Leveraging the power of citizen engagement to dramatically improve customer service, agency focus and cost efficiency.
What’s Another Word for Citizen Engagement?
November 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm #115972
I love the word “citizen engagement” but I think it has a problem.It sounds too “do-goodery”. As a government official, you know theoretically you should engage citizens more. But lots of times you don’t want to because it takes a lot of time, money, and effort to intake the feedback, make sense of the feedback, and act on the feedback.However, really good citizen engagement isn’t more work but less work. A citizen who reports a pothole for you. Instead of paying for a focus group, you get the feedback online.Plus it doesn’t include things that fall into citizen engagement but may just be service delivery. A new way where citizens can text in their payment to a meter. A way to receive digital copies of your property taxes.Any ideas for other words?
November 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm #115996
Public engagement, service delivery?
November 22, 2010 at 7:03 pm #115994
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the words ‘citizen’ or ‘engagement’. In fact, as the output from my research I propose the model of a ‘citizen engagement exchange’.
Feedback from the users of our services is the only way we can develop or improve services. Much of the change needed is around policy or process, so nothing to do with technology. This then needs managers and politicians to decide what the priorities are. It then needs feedback to the citizens to let them know what’s happened with their feedback.
November 22, 2010 at 8:08 pm #115992
I like “public participation” bc it is as important for the community to engage with their government providers as it is for the agencies to conduct “citizen engagement” efforts.
We are hearing a lot of talk from innovative managers that want to see the public participating in bringing forth solutions to the serious challenges all communities face. They want to reverse the “vending machine” approach many in the public have toward their government (approach an agency, pull the lever, get the service, complain if the right “thing” doesn’t come out) to a forum with more participation so that the government’s challenges become the community’s challenges with a partner approach toward making difficult decisions to resolve them.
PS: Out here in California use of the word “citizen” vs “public” at large (people residing in the US but not necessarily citizens) is an issue too… but that’s a whole other topic on this terminology…
November 22, 2010 at 8:26 pm #115990
How about “talking”?
I think “citizen engagement” is a pretty good term. In broader sense, it fits under customer service.
Would a successful (profitable) business ever considering not engaging its customers? Probably not. I’m looking forward to the time when “citizen engagement” is the norm in government. We’ve got a long way to go though, and not just on the government end. Engagement needs to work two ways, so citizens need to take an action as well.
November 22, 2010 at 8:33 pm #115988
Citizens will only engage when they can ‘trust’ that their ‘voices’ will be listened to. A lot of credibility needs to be restored before that will occur and that will only happen by constructively responding to matters ‘voiced’.
PS Another approach is the ‘citizen’ and the ‘community’, since their needs and expectations don’t necessarily align!
November 22, 2010 at 8:38 pm #115986
Ummm…can I change my word from “talking” to “listening”?
November 23, 2010 at 4:59 am #115984
Wayne Moses BurkeParticipant
I have a couple of thoughts on this. First of all, I think there is an interesting distinction to be made about citizen engagement if you’re a citizen. That is, it’s now government engagement or civic engagement – that is to say that the terminology doesn’t carry over when you’re speaking to the audience about what you’re doing.
The second thought is that on the Congressional side, there is a distinction between policy-oriented discussions and case work (help with social security benefits or a letter of recommendation for college, etc.) that I’ve never heard discussed on the Executive side. Off the top of my head, I’d say there are actually three types of citizen engagement with agencies: policy-making (or rule making), service provision (akin to case work), and this new type that we’re all excited about, which could be considered crowd-sourcing or challenges. Breaking it down that way takes away some of the “do-goodery” and helps connect it to mission and see tangible benefits.
November 23, 2010 at 7:37 am #115982
Note that a large number of practitioners and researchers, including the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), use the term “public participation” very narrowly as referring to decision making processes alone (definition).
A lot of activities that many usually consider civic or citizen engagement (e.g. volunteering, reporting potholes, customer feedback) do not qualify as public participation.
No terminology is perfect. The point is simply to be aware of these differences to avoid misunderstandings. I’ve blogged about these language challenges before, most recently here: Public Participation: Four Common Misconceptions
December 7, 2010 at 9:33 pm #115980
Interesting…What does IAP2 use for more transactional messaging – letting public know about DMV renewal or change in park hours or news releases?
December 9, 2010 at 6:13 pm #115978
It’s very true, as Tim points out, that many of us in the field of “public engagement” use this term in reference to decision-making activities.
In our work, we refer a lot to the IAP2 Spectrum of public participation, which identifies 3 points of how government interacts with the public indecision-making: Inform, Consult, Engage (I think IAP2 uses “involve” but my organization prefers engage). This is all, as Tim says, in the realm of decision-making, so the “inform” means to either give information to the public or get information from the public (a public input process on proposed policy, for instance).
“Transactional” may be a good term for examples like you give, Steve. In my organization, we do think of them as “informational” (very 1 way – the government provides information to the public) or as “customer service.” The public simply receives information from the government, so they’re not involved. They may become involved based on the information (maybe they receive the information about a change in park hours and want to find a way to keep a park open longer, so they seek out ways to do that), but there’s no back and forth or meaningful exchange.
And some of the same skills are necessary for both good customer service activities and good public engagement activities – for instance, transparency.
December 9, 2010 at 6:28 pm #115976
I like terms informational and customer service…and as you said, I think they are inter-related as well
December 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm #115974
As others have said, it’s tough to come up with one phrase that gets at the full spectrum of activities on which government can partner with its citizens and vice versa. Some words that haven’t come up yet that might be helpful include Link, Partner, Collaborate, Connect and Community
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