According to IAP2, there are different levels of public participation: inform, consult, involve, collaborate, empower. Each level of participation has different expectations of various interested parties*. In order to identify how interested parties are invited to participate in the engagement activity or process, the organization must understand the interests of the groups present in the community as well as their own organization’s interest. Additionally, the organization needs to be very clear on the purpose of the engagement.
Consider these three different purposes when deciding your next engagement process:
● Community Connectedness
● Project/Process/Program Specific
● Policy Decisions
Community connectedness is about community members of all ages and backgrounds feeling connected with one another and feeling informed about what is happening in their community and government. Engaging the community helps build trust between community members and city /county staff, creates a sense of belonging in the community, and contributes to a welcoming and inclusive community. Examples of community connectedness engagement activities include: community events and celebrations, one on one conversations, and community conversations. This type of engagement is also intended to inform and learn about the needs, confusion, and sense what changes are happening in the community.
Project, program, or service-specific engagement is about the delivery of specific city /county services or programs to the community. Engaging the community for this purpose helps community members understand the decision-making process. It also allows for increased transparency, and helps the city /county assess the impact, effectiveness, and identify areas for improvement. Examples of project, program, or service- specific engagement activities include focus groups, surveys, and neighborhood meetings. This type of engagement is intended to
mitigate the risks and inspire support for the changes necessary by soliciting input/feedback on specific programs, projects, or services.
Policy level engagement is about increasing civic engagement and public participation in the decision-making process that leads to change in policy, direction of the city, or establishment of new services and programs. Engaging the community for this purpose helps create better decisions for all members of the community. Examples of policy level engagement activities include establishment of commissions, advisory boards, and task forces. For this type of engagement, the intent is to convene the interested parties to learn from each other’s perspectives, understand shared experiences, and collaborate on strategic decisions.
*Interested parties are identified as various community groups, who have an interest in the outcome of the engagement.