Public engagement (or public participation) gets a bad rap. And most of the time, our public engagement deserves it.
- Nasty confrontational public hearings,
- “Public Feedback” events where everyone on both sides knew they were just going through the motions, and
- Idea-generating sessions that don’t generate ideas that anyone can actually use,
it’s no wonder that attendance at public meetings has plummeted. And that no one wants to do them.
It does not have to be that way.
The Wise Economy Workshop’s approach to public engagement draws on a palette of techniques for channeling groups of people to work together, generate feedback that will actually make your plan better, and … short-circuit grandstanding, fights and other bad behavior before it has a chance to start.
How? We do it by
- Carefully structuring a mix of small group cooperative activities,
- Creating activities that people find useful – that they want to participate in,
- Creating activities that allow people to see results – and give you a clear and reliable record of what exactly happened
- Creating a full compliment of online engagement to work with the in-person events — because people live and communicate through both.
The difference between community initiatives that succeed and those that get squelched depends on effective and meaningful public engagement. And too often, we don’t set our communities — or ourselves — up to be able to do that. But we can. We just have to know how.
The basics of the approach are summed up in the Wise Fool Press book, Crowdsourcing Wisdom. Here’s a few examples of initiatives where 360 Public Engagement made the difference between a successful project and a disaster.