Public engagement has raised awareness and become vital in 21st-century democracies. While traditional top-down decision-making approaches are recognized 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 morally more “good” and more right for decisions made through a deliberative participation process, compared 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 is established on its instrumental value.
Here we summarize five motives for 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 more information and given the chance to voice, the 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 communication.
3 Better decisions
Involving the public in decision-making helps decision-makers to fulfill public needs and generate better solutions. The decisions involving 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 maintaining a stable and healthy partnership between the government and the public. Therefore, public engagement enriches government-public partnerships.
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 in their problem-solving abilities and offers them the possibility 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 for idea collection and management in WeSolve app to fill communication gaps and promote better decision-making.
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