On April 4, City Council approved a new Public Engagement Policy, which marks an important step forward on public engagement for Edmontonians. Its goal is to re-define the relationship citizens have with their municipal government.
This policy and strategy raises the bar on transparency, accountability and leadership in our city for our citizens.
This new policy builds on the work of the Council Initiative for Public Engagement. The Initiative aims to be a leader in conducting public engagement with citizens in a meaningful way. I think what has made this Initiative unique is the thousands of people who have participated in this work, helping us shape a new way of engaging citizens about the future of Edmonton.
Public Engagement Planning, Delivery, and Reporting
I know in the past the engagement process through public meetings has been confusing to citizens. The new policy defines public engagement more clearly. It makes sure people know their level of influence. It demonstrates respect for a visionary conversation with clear communication and outcomes. I think that’s an important step. And when people give us their vision voice- we are going to tell them exactly how it did or didn’t affect a final decision and why.
We’ve come a long way since the Council Initiative on Public Engagement was first formed in 2013. As a City, we’re paying more attention to what the public's role can and should be at various points in projects. The City is also doing a better job of reporting back to the public about how their input was used and why decisions were made. Council Reports have also changed – so administration must report if public engagement was done, what it consisted of, and if not, why. We’ve also provided more public engagement training opportunities for staff.
Public Engagement Practice and Implementation Roadmap
There will be a number of changes taking place over the next few weeks and months. The City has developed a new Public Engagement Practice and Implementation Roadmap that identifies six priorities and 20 actions for public engagement for 2017 and 2018. The City is currently building a comprehensive evaluation program. Staff will begin collecting data on a set of measures in the coming months, and will deliver a performance report in early 2018. Public Engagement Charters will start to be completed and new Public Engagement Plans will start to appear.
The City is also creating a Guiding Coalition for Public Engagement, and a Corporate Research Unit that will better coordinate and improve the quality of survey and public opinion research. This work is ongoing. Many pieces – such as training and evaluation programs, a community leadership inventory and tool and public engagement charters for every policy and program – will take time to roll out. One of the most exciting things to emerge is that staff will develop and maintain a community leadership mapping tool. This tool includes a database and inventory listing the diversity of community groups that exist and connect people together in neighbourhoods across Edmonton. This is a valuable tool that creates a pathway to ensuring we include voices not typically engaged in important policy and project discussions.
The Future of Public Engagement
Public engagement will continue to evolve as our city changes – it will never be “finished.” Through the conversations we have with people, we’re getting a better understanding of Edmonton – who lives here and who’s coming here. As we learn to engage those new communities, we’re going to continue to improve. And when citizens and communities that don’t usually connect with each other actually begin to speak to each other routinely, the true spirit of Edmonton starts to take shape. So for that, I want to thank you for taking the time to be a voice in your community!