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"Can our field present a united front to the new Administration? Let's start by seeing if we can develop a set of principles for public engagement we can all endorse..."

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    The following text is excerpted from a draft white paper Roger Bernier sent me titled "'Consequential' Public Engagement---Co-Creating Advice Which Influences Public Health Decision-Making"

    Consequential Public Engagement As A Subset Of Public Engagement

    by Roger Bernier, Center for Disease Control's National Immunization Program

    This paper is focused on “consequential public engagement” which is public engagement carried out in mutual learning situations in accordance with principles designed to assure serious consideration for any recommendations produced. Citizens participate to make a difference, not simply to be heard or to be window dressing in someone else’s decision making process. Not all forms of public engagement are designed with a priority placed on helping to assure that the citizens’ contributions are taken seriously. Thus, consequential public engagement is a subset of all public engagement, which is itself a subset of all public interactions.

    In order for public engagement to be truly consequential, several conditions must be met and adhered to before, during, and after the engagement events. Some of these critical success factors are frequently mentioned by public engagement specialists as best practices or best processes. They are scattered throughout the literature on public engagement in various journals and handbooks and guidelines for practitioners. However, the principles for achieving consequential public engagement have not been bundled together and framed in this fashion before in the design of public engagement activities. Public engagement is consequential, that is, it has influence and impact on the thinking and attitudes of participants and the decision making sponsors because it adheres to the following ten pairs of principles or critical factors.

    2x10 Principles of Consequential Public Engagement (CPE)

    1. The desire for advice + the decision on the table are real.

    The government agency or sponsor of the public engagement has a genuine desire to learn, listen, and obtain advice from the public, and is willing to place one or more pending decisions on the table for discussion and deliberation. Furthermore, the decision being placed on the table has important consequences, i.e., the decision is more strategic than tactical, more “upstream” than “downstream” in the implementation pathway from idea to action, and more about ends than means.

    2.  Adequate time to deliberate + clarity of purpose are provided.

    There is adequate time to engage the public before the decision is made, and the decision making process, its main purpose, and the anticipated product are made clear and transparent for all to understand.

    3. Both facts + values underlie the choices to be made.

    Both facts and values are at stake and are relevant for discussion and deliberation in weighing the decision to be made. Because values are relevant, informed non-experts are fully qualified and even essential to the process to help assure that the final decision is made in accord with fundamental public values. In fact, the disinterestedness of non-experts can sometimes provide the only means of arriving at the impartial judgment needed to make difficult choices which rule in or rule out different options or ideas.

    4.  Active agency staff + sufficient resources are committed to the process.

    Agency staff who are expected to be active in the agency decision making process must participate “at the table” as one of many groups of stakeholders involved, and serve as conveyors to the final decision makers of the recommendations or findings reached. The agency or sponsor provides adequate resources to support the public engagement process at least at the minimum level required to meet the main purpose of the exercise.

    5. Both non-partisan citizens-at-large + partisan stakeholders participate.

    The two main publics, the non-partisan citizens-at-large who represent no organized or special interests, as well as representatives of interested stakeholder organizations from key affected sectors, come to the table for dialogue and deliberation about both the decision making process and the pending decision itself.

    6. A critical mass + diverse group of persons participate.

    An adequately large number of citizens-at-large both geographically and demographically diverse and a smaller number of representatives from stakeholder organizations in the key interest sectors are at the table.

    7. Unbiased information + neutral facilitation are provided.

    Information on the many sides of an issue is provided to the participants in a fair and balanced manner so that all participants become well-informed, and the overall group process is convened and managed in a neutral, respectful fashion.

    8. Mutual learning through dialogue + thoughtful deliberation occur.

    There is adequate time for participants to engage in give and take conversations with each other, and neutral, respectful facilitation of small group discussions assures the exchange of experiences, information, and perspectives relevant to the decision(s) on the table. Participants weigh alternative directions or courses of action in their deliberations.

    9. Difficult choices are made + agreed upon recommendations are produced.

    The participants work through their differences and make difficult tradeoffs or choices between competing values to address a specific decision in a specific context. Participants as a group reach considerable agreement about their choices and express these as their collective recommendations relevant to the pending decision(s) that were placed on the table. These results better inform the government agency or sponsor and are written up in a report conveyed to them and to the participants

    10. The recommendations receive “serious consideration” + participants obtain candid feedback about the final decision made.

    At a minimum, the work of the public is conveyed accurately, and receives serious consideration by the decision makers.  The agency or sponsor is accountable and provides feedback to the participants about the final decision made and the main reasons for it. Ideally, a robust evaluation of the process and the outcome is carried out to identify lessons learned.


    This is also in Roger's white paper...

    The Consequential Public Engagement Table (CPET) Model

    Consequential Public Engagement (CPE) has been implemented using a Consequential Public Engagement Table (CPET) model to address values-oriented policy decisions related to pandemic influenza. A CPET model meets the critical factors for CPE and has the following operational characteristics.

    Citizen Participants:

    A  CPET model brings to the decision making process a critical mass of citizens-at-large, approximately 100 from each of four different geographic areas (n=400) of a country, state or other geographic entity. The citizens are recruited to participate in a day- long dialogue and deliberation event. The participants are diverse by age, sex, and race and generally reflect the make up of the population from which they are drawn for these characteristics.

    Stakeholder Participants:

    Two or three representatives from stakeholder organizations in the key interest sectors (normally 20-30 stakeholders for approximately 10 key interest sectors, including agency or sponsor staff) are recruited to participate. They meet separately from the citizens-at-large once before and once after the citizen-at-large series of meetings. Procedures nearly identical to those for the citizen-at-large meetings are used for the stakeholder meetings, except that stakeholders provide initial input in framing the issues and designing the process to be followed. Some stakeholders are invited to the citizen-at-large meetings as observers. One or two citizens from each of the four participating geographic areas are invited to attend the final stakeholder meeting.

    Information Presented:

    Participants in general session hear an oral presentation in easy to understand language by an effective, non-condescending expert/lecturer which includes the minimum amount of unbiased information needed to have an informed discussion of the issue at hand. They are given opportunities to ask questions about the factual information presented, and subject matter experts are on hand to answer questions but not to participate directly in the discussions. A booklet summarizing the key facts needed to have the conversation is presented in a user-friendly fashion. A discussion guide summarizing the choices faced is presented to the participants for use during small group table discussions and large group exchanges.

    Dialogue and Deliberation:

    Neutral facilitation is provided throughout the dialogue and deliberation event. More specifically, participants in small groups listen respectfully, exchange experiences and viewpoints, learn from each other, and deepen their understanding of the issue on the table. Participants in general session listen and consider the views expressed by participants of other small groups. Participants weigh the alternative courses of action brought forth at the meeting and participants as a group vote or otherwise make their preferences known. Opportunities are given for participants to react to the group findings and to introduce modifications if needed and agreed to by the group.

    Closure and Product:

    The results of the citizen-at-large deliberations are made available to the stakeholders prior to their final meeting and they are charged with considering the citizen input as well as their own perspectives in coming to a final set of conclusions and recommendations to the agency or sponsor. A public viewpoint or societal perspective on the topic at hand is provided to the sponsor.


    In an earlier comment, Roger Bernier suggested that we remove the "what to avoid" sections under each of the principles and, instead, include something like this...

    Six Common Sins Leading To Public Engagement Failure

    1. Program is entirely process driven—checklist approach rather than defining purpose and promise

    2. Program does not begin until after the decision is made

    3. Program is not integrated into the decision process—runs parallel and not synchronized

    4. Public not adequately informed

    5. There is a disconnect on organizational commitment to public engagement—public is overpromised and ends up bitter toward the process

    6. There is a lack of broad participation

    (I'm not sure who wrote this list; Roger shared them with me in a CDC powerpoint, but originally referred to them as someone else's)


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