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Working Effectively with Public Engagement Consultants: Tips for Local Officials (ILG Report)

ILG-LOGOIn planning and implementing public engagement activities, local officials often contract with external consultants for services. These may be consultants who design and lead activities devoted solely to public engagement, such as a series of community conversations contributing to the development of a local agency budget. Or they may be consultants who carry out tasks well beyond public engagement alone, such as assisting in the overall development of a general plan update. This tip sheet from the Institute For Local Government offers several recommendations to help guide local officials in the best use of public engagement consultants.
from the guide's Introduction...
Few resources exist to help guide local officials in the best use of public engagement consultants. Therefore, the Institute for Local Government, drawing on the experiences of both local officials and consultants, has compiled the following set of recommendations. Of course before hiring any individual or firm, it is important to ask for references and to check with your colleagues in other counties or cities about their experiences with the consultant. Requested competencies and deliverables should be spelled out clearly in an RFQ or RFP. Check with your local agency attorney about questions relating to any specific hiring process.
About the Institute for Local Government The Institute for Local Government  is the nonprofit research and education affiliate of the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities. The Institute’s Public Engagement Program promotes and supports effective and inclusive public engagement in California’s cities and counties and helps local officials make good decisions about involving the public in local decision making. The program offerings include: how-to guides and tip sheets (available for downloading), local stories from throughout the state, best practices, video presentations and more. Resource Link: www.ca-ilg.org/public-engagement-tips-local-officials This resource was submitted by Anna Hamilton, a Fellow at the Institute For Local Government, via the Add-a-Resource form.

Testing the Waters: California’s Local Officials Experiment with New Ways to Engage the Public (ILG Report)

This report—the first of two—presents the perspective of California’s public officials. It concludes with practical recommendations emerging from this study and its companion study on civic leaders’ perspectives for how to encourage productive relationships between local officials and the public and expand opportunities for broad sections of the public to meaningfully participate in local decision making.
from the guide's Description... What is the state of public participation in local government decision making in California? What opportunities do Californians have to engage with public issues? Where, other than at the ballot box, do elected officials hear from the residents they represent? What stands in the way of more productive dialogues between local officials—both elected and non-elected—and the residents they serve. What is the state of public participation in local government decision making in California? What opportunities do Californians have to engage with public issues? Where, other than at the ballot box, do elected officials hear from the residents they represent? What stands in the way of more productive dialogues between local officials—both elected and non-elected—and the residents they serve? To provide some answers to these questions, the Institute for Local Government and the Davenport Institute partnered with the research team at Public Agenda on a research study that sought the opinions of more than 900 local officials and 500 leaders of civic and community-based organizations in California. We asked these local officials and civic leaders about their efforts to engage the public in decision making, their experiences with traditional public hearings at council and commission meetings and their interests and attitudes toward newer forms of public engagement—especially methods that seek to give broad cross sections of the public the opportunity to deliberate over local issues and weigh the trade-offs of policy decisions that affect their lives. Results from our parallel study with leaders of California’s civic and community-based organizations are detailed in a separate report, “Beyond Business as Usual: Leaders of California’s Civic Organizations Seek New Ways to Engage the Public in Local Governance.
About the Institute for Local Government The Institute for Local Government  is the nonprofit research and education affiliate of the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities. The Institute’s Public Engagement Program promotes and supports effective and inclusive public engagement in California’s cities and counties and helps local officials make good decisions about involving the public in local decision making. The program offerings include: how-to guides and tip sheets (available for downloading), local stories from throughout the state, best practices, video presentations and more. Resource Link: www.ca-ilg.org/document/testing-waters-californias-local-officials-experiment-new-ways-engage-public This resource was submitted by Anna Hamilton, a Fellow at the Institute For Local Government, via the Add-a-Resource form.

Legal Issues Associated With Social Media (ILG Report)

ILG-LOGOWhat legal issues do public agencies face relating to their use of social media?  This paper chronicles a number of them. It also offers “dos and don’ts” advice for reaping the benefits of social media while minimizing the pitfalls.  A version of this paper was delivered to the May 2010 City Attorneys Spring Conference.
from the guide's Introduction.. Social media has transformed communication through Internet technologies that allow users to communicate directly with each other. A key consequence of this is that traditional institutions (for example, the mainstream media, corporations and public agencies) no longer play a controlling role in information flows. This shift in the balance of power is illustrated by such phenomena as the viral “United Breaks Guitars” video on YouTube.  Millions viewed with the airline traveler’s consumer complaint delivered by song. The post resonated with every consumer that identified with the frustration of not having companies take responsibility for their actions. Another implication of social media is that conversations are occurring in different places and among different people. No longer is the concept of a “community” something that is defined by location.
About the Institute for Local Government The Institute for Local Government  is the nonprofit research and education affiliate of the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities. The Institute’s Public Engagement Program promotes and supports effective and inclusive public engagement in California’s cities and counties and helps local officials make good decisions about involving the public in local decision making. The program offerings include: how-to guides and tip sheets (available for downloading), local stories from throughout the state, best practices, video presentations and more. Resource Link: www.ca-ilg.org/SocialMediaLegalIssues This resource was submitted by Anna Hamilton, a Fellow at the Institute For Local Government, via the Add-a-Resource form.

Happiness Alliance and the Gross National Happiness Index

hi_logoThe Happiness Alliance, home of The Happiness Initiative and Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index, is a deeply grassroots organization.  Their mission is to improve the well-being of society by reducing emphasis on economic growth and focusing on the domains that lead to life satisfaction, resilience and sustainability. Their purpose is to provide tools resources and knowledge to foster grassroots activism for a new economic paradigm. The Happiness Alliance is a volunteer driven organization.

The Happiness Initiative

Gain the knowledge and resources to conduct a happiness initiative in your city, community, business or other organization and use the GNH Index.  Receive a Happiness Initiative Leadership Training certification for full attendance of the course. Happiness Initiative Leadership Training Learn and share in an interactive and compassionate setting. This training will give you the tools, knowledge and resources to conduct a happiness initiative in your city, community, business or other organization. We will cover all the steps to conduct a happiness initiative. Topics range from the logistics of conducting a happiness initiative, to trouble shooting and taking a project to the next level. Areas covered include team building, conducting the survey, media and communications, objective metrics, data gathering, report writing, town meeting planning and facilitation, project management, individual happiness projects, community happy projects, public relations and marketing and fundraising. You receive a Happiness Initiative Leadership Training certification for full attendance of the course.

Gross National Happiness Index

How to Use the Gross National Happiness Index is a simple and short guide to using a subjective well-being indicator at any scale for the grass roots activist at any level. It was first published in 2011, and has been used by over 110 cities, communities, campuses and companies in the US and internationally. Musikanski, L., Goldenberg, E, and Flynn, T., 2011, The Happiness Alliance. Resource Link: www.happycounts.org This resource was submitted by Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of the Happiness Alliance via the Add-a-Resource form.

Workshop Findings – Bringing Citizen Voices to the Table: Infrastructure Needs in a Democracy

This report describes the findings of the May 22, 2014 workshop "Bringing Citizen Voices to the Table: Infrastructure Needs in a Democracy," hosted by Simon Fraser University's Centre for Dialogue in partnership with SFU Public Square. The featured speaker was Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, founder of AmericaSpeaks, and one of the foremost citizen engagement practitioners in North America. The report summarizes participant evaluations of the citizen engagement infrastructure in British Columbia, Canada, as well as participants’ ideas to strengthen the influence of citizen voices on policy decisions. 
Executive Summary Bringing Citizen Voices to the Table brought together 67 prominent citizen engagement practitioners from British Columbia to evaluate the province’s citizen engagement infrastructure and explore ways to strengthen the influence of citizen voices on policy decisions at all levels of government in the region. Featured guest Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer presented seven types of infrastructure required to support citizen engagement in a democracy. Participants then worked collaboratively to evaluate British Columbia’s citizen engagement infrastructure in the focus areas of neighbourhood planning, transportation, and mental health & addictions. Common infrastructure assets identified among the three focus areas included: safe, accessible physical spaces; access to technology; and a network of skilled facilitators. Repeated infrastructure gaps identified among the three focus areas included: a trustworthy, fact-based media; and robust civic education. Within each focus area, participants voted on the degree to which citizen engagement currently impacts policy development. Average results ranged from “a little” to “moderate,” with the focus area of neighbourhood planning registering the highest perceived impact. Participants then nominated and voted upon the top barriers that prevent the expanded use of citizen engagement at the municipal level in British Columbia. The top three choices related to the voluntary decisions of stakeholders to enter into a citizen engagement process. These were: low political will; commitment by all; and engagement is unappealing. In the final activity of the workshop, participants each wrote down one key government action that could strengthen the influence of citizen engagement on policy decisions in their focus area. The five most common themes were: 1. Allocate resources and infrastructure 2. Codify engagement responsibilities 3. Make outcomes transparent 4. Leverage third party implementation or monitoring 5. Pre-disclose how citizen input will be used Two overall themes emerged from the workshop findings. First, the expansion of citizen engagement at all levels of government in British Columbia is dependent on elected representatives and citizens making stronger commitments to collaborative decision-making. Second, participants suggested that many jurisdictions in British Columbia appear to lack a culture of engagement that provides the transparency, predictability, and sophistication required for governments and citizens to engage effectively and with confidence. These two themes could be related; many elected representatives and citizens may treat citizen engagement with skepticism due to negative past experiences with engagement processes that do not reflect modern best practices. Suggested next steps include working with governments to initiate pilot projects that increase familiarity with modern citizen engagement practices. Over time, such pilot projects could build stakeholder capacity to implement and participate in citizen engagement processes and create confidence that these can be fair and lead to better outcomes. Research is also required to collect the perspectives of elected representatives and citizens, both of which would provide further insights into the status of citizen engagement at all levels of government in British Columbia.
Funding for the Bringing Citizen Voices to the Table workshop was provided through the SFU Centre for Dialogue’s Bruce and Lis Welch Community Dialogue, a yearly event designed to encourage transformative social change through dialogue. For more information, contact Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue at dial@sfu.ca, or visit www.sfu.ca/dialogue. Resource Link: www.sfu.ca/dialogue/citizen-voices This resource was submitted by Robin Prest from Simon Fraser University's Centre for Dialogue via the Add-a-Resource form.

The Deliberative Mapping Approach

This 4-page publication (2004) describes the "Deliberative Mapping" approach and how it could be used to foster more productive discussions between specialists and members of the public about complex policy issues where there is no obvious way forward. Though it only appears to have been tried once, Deliberative Mapping was a methodology that could be applied to a problem to judge how well different courses of action perform according to a set of economic, social, ethical and scientific criteria. The aim was to use the approach as the basis for more robust, democratic and accountable decision making which better reflects public values. The methodology combined assessment by individual specialists and members of the public (or citizens). Participants:
  • appraise a complex problem for which there is no single obvious way forward
  • systematically weigh up the pros and cons of each of the potential ‘options’ under consideration, and
  • integrate their individual assessments to help identify a possible future course of action.
Deliberative Mapping integrated two independent but complementary approaches to informing decision making:
  • Stakeholder decision analysis (SDA) which is a qualitative group based process
  • Multi-Criteria Mapping (MCM) which is a quantitative, computer-assisted interview process
This briefing was authored by Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Sussex and the Environment and Society Research Unit (ESRU) University College. Resource Link: http://ncdd.org/rc/wp-content/uploads/DeliberativeMapping.pdf (download)

Trainer’s Manual: Getting the Most from a Collaborative Process

This Manual from the Policy Consensus Institute contains the essential information for training leaders from agencies and organizations interested in learning more about how to use collaborative processes to address public issues. These materials are practical and problem-centered, designed to capitalize on people’s experience and to help them integrate new ideas with their existing knowledge. They are presented in eight modules, each module covering an aspect of the “best practices” for sponsoring, organizing, and conducting a collaborative governance process. Each module includes descriptions of key points to cover and activities to address the key points. The Manual also provides audio visual materials in the form of a CD with PDF handouts and slides and a video DVD of various leaders describing their roles in collaborative processes. These materials are designed to be used in conjunction with the PCI Practical Guide to Collaborative Governance. The first step for workshop sponsors and trainers is to decide on your objectives, target audience, and the format and length of the workshop. Then you will be able to decide which modules will best serve your objectives. At minimum, if all modules are used, the workshop will take six to seven hours. With the use of speakers, panels, and time for group interaction, the workshop will take eight hours or more. However, effectively covering all of the material in one day can be a challenge, even for experienced trainers. An alternative is to hold a series of workshops, so that each module can be covered in a more in-depth fashion. This could take the form of a two - or three-part workshop, or even a “Module a Month.” The more time spent with each module, the stronger the chances are that the material will be used effectively.

Table of Contents

Planning The Workshop

  • Introduction
  • Responsibilities of Workshop Sponsors
  • Responsibilities of Trainers
  • Steps In Planning The Workshop
  • Planning The Workshop
  • Confirming Workshop Participation
  • Preparing And Assembling Materials
  • Preparing An Example For Module 3

Keys To A Successful Workshop

  • Workshop Modules (See PDF slides and handouts provided on CD)
  • Module 1: Collaborative Governance Processes: An Overview
  • Module 2: When to Sponsor a Collaborative Process
  • Module 3: How to Assess the Potential for Collaboration
  • Module 4: Working with a Neutral Forum and Facilitator
  • Module 5: The Role of Convener
  • Module 6: Participation: Who Needs to be at the Table
  • Module 7: How to Plan and Organize the Process
  • Module 8: Tools and Techniques for Reaching and Implementing Agreements
  • Module 9: How to Close the Workshop
Resource Link: www.policyconsensus.org/publications/practicalguide/collaborative_governance.html ($75)

A Practical Guide to Collaborative Governance

A Practical Guide to Collaborative GovernanceThis 62-page step-by-step handbook from the Policy Consensus Institute walks readers through the stages of sponsoring,convening, organizing, and participating in a public policy collaborative process. Designed primarily for elected and appointed government officials and civic leaders, the guide also is useful for those who provide leaders with the staff assistance, facilitation services, and support they need to employ these approaches effectively. The Practical Guide was developed and written by Chris Carlson, founding director of PCI and a leading authority on consensus building in the public sector. The Practical Guide to Collaborative Governance will help equip more leaders - present and future, in the public, private, and civic sectors - with the information and tools they need to bring about better governance through the use of collaborative practices, with instructions on how to:
  • Understand the spectrum of collaborative processes
  • Identify when collaborative processes will work and when they won't
  • Sponsor a collaborative process
  • Conduct an assessment
  • Choose and use a neutral forum and facilitator
  • Identify and work with a convener
  • Ensure legitimacy for the process through inclusive participation
  • Plan and organize the process
  • Develop ground rules to guide the process
  • Conduct problem-solving discussions and reach consensus agreements
  • Create Mechanisms for implementation and on-going collaboration
Excerpt: Understanding The Spectrum of Collaborative Governance Processes (58kb PDF)

Reviews

"PCI's Practical Guide to Collaborative Governance is indeed practical. It is also succinct, thorough and wise. Municipal officials and other leaders will appreciate the careful outlines of steps and considerations. Especially important are the balanced assessments of what works when and how - and what doesn't. This is an excellent resource for local leaders."

Bill Barnes, National League of Cities

"PCI has provided yet another practical publication for legislators and other government officials. The chapter on 'The Role of the Convener' gives lawmakers clear examples and tips about how they can lead and promote collaborative problem solving in their communities. The helpful guidelines should greatly assist legislators who want to try on this important convener role."

Bruce Feustel, National Council of State Legislators

"A Practical Guide to Collaborative Governance will undoubtedly prove to be an invaluable tool for anyone seeking to develop a consensus-based solution to a complex or contentious public issue. Whether the goal is conflict resolution or the development of sound public policy that all comers can support, users of theGuide will find helpful process-oriented suggestions based on the real-world experiences of those who have successfully employed collaborative governance techniques in a wide variety of circumstances. The Guide will help lawmakers and other elected officials fulfill their unique potential as “conveners” of collaborative initiatives designed to produce lasting policy results."

Mike McCabe, Council of State Governments

Resource Link: www.policyconsensus.org/publications/practicalguide/collaborative_governance.html ($15)

The Civic Imagination: Making a Difference in American Political Life

Non-partisan, interdisciplinary, and written for the educated lay reader, "The Civic Imagination: Making a Difference in American Political Life," was released by Paradigm Publishers in 2014. Written by scholars Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Elizabeth A. Bennett, Alissa Cordner, Peter Taylor Klein, and Stephanie Savell, this book is an excellent way to further a conversation about what it means to be a U.S. citizen, a skeptic, an activist, and a dreamer of a better tomorrow. 161205305X_cf150The Civic Imagination is an ethnographic study of seven civic organizations in Providence, Rhode Island. For one year, the five researchers participated in each groups' meetings and events, volunteering alongside activists, and interviewing leaders about their lives and work. All these people wanted to make Providence a better place to live, but their ideas about how political change is made, and the actions they took, were radically different. This book introduces the concept of a "civic imagination"-- a cognitive roadmap that guides civic engagement, helps to diagnose social problems, and directs actions that affect political change. In a time of unprecedented skepticism of governments, disdain for politics, and distrust of politicians, The Civic Imagination offers two key insights. First, cynicism and apathy do not go hand in hand! People who "are not political" actively create ways to make change. Second, how we think about politics shapes how we do politics. By sharing colorful stories and surprising accounts of how Providence activists go about making change, the book provides examples of possible forms of engagement and critical commentary about these approaches, paying particular attention to how engagement strategies can often be blind to or inadvertently deepen social inequalities. Resource Link: www.paradigmpublishers.com/books/BookDetail.aspx?productID=356908 This resource was submitted by co-author Stephanie Savell of Brown University via the Add-a-Resource form.

Six Tools for More Effective Nonprofit Board Meetings

In this paper, Dr. Rick Lent of Brownfield & Lent provides directions for six tools that he finds particularly useful in improving the effectiveness of board meetings in nonprofit organizations.
All meetings have structures that influence which participants speak, how they sit, how time is managed, how thoughts are shared, and how decisions are made. People act as they do in a given structure because that’s what makes sense to them to do—without even thinking about it. Most structures go unnoticed even as they influence the way the meeting works. Nonprofit board meetings are no exception and may face additional challenges due to their large size (more than 10), mission focus, role of volunteers and so on. Fortunately, you can easily implement more effective structures—a more effective structure naturally builds productive discussions and helps the board stay on track and on time.
Resource Link: www.4good.org/rick-lent/five-tools-for-more-effective-non-profit-board-meetings This resource was submitted by Rick Lent from Meetings for Results via the Add-a-Resource form.
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