This past month the Tamarack Institute was joined by Max Hardy, a citizen engagement expert from Australia. During his webinar Max outlined some principles and practical steps we can take to ensure that we are meaningfully engaging and empowering ordinary citizens in our community change work.
The idea of engaging community members to solve complex problems is nothing new, but Max's comments highlighted a common problem: often our approach to community engagement has already missed the mark by the time community members enter the room. We can sometimes view community engagement as a means of getting feedback on our own solutions to community problems, rather than allowing the community to help frame the problem in the first place.
Max illustrates this key point in the short clip below, taken from his recent webinar Rethinking Democracy: Strategies that Put Citizens at the Centre.
This tendency for community members to view engagement work as an inefficient use of time is likely related to common practices that exclude them from the most foundational or most meaningful elements of community change - agency in the process, ownership over the problem, and the ability to broadly affect the outcome. To truly put citizens at the centre we must not only engage with community members, but empower them.
This element of empowerment and ownership runs through Max's work, and is one of the reasons we are most excited to be hosting him on a cross-Canada tour with our Citizens at the Centre: A Community Engagement Thought-Leader Series workshops. Whether by investigating our upcoming workshop series, or by watching the full webinar, I invite you to dig further and examine your own Community Engagement practice. To what extent are you inviting ownership over the issue, not just the process? I think following questions like these will take all of our initiatives further with better solutions, more buy in, and sustained impact.
- Watch the full webinar Rethinking Democracy: Strategies that Put Citizens at the Centre
- Learn more about Citizens at the Centre: A Community Engagement Thought-Leader Series, coming to Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver
- Learn more about Max Hardy, and visit his blog
- Watch a previous webinar with Max Hardy, Co-Design in Collaboration: Moving From Buy-In to Shared Ownership