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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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    As an international leader in public participation, IAP2 has developed the "IAP2 Core Values for Public Participation" for use in the development and implementation of public participation processes. These core values were developed over a two year period with broad international input to identify those aspects of public participation which cross national, cultural, and religious boundaries. The purpose of these core values is to help make better decisions which reflect the interests and concerns of potentially affected people and entities.

    Core Values for Public Participation

    1. The public should have a say in decisions about actions that could affect their lives.

    2. Public participation includes the promise that the public’s contribution will influence the

    3. Public participation promotes sustainable decisions by recognizing and communicating the
    needs and interests of all participants, including decision-makers.

    4. Public participation seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected
    by or interested in a decision.

    5. Public participation seeks input from participants in designing how they participate.

    6. Public participation provides participants with the information they need to participate in a
    meaningful way.

    7. Public participation communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.


    These are great principles, but I don't think they're written in the right way for our purposes.  If we wanted to submit something to the Obama administration or to local decision-makers, something along the lines of the Common Sense California article would be much more effective, in my opinion.

    Plus, these are principles of "public participation," and I see that as different from "public engagement."  IAP2's popular Spectrum of Public Participation includes, on the left side of the spectrum, tools like fact sheets, websites, and surveys.  The Inform and Consult categories of the spectrum, in particular, do not fall under what organizations like Public Agenda consider to be public engagement (see the post about Public Agenda's principles for public engagement).

    • CommentAuthorTom Atlee
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2009

    I'm interested in your response, Sandy, particularly because I think these are actually very good principles.

    You make a distinction between public participation and public engagement.  Please clarify your sense of the difference so I can see what you mean.

    Perhaps it needs to be made explicit (by you?) that we are only making recommendations to Obama that have to do with dialogue and deliberation and not other forms of public participation and engagement (and here I'm using the terms in their generic sense), such as websites that invite ideas and comments from citizens as individuals (a favorite of Obama's, clearly present in his directive quoted on this site).

    If that is the case, I can certainly go along with it, and I offered framings to deal with that in my comments on Obama's directive.

    However, then we lose the opportunity to suggest that such guidelines as those above be applied to non-conversational approaches, as well, simply because of the values they represent -- and to contextualize D&D exercises within the context of those broader values that should define/inform all modes of public participation.


    Here's something I wrote to the NCDD listserv after Stephan first suggested we develop criteria/standards for this work...

    "The term "public participation" includes all kinds of processes NCDDers might not find much value in (including simply using websites and fact sheets to inform the public).  But they're still valid forms of public participation.

    The term "civic engagement" is much broader than the work we talk about on this listserv as well -- including voting, volunteering, and blogging about one's political perspectives.

    From what I can tell, the term "public engagement" is an ill-defined marriage of these two terms, although it's used to refer more to dialogue and deliberation than other forms of civic engagement or public participation.

    So we'll need to be clear about what we're setting criteria for (maybe "public dialogue and deliberation" or "quality public engagement"?)."

    Public Agenda's Will Friedman defines public engagement as various forms of

    • highly inclusive public deliberation on issues that are critical steps towards policy development
    • collaborative civic action
    • and other forms of public problem solving

    I would add the term dialogue in there, but this is pretty much how I see public deliberation.  So this is broader than dialogue and deliberation, but not as broad as the full spectrum of public participation.

    That said, these terms are really dumb ways to differentiate between these concepts; after all, participation and engagement are practically used interchangeably.

    When Alison Kadlec sent Will's definition to me today, she wrote:

    "I like this definition because it's sufficiently open to encompass everything from public consultation models of engagement, to shared governance efforts focused on formal decision-making, to community- or civil society-based models of  collaborative problem solving, and it also suggests that authentic engagement comes in a variety of forms and can be pursued through a variety of strategies and on lots of different levels. The focus on inclusivity, also, I think points toward the vital need for non-partisan issue framing that helps the public grapple with the costs and tradeoffs involved in a range of approaches to any given shared problem or issue of common concern."

    Tom, Stephani and others - what do you think about Will's definition?  Does it jive with your own?

    • CommentAuthorTom Atlee
    • CommentTimeFeb 25th 2009 edited

    I don't think it serves us right now to try nailing down the distinction between "public participation" and "public engagement" -- the two terms used in Obama's memorandum -- or to try to sort out all the other terms (like "civic engagement") that folks use.  We could come up with something, but I very much doubt it would end the cacophony of terms.  Furthermore, I don't think we really NEED to resolve this at this moment.

    The fact is that our field uses all such terms in varied and/or vague ways, and that won't be solved overnight.  I'm more inclined to focus on communicating -- indeed stressing -- the key role of high quality conversation -- of facilitated dialogue and deliberation -- as a (if not the) central strategy in efforts to engage citizens in governance. 

    I believe President Obama and his team need to be brought up to speed on this very quickly.  They should understand there is a field here, and that they need its resources.  Right now I sense they are very enamored of technical web participation and house parties, which are all fine.  But there is a vast amount of expertise, understanding, and potential for real collective intelligence, citizenship-enhancement, empowerment, and buy-in available to them through properly run D&D. 

    Introducing this to them WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF OBAMA'S MEMO -- with its explicit focus on transparency, public participation, and collaboration -- was the purpose of my commentary in the thread entitled "Pres. Obama's Memo on Public Participation" on this website.  I am not attached to my particular expression of this, but I think what I was trying to do is much more in line with our purpose here than efforts to distinguish between the overall terms.

    To answer your question, though, Sandy, I believe Will's definition is fine if we're talking about deliberation.  And I feel that there is a bias towards deliberation-as-engagement in ALL this discussion -- which sort of makes sense.  But there is much we do -- like Conversation Cafes -- that aren't deliberation or even problem solving, but are exploratory and emotionally expressive and across-divides connective, that have their place in all this.  Somewhere along the line we should be able to articulate the complementary roles of dialogue and deliberation, as part of our invitation welcoming the administration into this new world.

    • CommentAuthorTim
    • CommentTimeFeb 25th 2009 edited

    Very interesting how these terms overlap (or not). Maybe as a by-product of this discussion we can assemble some sort of glossary of generally accepted definitions...

    Here's how IAP2's founding president Jim Creighton defines public participation (see:


    "Public participation is the process by which an organization consults with interested or affected individuals, organizations, and government entities before making a decision. Public participation is two-way communication and collaborative problem solving with the goal of achieving better and more acceptable decisions. Public participation prevents or minimizes disputes by creating a process for resolving issues before they become polarized. Other terms sometimes used are 'public involvement,' 'community involvement,' or 'stakeholder involvement.'"

    I think this comes very close to what Obama's memorandum on "Transparency and Open Government" was referring to. Once again, here's the quote (see:


    "Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government's effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government."

    I agree with Tom that we need to make the case that the field of D&D can help bring about the high-quality conversations necessary to support or complement these public participation efforts.

    • CommentAuthorgodec
    • CommentTimeFeb 26th 2009

    Just a quick point of semantic clarification. 

    IAP2 has grappled with these Core Principles for years and routinely rethinks and re-examines the nuances of the language.  The first Principle  posted originally stated:  

    1. The public should have a say in decisions about actions that could affect their lives.

    That was updated a couple of years ago:

    1. Public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.

    The rest of the IAP2 Core Values that Sandy originally posted are current and accurate but the subtlety of the first one may be germane to this conversation as we move forward.  IAP2 felt this wording was more accurate and important enough to change.   

    • CommentAuthorTom Atlee
    • CommentTimeFeb 26th 2009


    Creighton's definition is an excellent one for the "input"/"consultation" model or level of public participation.  I have a feeling that's what we're dealing with at the leading edge of the Obama administration's thinking.

    My own preference is towards increasingly empowered, increasingly collectively intelligent decisions that arise from engagement of the general public ("citizens"), stakeholders (a category which includes the official decision-makers/leaders), and experts (chosen for knowledge about -- not stake in -- the issue).   We are still evolving towards greater sophistication in how these very different and potentially complementary "participant pools" could be iteratively engaged for the highest quality outcomes.  This evolution is constrained by various entities' desire to hold or gain power/control and/or by old ideological frames and structures that separate leaders/decision-makers from the whole system they are thought of as leading.

    This is where things like IAP2's spectrum of public participation is important.  I say "things like" because IAP2's spectrum is primarily a spectrum of empowerment -- from less to more empowerment.  I'd want to add at least another spectrum for collective intelligence/wisdom.  After all, our collective power varies quite independently of how collectively intelligent or wise we are.  Their separation (in our consciousness and practice) is a real problem -- whereas a more ideal approach would incorporate both.

    However much I believe that to be true, I fear that pursuing that level of sophistication may be asking too much in this case.  So I'm looking for something more realistic that still pushes us ahead -- something that sits at the nexus where the shared leading-edge sensibilities of the D&D field meet the shared leading-edge sensibilities of the Obama administration.  Here's one possibility (that attempts, as well, to side-step the terminology controversy):

    in which
    take seriously
    the informed, insightful public judgment
    arising from
    well-designed, well-facilitated, high-quality
    dialogue and deliberation
    involving citizens, stakeholders, and experts.

    You could say that this is my version of Creighton's definition, carried a few yards further down the field towards the goal post.


    One point of clarification on IAP2's Spectrum: Its' goal is to help people visualize the degree of impact on a decision. Maybe this is the same as empowerment...but maybe it's not. But this concept is extremely useful to agency decisionmakers, technical staff and members of the public who are giving of their time, skills, heart and brain power to engage with us.

    We need to be realistic that not all decisions can or should require participatory governance in the fullest sense. But actually, when I think about a fully participatory governance I'm reminded of our recent national election that did involve high-quality (and low quality) dialogue and deliberation involving citizens, stakeholders and experts as well as average "Joes." But in the end, the dialogue and deliberation were only tools (among many others used). The final--and decisionmaking tool--was the ballot box, supported by the Electoral College.

    And we now have a new Administration that wants to engage citizens in agency decision processes. That's wonderful and we as a community need to do everything we can to positively assist in this area. However, we also need to remember that the folks inside the agencies (like me) are working as hard and as wisely as we can to bring meaningful opportunities to the table to effectively engage citizens.


    LaVerne Kyriss

     IAP2 trainer and past president



    • CommentAuthorRosaZ
    • CommentTimeMar 7th 2009

    LaVerne, I agree that the IAP2 spectrum is extremely useful...

    I think the IAP2 values are extremely useful as well.

    I personally would support including the values and spectrum as part of a larger package, that also includes the "Criteria" that we are in the process of developing.  

    I think it is helpful to have "criteria", AND a values statement, AND a spectrum, as each of those tools serves a somewhat different purpose.

    And, I think it would be great, to have a LARGER community "endorsing" the IAP2 values and spectrum... i.e. not just IAP2, but more of the larger d&d community.


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    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2010

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