Core Principles for Public Engagement    

The Public Engagement Principles (PEP) Project was launched in mid-February 2009 to create clarity in our field about what we consider to be the fundamental components of quality public engagement, and to support Barack Obama’s January 21st memorandum on transparency and open government.  The following principles were developed collaboratively by members and leaders of NCDD, IAP2 (the International Association of Public Participation), the Co-Intelligence Institute, and many others.

Pep Cover Image2Please download the 12-page Core Principles document (PDF), which includes details about how the principles were developed, a partial list of endorsing organizations, and expanded text outlining what each of the 7 principles looks like and what practitioners and leaders should avoid.  (See links at the bottom of the page for other options).

Email [email protected] if you or your organization would like to endorse the principles (see our growing list of both organizational and individual endorsers).

The Core Principles for Public Engagement

These seven recommendations reflect the common beliefs and understandings of those working in the fields of public engagement, conflict resolution, and collaboration.  In practice, people apply these and additional principles in many different ways.

1. Careful Planning and Preparation
Through adequate and inclusive planning, ensure that the design, organization, and convening of the process serve both a clearly defined purpose and the needs of the participants.

2. Inclusion and Demographic Diversity
Equitably incorporate diverse people, voices, ideas, and information to lay the groundwork for quality outcomes and democratic legitimacy.

3. Collaboration and Shared Purpose
Support and encourage participants, government and community institutions, and others to work together to advance the common good.

4. Openness and Learning
Help all involved listen to each other, explore new ideas unconstrained by predetermined outcomes, learn and apply information in ways that generate new options, and rigorously evaluate public engagement activities for effectiveness.

5. Transparency and Trust
Be clear and open about the process, and provide a public record of the organizers, sponsors, outcomes, and range of views and ideas expressed.

6. Impact and Action
Ensure each participatory effort has real potential to make a difference, and that participants are aware of that potential.

7. Sustained Engagement and Participatory Culture
Promote a culture of participation with programs and institutions that support ongoing quality public engagement.


Members of the Core PEP Working Group

  • Tom Atlee, Director of the Co-Intelligence Institute
  • Stephen Buckley, CEO of U.S. Transparency
  • John Godec, Board member of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)
  • Reynolds-Anthony Harris, Managing Director of Lyceum Patners & Co.
  • Sandy Heierbacher, Director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD)
  • Leanne Nurse, Board Member of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD)
  • Steve Pyser, Editor of the International Journal of Public Participation
  • Stephanie Roy McCallum, Past President, International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)

Additional Links

PDF Version – A downloadable version of the Core Principles document (downloadable PDF).

PEP graphic – One-page graphic listing the 7 Core Principles (downloadable PDF).

List of Endorsers – Complete list of both organizational and individual endorsers.

Expanded Core Principles Document – View the text of the complete document online.

PEP Forum – This forum is where much of the conversation about this document took place.

Here’s What 10 People Had To Say…

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  1. Comment added by Ken Homer on May 4, 2009:

    Great work! Thanks for all your efforts, this looks like a document with legs.


  2. Comment added by Stephanie Nestlerode on May 4, 2009:

    Great work! I like the way you defined the common good and gave examples.

    The only thing you might consider is under #7…. I believe you are meaning to say that you want a culture of participation WITHIN programs and organizations not WITH them

    THANKS for all the effort on our behalf!

  3. Comment added by Brandon WilliamsCraig on May 4, 2009:

    Beee-utiful! Another leap forward for the process arts.

  4. Comment added by Kay Ham on May 6, 2009:

    This is outstanding work, powerful in its simplicity. It captures the essense of democracy in action! Kay

  5. Comment added by John Watkins on May 6, 2009:

    I would add something about an explicit commitment to agreed upon core values that drive the process, valuing communicative competence (being explicit about evidence, assumptions, reasoning, and evaluative stance), taking an inquiry stance, and something about an orientation to community health and environmental sustainability underlying all choices of process and resulting action imperatives. You could also talk about “catalytic validity,” the process by which engagement results in transformation.

  6. Comment added by Anodea Judith on May 6, 2009:

    Keep up the good work in fostering the Great Awakening. I’m behind you!

  7. Comment added by Sandra Janoff & Marvin Weisbord on May 6, 2009:

    Sandy, Future Search Network is pleased to endorse your excellent principles.


    Marv and Sandra

  8. Comment added by Patrick Scully on May 7, 2009:

    Congratulations to Sandy and the rest of the core team for making this happen. It’s a great document … not to mention a superb model of collaboration!

  9. Comment added by David R Curry on May 10, 2009:

    I have posted on these Core Principles at:

  10. Comment added by Sandy Heierbacher on May 22, 2009:

    Just wanted to share this comment from Karen Kleinz, Associate Director of NSPRA…

    The National School Public Relations Association has been working for the past 10 years to encourage our members to integrate public engagement into all of their school district communication programs and this is a great piece to support this important work.

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