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Core Principles for Public Engagement

The Public Engagement Principles (PEP) Project was launched in mid-February 2009 to create clarity in our field about what we consider to be the fundamental components of quality public engagement, and to support President Obama’s January 21, 2009 memorandum on open government.  The following principles were developed collaboratively by members and leaders of NCDD, IAP2 (the International Association of Public Participation), the Co-Intelligence Institute, and many others.

Enjoy this interactive DebateGraph of the principles! Click on a principle to see the additional text on what the principle looks like in practice, and what to avoid.

Thank-you to David Price (co-founder of debategraph) for creating this graph! (also online here)

Download the full 12-page Core Principles for Public Engagement document (PDF), which includes details about how the principles were developed, a partial list of endorsing organizations, and expanded text outlining what each of the 7 principles looks like and what practitioners and leaders should avoid.  (See links at the bottom of the page for other options).

The Core Principles for Public Engagement

These seven recommendations reflect the common beliefs and understandings of those working in the fields of public engagement, conflict resolution, and collaboration.  In practice, people apply these and additional principles in many different ways.

1. Careful Planning and Preparation
Through adequate and inclusive planning, ensure that the design, organization, and convening of the process serve both a clearly defined purpose and the needs of the participants.

2. Inclusion and Demographic Diversity
Equitably incorporate diverse people, voices, ideas, and information to lay the groundwork for quality outcomes and democratic legitimacy.

3. Collaboration and Shared Purpose
Support and encourage participants, government and community institutions, and others to work together to advance the common good.

4. Openness and Learning
Help all involved listen to each other, explore new ideas unconstrained by predetermined outcomes, learn and apply information in ways that generate new options, and rigorously evaluate public engagement activities for effectiveness.

5. Transparency and Trust
Be clear and open about the process, and provide a public record of the organizers, sponsors, outcomes, and range of views and ideas expressed.

6. Impact and Action
Ensure each participatory effort has real potential to make a difference, and that participants are aware of that potential.

7. Sustained Engagement and Participatory Culture
Promote a culture of participation with programs and institutions that support ongoing quality public engagement.


Members of the Core PEP Working Group

  • Tom Atlee, Director of the Co-Intelligence Institute
  • Stephen Buckley, CEO of U.S. Transparency
  • John Godec, Board member of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)
  • Reynolds-Anthony Harris, Managing Director of Lyceum Patners & Co.
  • Sandy Heierbacher, Director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD)
  • Leanne Nurse, Board Member of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD)
  • Steve Pyser, Editor of the International Journal of Public Participation
  • Stephanie Roy McCallum, Past President, International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)

Main Links

Full Core Principles Document – Complete 12-page document.

PEP graphic – One-page color graphic depicting the 7 Core Principles (downloadable PDF).

DebateGraph – Interactive graphic that walks you through each principle (including the additional text on what each principles looks like, and what to avoid).

List of Endorsers – Complete list of both organizational and individual endorsers.

  More Resources  

Add a Comment

  1. Daniel Homsey Says:

    This is fantastic content and the site looks brilliant!

  2. What Not to Do: Principles for Creating Chaos Says:

    [...] Tim on November 5, 2010 Based on NCDD’s Core Principles of Public Engagement, the hand-out material at NCDD 2010 Austin includes this tongue-in-cheek list of things not to [...]

  3. How To Create Policy on a Wiki Says:

    [...] above was the highly collaborative effort across multiple organizations in 2009 to create the Core Principles for Public Engagement (see earlier posts here, here) let by NCDD and others (strictly speaking, the online collaboration [...]

  4. Happy Birthday, NCDD! « IAP2 USA Blog Says:

    [...] in early 2009 that involved many organizations in our field in crafting a shared set of Core Principles for Public Engagement to help guide the Obama administration’s Open Government efforts in the area of public [...]

  5. Rene Kane Says:

    I mostly like the new materials posted on public engagement. They’re evidence of a lot of work to get to the essence of PEP. That is, until I got to the interactive graphic and saw the old, tired label for people who frequently show up for public engagement opportunities — usual suspects. Until and unless we stop labelling people, we’re creating and maintaining a separation based on our judgement of a person’s value and the vailidity of their participation. When does someone become a usual suspect? when we disagree with their position (there’s neutrality for you) or after the second, third or 10th time they show up? and who are we to say that even at that 10th experience they might not add something of value? can we find another term that isn’t so insultiing? let’s be genuinely welcoming and respectful to anyone who takes time and energy to show up — in person, online, in print or in spirit whether it’s their first time or their 51st time.

  6. Sandy Heierbacher Says:

    Thanks for that feedback, Rene! You have to dig deep into the principles document to find that phrase “usual suspects,” but perhaps you’re right that it’s time for us to move on from that phrase.

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