Deliberative Public Engagement

Involve and the National Consumer Council have published a report Deliberative public engagement: nine principles.

 The white paper, Communities in Control, extended and identified new requirements for local authorities in developing, responding to and promoting local democracy. (For further information and discussion on this white paper have a look at the blog from Dhara, Policy Officer at NCVO. Her post also includes a link to NCVO’s response to this white paper).

This report is intended to support public bodies in engagement activities both in terms of the methods they use and planning for the resources they may need – to help them with the practical application of proposals in this white paper as well other government initiatives.

The publication highlights the benefits of such an approach, (while acknowledging that deliberation is not new); explains what deliberative public engagement is; the forms it can take, e.g. deliberative research, dialogue and decision-making; and gives advice on when to use deliberative public engagement.

It then sets out the nine principles for effective deliberative public engagement:

  • The process makes a difference
  • The process is transparent
  • The process has integrity
  • The process is tailored to circumstances
  • The process involves the right number and types of people
  • The process treats participants with respect
  • The process gives priority to participants’ discussions
  • The process is reviewed and evaluated to improve practice
  • Participants are kept informed

It has a useful diagram and formula for effective engagement and points to some additional material on public and stakeholder engagement.

While the white paper has been welcomed by many, some interesting questions have also been raised. Richard Wilson, the director of Involve, has raised some of these in a blog for the Guardian

While he thinks the white paper has real ambition and spirit, some aspects having the potential to revolutionise communities’ relationship with the state, he also thinks it is a politician’s interpretation of empowerment.

He argues that the emphasis is upon giving people a louder voice, which government thinks will give them more power – however - this doesn’t leave space to tackle problems within that system. Richard highlights that the white paper misses contemporary movements towards social innovation and open source democracy which focus on government more as a genuine facilitator of communities.

He thinks the white paper needs to move beyond traditional notions of community in order to free up human potential, allow people to plug in to government resources and power, as well as let people identify their own problems and solutions.

How do you think deliberative public engagement should move into the future?

Where might your organisation fit in with these processes?

Involve and the NCC see this report as a first step – they are welcoming feedback with the possibility of considering more detailed guidance in the future.

Have you got any feedback for them? (http://www.involve.org.uk/home)

Related drivers:

Engagement in formal politics

Partnership working and governance

Public participation in decision making

Localism agenda

Expectations of evidence

Last updated at 15:08 Mon 18/May/09.
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