What is Public Engagement?

"Public engagement" represents a wide range of methods, from information-sharing to delegation, that enable differing degrees of public involvement in decision-making:

Degree of involvementMethodActionsOutcome
Information sharingLeaflet, topic sheet, exhibition, websiteBalanced information is provided about the topic and contextPeople are informed and understand the issues
Information gatheringQuestionnaire, Survey, interview, drop-in workshopPublic opinions, attitudes and preferences are collected to inform decision-making and measure performanceInformation collected can be used to inform a range of decisions.
ConsultationConsultation documents, questionnaire, public meetingThe public state what they think about proposed policies or service plansDrafts of particular policies or service plans can be adapted according to public opinion.
ParticipationDeliberative workshop, on-line discussion group, on-line document editing, Citizen Panels and Focus GroupsPeople are actively involved from the beginning in developing policies or plansPeople can shape the policies or plans and have ownership
CollaborationShared projects, co-productionPeople and organisations work as equal partners.Decision-making will be shared. Some resources will be held in common so there will be some control over implementation
DelegationProject run by a Community GroupDecision-making and resources are transferred to particular groupsDecision-making and implementation is carried out by the groups according to resources held

Public engagement can use one, or be made up of a combination, of these methods. For example, a public engagement activity can consist of a stand alone action such as a survey, while another can be designed as a longer-term process using a combination of methods.

The method should be chosen according to the aims of the public engagement activity as well as how appropriate it is to who you want to involve. All methods are legitimate as long as the limitations and advantages of each are clearly understood.

Essex Councils have agreed Public Engagement Standards which describe how activities should be carried out. 

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