Public Engagement is a way of bringing citizens, community non-profit organizations, businesses, and government together to solve problems that affect people’s lives.
It is a very inclusive problem-solving approach to deal with complex public problems. When everyone in a community is affected by a problem, everyone should take part in finding solutions to that problem. In this way, a partnership is formed where people work together to achieve a common goal.
What is the difference between public consultation and public engagement?
With public consultation, government asks people to give it ideas about what they think should be done to solve a problem. This often happens through a process where citizens, community organizations and the business sector make recommendations for government to act on. Government then goes away and makes a final decision about what will be done. Government then takes action. There is little dialogue and citizens, community organizations and the business sector do not participate in making the decisions as to what will be done, nor are they expected to act on any of the solutions suggested.
With public engagement, everyone comes together to talk about a problem. Citizens, community organizations, the business sector and government contribute to finding solutions to the problem. They express their ideas and opinions, listen to each other and decide together what needs to be done and who will do it. There is a lot of dialogue, thought and learning as the partners make a plan to address the problem. And then, everyone takes action.