Six Factors that Supported the Development of an Equity-focused Engagement Framework

May 02, 2024

In June 2021, the City of Victoria started a conversation by asking communities how they could be more inclusive and equitable when engaging with the public on City projects, services and initiatives.

SFU's Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue (the Centre) partnered with the City of Victoria (the City) to redefine what a successful, equity-driven engagement process could be.

The Centre co-designed and led the engagement processes and connected with equity-seeking communities and individuals who had not had their voices heard in past engagement opportunities. The process was guided by the City of Victoria’s Engagement Framework, the Centre for Dialogue’s Beyond Inclusion Guide and the International Association of Public Participation’s (IAP2) Spectrum of Public Participation. Feedback taken from this engagement helped inform and update the City of Victoria’s All of Our Voices Engagement Framework.

Lessons Learned

Nav Purewal, the Centre's facilitator and analyst for the All Our Voices project, notes six factors that supported the successful development of this equity-focused engagement framework:

Go Slow

Time (or lack of) is often cited as a barrier to building relationships with communities that feel reciprocal.  For the City, “moving at the speed of trust” was key to build new relationships with historically under-engaged groups and deepening existing ones. While the All Our Voices engagement process was long, it has delivered thorough and enduring results and laid the relational foundations for future engagement success.

Leadership Buy-In

Responding to a City Council directive, the All Our Voices initiative benefited from the support and genuine interest of senior leadership. This in turn enabled the investment of time and resources for broad community engagement and dedicated onboarding for City staff.

Collaborations with Community Partners

Community-based organizations have trusted relationships with their communities and the know-how to reach, inform and mobilize them. Building relationships with community organizations in the first phase of the consultation process was key to reaching groups that had been historically under-engaged by the City. By doing so, we had a greater understanding of what barriers may preclude their communities’ participation and were able to co-design engagements that were culturally appropriate, welcoming and accessible. 

Diverse Engagement Strategies

Many communities expressed that they were more comfortable sharing their ideas in small-scale settings. As a result, instead of a single large-scale engagement event, multiple community roundtable conversations were convened at different dates and times, in-person and online, in familiar community venues. Roundtables were complemented by coffee chats, a less-formal but more intimate way of connecting with individuals who could share from their lived experience, as well as idea boards and an online survey that allowed for asynchronous engagement. 


The diverse engagement approaches and community partnerships helped the City allocate resources in a way that fulfilled both the City’s and the community’s needs in uniquely tailored engagement events. For instance, an initial Community Conversation between the City and the Chinese Community Services Centre (CCSC) led to a partnership to co-design and co-host a small community roundtable conversation with 14 community leaders over Chinese tea, using the $500 budget to offer live translation and dim sum lunch as opposed to individual gift certificates, as well as a small co-hosting administration fee. The CCSC offered to translate the All Our Voices survey and provide print versions to members of the Chinese community, which led to 10 responses from participants who had never previously shared feedback with the City.

City staff followed up by connecting City resources and staff to this community in areas that were most important to them, and the relationship has since opened the door to further engagement opportunities that aim to better serve members and businesses of the Chinese community. 

Care is in the Details

Providing a safe, accessible and culturally sensitive space for civic engagement requires careful attention to details in the planning. For instance, during one evening engagement event taking place during Ramadan, the City offered iftar boxes, water and dates for participants who were breaking their fast.

Other accessibility measures included providing translation, ASL interpretation, pre-paid bus tickets, gender inclusive washrooms, mobility-accessible venues and grocery store gift cards to honour the time and expertise participants shared with the City


The Centre took the findings from this engagement process, along with best practices from our Beyond Inclusion guide and direction from guiding City strategies, policies and reviews and wove them into the new All Our Voices Engagement Framework.

In the summer of 2022, the City of Victoria approved its first Equity Framework. The All Our Voices Engagement Framework will be the engagement pillar of this important initiative. Following this, City of Victoria staff undertook additional engagement and equity training in the Spring of 2023. 

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