Everybody in government is doing engagement. Here's how we can do it better
Across all levels of government there is one process baked into the processes of policy and service design that is more or less inescapable.
Throughout the public (and private) sector there has long been a realisation that making change to complex systems without involving or at least consulting those who will be affected is not a great recipe for successful implementation.
But for all the awareness around the need to “engage” citizens there has been surprisingly little progress made in the methods for effectively doing so.
Not attempting to engage with users around a policy, program or service is now understood to be a fatal flaw.
But engaging with them through a botched, poorly conceived or inadequate process can be just as damaging. And I see it happening every day.
I recently spoke at a recent Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) event: Citizen at the Centre. I was asked to reflect on the future of citizen engagement and came up with these four major shifts that are needed to redefine the way government agencies engage with citizens.
- It’s more than citizen engagement – its system-wide engagement.
At the start of every policy and/or service delivery challenge we map the system of actors who are immediately at the centre of the topic, those who are related, and those more distantly involved. I studied Actor Network Theory as part of my PhD research and it was a powerful lens to explore the boundaries of who the implicated actors are in any design challenge.
We seek to understand the system of actors because then we can activate the right voices to inform policy and service design and delivery.