Good news for the public: dialogue and deliberation processes are being ushered into municipalities’ decision-making and problem-solving agendas. This means that, of late, government entities of a smaller scale (think local/city governments) are more frequently integrating authentic citizen participation in handling the tough, complex problems communities face. And the type of public engagement used in these increasingly popular processes extends beyond the limitations too often placed on concerned citizens that prevents real engagement, aside from the voicing of opinions on strategies already preconceived by decisionmakers; in essence, too many modes of “public engagement” stop short of allowing citizens to deliberate and problem-solve alongside their elected representatives. Thankfully, the new strategies being implemented by cities are taking “public engagement” out of “mocking” quotes and holding the phrase true to its name.
Martin Carcasson explores the strategies of an emerging form of public problem-solving and participation—deliberative engagement—in his article, “Tackling Wicked Problems Through Deliberative Engagement,” published in the October issue of Colorado Municipalities. According to Carcasson, there are three components of deliberative engagement: 1) divergent thinking (broad citizen input), 2) working through the ‘groan zone’ (small group dialogue and deliberation), and 3) convergent thinking (prioritizing, innovating, and collaborating). If municipalities begin to build their deliberative capacity, then they truly will be helping to develop a culture of engagement that attracts wide citizen participation and encourages collaboration across public, private, and nonprofit lines.
Martin Carcasson, PhD, is an associate professor in the Communication Studies department of Colorado State University, and the founder and director of the CSU Center for Public Deliberation (CPD)). Check out his article by clicking on the link below.