Creating space for transformative conversations


Civic Engage Presents at Union of BC Municipalities

October 08, 2014

SFU’s Centre for Dialogue recently had the honour of presenting an interactive workshop at the 2014 Union of BC Municipalities Convention, titled “Linking Citizen Voices to Policy Decisions.” The overall goal was to support municipal mayors and councillors in their efforts to broaden public engagement in their communities. The session also helped to launch Civic Engage, a new program by the Centre for Dialogue designed to strengthen democracy through effective public engagement.

Setting the context for the workshop was new, original research from SFU’s Centre for Dialogue based on input from 67 of BC’s most prominent citizen engagement practitioners. Major findings included the perception that BC lacks consistent engagement norms and practices, and that many governments and citizens are reluctant to commit to public engagement initiatives, potentially due to negative past experiences with outdated methods.

The session included several opportunities for small group discussion and peer learning, recognizing the significant collective experience of participants. A range of ideas came out of these discussions, such as the District of West Kelowna’s use of public opinion polling to track the wishes of “the silent majority” and the District of Tofino’s planned experimentation with participatory budgeting. These examples join a range of public engagement innovations taking place within BC that will help to raise the bar for how governments and citizens expect to engage.

The presenters ended the workshop with an invitation for participants to choose one idea from the session to pilot in their own communities. This invitation reflects the need for experimentation and demonstration projects to incrementally build a two-way culture of engagement among governments and citizens. It also points to the central role of elected representatives in sponsoring public engagement so that the public can clearly understand its role in the overall decision-making process.

To provide input into the Civic Engage program, please contact:
Robin Prest
, 778-782-7885

Session Materials:
2014 UBCM Workshop Presentation: “Linking Citizen Voices to Policy Decisions”
Report: Bringing Citizen Voices to the Table, Infrastructure Needs in a Democracy
Video: Dave Meslin – Building a Culture of Participation
References: IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum and Core Values of Public Participation

Session Presenters:
Janet Webber, Program Director, SFU Public Square
Robin Prest, Civic Engage Lead, SFU Centre for Dialogue
Claire Havens, Program Manager, Carbon Talks and Renewable Cities
Session Chair: Arjun Singh, Director, Union of BC Municipalities