Via Twitter, I just came across a very nice set of guiding principles for community engagement from the City of Guelph (located in Canada near Toronto, Ontario).

The page lists responsibilities for the key parties involved in the public participation process: the community engagement team, city employee, participant, and council.

It’s a very solid resource, but I found the section on participant responsibilities particularly noteworthy:

Participant responsibilities

Successful community engagement processes require respectful and constructive contributions of participants. Participants are responsible to:

  • Pursue community engagement with the belief that community involvement leads to better decisions
  • Focus on the decision to be made or the question to be answered
  • Recognize the City must consider the needs of the whole community
  • Strive to reach sustainable solutions
  • Request alternative ways of participating if required
  • Listen to understand the views of others
  • Identify concerns and issues early in the process
  • Participate openly, honestly and constructively, offering ideas, suggestions, alternatives
  • Work in the process in a transparent, respectful and cooperative manner
  • Stay abreast of the project, engagement activities and related issues
  • Provide input and feedback within project timelines
  • Encourage others to become engaged, and offer input to the project and engagement activities
  • Provide contact information as requested, to receive updates about the community engagement process

First of all, it’s a really good idea to spell these out, certainly as part of a specific project but even more so as a general guideline to help shape the a city’s overall public participation culture.

Second, there are a couple of items in there that point towards an understanding of participant role that goes beyond simply contributing input in a civil and constructive manner, an opportunity we highlight frequently in our work with clients:

  • Help with outreach (“encourage others to become engaged”)
  • Help with improving the public participation infrastructure (“request alternative ways of participating if required”)

Have you seen similar guidelines, particularly with regard to the participant role? Please share.