Introducing the Public Engagement Roadmap: Creative Resources for Meaningful Civic Participation

Originally published on Medium by the Engagement Lab @ Emerson College.

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of the Public Engagement Roadmap, a new suite of creative resources aimed at supporting all stages of planning public engagement for non-profits and governments on local, state, and national levels.

Designed and created by the Engagement Lab in partnership with Living Cities and with support from the Citi Foundation, the Roadmap provides an actionable, step-by-step breakdown for creative and effective public engagement. Emphasizing the model of co-production, where citizens collaborate at all stages of decision-making on public issues, the Roadmap balances digital and in-person strategies to help practitioners navigate the ever-shifting landscape of engagement in the 21st Century.

The Roadmap is based on practical findings summarized in Accelerating Public Engagement, a report written by Eric Gordon, Executive Director of the Engagement Lab and Associate Professor at Emerson College, about real-life examples from public engagement during the second cohort of Living Cities’ City Accelerator program. Over the course of 18-months, Gordon and the Engagement Lab team provided technical assistance and guidance to city officials in the program from Albuquerque, Atlanta, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Seattle as they implemented projects to engage lower income residents on issues ranging from post-incarceration re-entry services to public health campaigns.

“The roadmap is a story of what it takes for organizations to actually partner with communities, well beyond checking the box,” said Eric Gordon. “Its focus is on creative methods, where relationships are put before efficiencies. Understanding how to use media and technology to enhance the human part of public engagement is more important now than ever before. That’s the focus of the report, and indeed, that’s the focus of all the Engagement Lab’s work.”

In all, the Roadmap comprises four resources grounded in design-thinking to help organizations map meaningful public engagement:

  • The Toolkit, a dynamic, online assessment that helps gauge where you are with your plan, what your plan’s strengths are, and where you might benefit from some additional guidance, and then gets you started with a series of strategic exercises and practical activities to improve your engagement plan.
  • The Guide, a comprehensive report called, Accelerating Public Engagement, which provides background on public engagement and offers practical, detailed approaches to use when planning on- and offline processes.
  • The Case Studies, a closer look at the stories from participant cities in the City Accelerator program and how they embraced the model of co-production to discover new ways to engage more deeply with the communities they serve.
  • The Game, a tabletop game called, “Chart the Course” that guides players through an entire public engagement planning process and gives teams an opportunity to explore different engagement tactics, role-play possible outcomes with stakeholders, and reflect on the implications of their actions.

“This Roadmap is intended for cities around the country who recognize that the solutions for today’s toughest problems aren’t found in some hidden corner of city hall,” wrote Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities, “but rather are co-developed through partnerships with residents, community colleges and universities, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, and the business community.”

Explore the Public Engagement Roadmap here, and learn more about the work of the City Accelerator program here. If you would like to schedule a consultation about the Roadmap, please email info@elab.emerson.edu.

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