishing clear reporting and liaison relationships between those groups and the project management, the ongoing community engagement strategy, as well as between those groups.
9. Tempo: managing timing, delays and budget implications.
THIS MEANS: Finding ways to maintain community interest and involvement over a long period, perhaps by tying processes to established community events and activities. Whatever processes are used to maintain pace and tempo, they must not smack of “tokenism” and must be related to real target dates and deliverables.
10. Evaluation proposals for community engagement.
THIS MEANS: Creation and maintenance of clear evaluation frameworks for the community engagement. In particular:
- Regular summaries of evaluation outcomes to enable ongoing feedback and monitoring (formative evaluation); and
- Clear processes for responding to the results of evaluation processes (summative evaluation).
Born in mid-winter in a freezing mining town in northern Canada, Wendy Sarkissian had the good sense – or good fortune — at 25, to migrate to Australia. Having spent almost all of her working life in Australia, she is a planner who specializes in social planning, housing density and community engagement. She has coauthored three new books: Kitchen Table Sustainability: Practical Recipes for Community Engagement with Sustainability, SpeakOut, and Creative Community Planning. She is also co-author of an award-winning book on medium-density housing design, Housing as if People Mattered: Illustrated Site-Design Guidelines for Medium-Density Family Housing. Wendy holds a doctorate in environmental ethics from Murdoch University and a Masters of Town Planning from Adelaide University. She is a Life Fellow of the Planning Institute of Australia and an Adjunct Professor at Bond University’s School of Sustainable Development. An exhausted but nevertheless enthusiastic owner-builder, Wendy lives with her husband in an eco-village in Nimbin. She is currently writing a novel about a developer in Vancouver who accidentally becomes the owner of a piece of flood-prone coastal land with warring neighbours, native land claims and complex politics.
It’s hard to believe how many people are talking the ‘co’-talk. But are they walking it?
Last year we published our book ‘The Power of Co’ and thought we were using a ‘newish’ term, but the terms collaborate, co-design and co-create seem to be all pervasive lately. I’d love to think we are partly responsible, but of course it’s more than that. Everyone knows we are facing some really tough challenges and we need to work and think differently to respond to them. So ‘co’ words are becoming fashionable, but can we keep it real, rather than merely using the rhetoric of the day?
Becky has invited me to share my top ten hints to collaborate well. So here goes.
If you are going to collaborate effectively you need to be:
1. … open to a new solution. If you think you have the answer already and you just want to convince others how clever you are, you are marketing and not collaborating.
2. … willing to work with people who think and see things differently to you. Innovation and creativity comes from diversity. If you want to play it safe and only work with the people who think like you, or who usually agree with your point of view, you are not ready to collaborate.
3…. less preoccupied with being ‘in control’. Innovative solutions invariably come from messiness, and from letting go. When you overly manage, you take ownership away from those you are working with. Ironically, when you share responsibility you may find that things actual get less ‘out of control’.
4. …willing to fail. This means, if you are not prepared to take any risks you are unlikely to get value from the collaboration. Successful collaboration results from people trying new things, and learning as we go. As Dave Snowden says, in the complex domain you need safe to fail experiments and to learn quickly. Amplify what is working and withdraw resources from things that are not working. It’s about emergent practice.
5. … prepared to co-define what you are collaborating over. Identifying really good questions in itself is part of the answer. When collaborators co-develop the questions there is much more commitment to collectively finding a solution.
6. … prepared to co-design how you will work together. When a single organisation designs the process and invites other to play they are automatically putting themselves in a more powerful position than others. When you design the process together, power is shared. Different ideas are valued. The players are more inclined to commit to a process they have developed.
7. … willing to re-invent the wheel. When people urge others not to reinvent the wheel they assume because something has worked well in one situation will surely work in another situation. They overlook the fact that what makes something work is the inventing process. Solutions are enduring when people invent a solution. Implementing someone else’s solution is not fun and we are inclined to bring it undone because it is not ours!
8. … willing to not hold back. Appreciating what others offer is really important. So too is being willing to value and share what you have to bring. Don’t deprive the collaborative effort of your skills, stories and knowledge. They are needed too!
9. … focused on a purpose that everyone values. It can’t just be yours. Being purpose driven means that some of the unpleasant and challenging stuff that happens along the way will not make you fall. Sometimes people behave badly, are unfair, are non-appreciative, and can bring others down. We are all capable of that. There is something about the ultimate reason for collaborating that can pull us through the difficult times. When we focus and believe in the merit of great collective thinking we are more inclined to be generous, appreciative, inquisitive, and just as importantly, resilient.
10. … willing to admit what you don’t now. I think I only have 9 points and can’t think of another right now. Collaboration means we need to be honest about our limitations. Maybe that is a tenth point after all!
If you want to learn about the Twyfords collaborative governance framework and 5 step model click here to book on to a workshop!
As a Director at Twyfords, our guest blogger Max Hardy provides high level consulting services to organisations to build their capability to collaborate and engage with their communities and stakeholders. With a particular interest in Deliberative Democracy and Appreciative Inquiry, Max has developed innovative models for community engagement covering a range of projects, especially those with a health and community planning emphasis.
It’s almost a week since the CoCreate Adelaide gathering and I’m still feeling warm and fuzzy from seeing such a great group of motivated individuals come together to identify things from within their community that they would like to develop, enhance, or change.
It wasn’t just a talk shop – this was a group of people who were willing to chip in together to make real changes. Hearing exchanges of solutions such as “I need a space to set up a hub” quickly followed by “I’ve got a space you can use” highlighted to me the potential for change to occur that is led by the community; happens at a quick pace that is so unfamiliar to our bureaucrat-led society; and is undertaken on a shoestring budget, if any budget at all. It reminded me a lot of David Engwicht and the messages he preaches through Creative Communities.
Having spent several years working with Government organisations in helping them to engage with the community, from my clients perspectives it has often felt like pulling hens teeth (whatever that might mean) to get members of the public engaged in their decision making processes. So you can only imagine my amazement as the team behind CoCreate Adelaide gathered 60 individuals in a dirty, disused warehouse on a Saturday morning – charged them $10 to be there and asked them to buy their own lunch! Whatever comes as an outcome of CoCreate Adelaide, there is without a doubt, something to be learned from this approach of bringing together like-minded, passionate people! Free lunches aren’t what brings people together! That’s a whole separate blog post and it’s on the to do list.
This space of community-led activity felt like home for me. This is where I began and a space I love. I often talk of the early-Blair years in which my career began – the years of social inclusion and community development. I love seeing people realise their own potential and become empowered to act on that potential. I love the sense of ownership and belonging that this brings to someone about the community in which they live.
A conversation with a fellow engagement practitioner who works for a traditional decision-making Government organisation at CoCreate Adelaide (yes, a plain-clothed public servant or two were amongst us) led me to pondering on how this approach had the potential to completely flip something such as the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation on its head! I’m a huge fan on the spectrum and use it in the majority of my client-based work. It really helps traditional engagement processes to be transparent and succinct in the level to which they engage with impacted stakeholders. It is written from the perspective that the decision-maker is the one who engages with the community. In this instance (and generally in my work) the decision-maker is the Government.
But what if the community became the decision-maker? And the Government be the one who is on the receiving end of engagement? I’ve created the above graphic to explore the type of promises that the community could make to the Government in this situation. As I explored this idea of putting the community in the centre of the process, I realised that this would make the spectrum of engagement BEGIN with empowered communities. How to begin with an empowered community? Well, that’s another blog post and it’s also on the to do list.
The community would then determine the level to which it wants and needs to engage with the Government. Collaborate gets my vote.
Don’t get me wrong on any of this, I’m not anti Government and I’m not suggesting we can take a community-led approach without Government. What I am suggesting is that we stop talking about the community as ‘them out there’ and challenge ourselves to think outside of the models of community engagement that we’ve all become so accustomed to. Government as decision-makers are not the be all and end all.
Each and everyone of us has the potential to be a fully-fledged decision maker.
I would love to know your thoughts.
It was Chinese philosopher Confucius who in 450BC wisely said “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand”.
It was Abraham Lincoln in 1863 who talked of a “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”.
Most recently, it was Barack Obama who suggested “We don’t ask you to believe in our ability to bring change, rather, we ask you to believe in yours.”
The theory of involving people in decision-making that affects them is certainly not a new concept. But yet here we are in 2013 still preaching the citizen-centric approach! To be fair on all of us, whilst the concept has been around for thousands of years from my observations of the ‘western world’, we are finding ourselves coming out of a couple of decades where the focus has become incredibly Government-centric, or organisation-centric as shown in the graphic above. This time saw processes becoming centred around the programs and services of the organisation; kept tightly in check by policy, procedure and legislation. And all of the above were of course held close to the hearts of many a decision-maker, manager, executive or elected representative. ‘People’ didn’t feature in the process other than being the receiver of the end program or service.
It brings me great pleasure however to see that a citizen-centric approach is on the radar of many a public servant. I’m also seeing more and more desire from citizens themselves to be at the centre of Government processes. Ok ok, none of us are really all that keen on the politics side of things (especially in Australia right now!) but when it comes to our communities – our social networks, our living and working conditions, and the broader environmental and cultural conditions of where we live, work and play – we want to be part of it.
This graphic aims to demonstrate the old organisation-centric way of working, versus the new citizen-centric approach. The question of course isn’t whether to apply this model to our work or not – it’s coming whether we like it or not! The question is whether we are ready?