Engagement

5 Motives of Engaging Citizens in Decision-making

Public engagement has raised awareness and become vital in 21st-century democracies. While traditional top-down decision-making approaches are recognised as inefficient and demolish trust in government-public relations, public participation as a collaborative approach serves for effective decision-making and democratic innovations. The first question that we ask ourselves before involving the public is why we should engage citizens.

“An end in itself”

Public engagement is considered as morally more “good” and more right for decisions made through a deliberative participation process, comparing with other non-participatory processes. The value of engagement is expressed intrinsically in itself.

“A means to an end”

Public engagement serves as a means to encourage action through public education. The value of engagement established on its instrumental value.

 

Community

 

Here we summarize five motives of engaging citizens in decision-making.

1 Enhanced understanding

Public engagement provides opportunities for citizens to understand issues better and express their ideas. By incorporating concerns, ideas and aspirations of the public and local communities that are usually ignored into decision-making, decision makers are better informed.

2 Improved communication

Since citizens are offered with more information and given the chance to voice, values and ideas of citizens are better understood by decision makers. Public engagement is a bottom-up approach that can fill the communication gap between citizens and decision makers. Therefore, it reduces misunderstandings and conflicts during the communication.

Communication

3 Better decisions

Involving the public in decision-making helps decision makers to fulfil public needs and generate better solutions. The decisions involve citizens and local knowledge are more inclusive and effective. Improved outcomes in decision-making increase the acceptance of decisions. Thus, engaging citizens in decisions can gain more support from the public and promote the implementation of decisions.

4 Positive partnerships

Meaningful and effective participation creates positive feedback and more possibilities to collaborate decision makers with citizens. Enhanced collaboration is crucial to establish and maintain a stable and healthy partnership between the government and the public. Therefore, public engagement enriches government-public partnerships.

People

5 Empower citizens

Given access to decision-making creates a sense of community ownership for the public. Citizens often believe that they have the capabilities to contribute ideas and solve problems. Public engagement empowers citizens who are confident with their problem-solving abilities and offers them with possibilities of managing their communities. In return, public contribution to their communities also helps to shape the participation activities and improve decision-making.

WeSolve is a technology-based engagement tool that drives the process of public engagement. We develop strategies on idea collection and management in WeSolve app to fill communication gaps and promote better decision-making.

 

References

1 Buchy, M., & Hoverman, S. (2000). Understanding public participation in forest planning: a review. Forest Policy and Economics, 1(1), 15-25.

2 Bulkeley, H., & Mol, A. P. J. (2003). Participation and Environmental Governance: Consensus, Ambivalence and Debate. Environmental Values, 12(2), 143-155.

3 Macnaghten, P., & Jacobs, M. (1997). Public identification with sustainable development: Investigating cultural barriers to participation. Global Environmental Change, 7(1), 5-24.

4 Matthijs, H., & Eefje, C. (2015). Participatory assessment: tools for empowering, learning and legitimating? : Edward Elgar Publishing.

5 Pellizzoni, L. (2003). Uncertainty and Participatory Democracy. Environmental Values, 12, 195-224.

 

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About The Author

Yunyue Peng

Master student in Nature Management at the University of Copenhagen, focusing on public participation and citizen action in nature conservation and sustainable development.