Creating space for transformative conversations

Strengthening Democratic Engagement with Valerie Lemmie

2017 Bruce and Lis Welch Community Dialogue

December 07 to December 08, 2017

The 2017 Bruce and Lis Welch Community Dialogue featured Valerie Lemmie, Director of Exploratory Research of the Kettering Foundation to explore ways to strengthen democratic engagement in solving community problems.


December 7, 2017

Public Dialogue 
Dialogue with Valerie Lemmie: Making space for citizens to act on the issues that matter most

Community members have an important role to play in naming the issues that affect them and in co-creating solutions. Yet civic engagement processes can all too easily force residents to look at problems from the perspective of government policies and structures in ways that create barriers to participation. How can governments create more intentional space to surface issues and enable local problem solving? And how can they place citizens at the centre of this conversation in ways that harness the energy and knowledge that community members offer?

This public dialogue examined the complementary roles that citizens and governments can play in co-producing solutions to the problems that matter most.


December 8, 2017
Invitational Workshop
Citizens and Public Officials: Strategies for Working Together in Democratic and Complementary Ways to Fix Wicked Community Problems

Governments today suffer from a tremendous loss of public confidence, a distrust that is often mutual. The distance that has grown between citizens and governmental institutions robs those institutions of the support they need from the production of public goods that only citizens can make. In this session we will discuss ways to name, frame, deliberate and work as a community to fix community problems and create useful and actionable public engagement outcomes.

This workshop engaged more than 80 practitioners from government and community institutions at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. Drawing upon regional and North America-wide examples, this event explored the Kettering Foundation’s latest insights into methods for better linking community voices with government decision-making, as well as opportunities to co-produce solutions directly with citizens.

Specific learning outcomes included:

  • An introduction to foundational democratic processes such as naming, framing and deliberation
  • Clarity about the potential roles for citizens, community organizations and government in solving “wicked” problems
  • Strategies for governments to more effectively hear from, internalize and act on citizen voices.
  • Methods to build better citizen capacity for democratic engagement and to enable citizens to co-produce solutions to the challenges they face.

About the Bruce and Lis Welch Community Dialogue

Exploring critical community issues through dialogue, this annual programming engages the community at large with the academic community to explore innovative approaches to local issues through cross-sectoral dialogue. 

News media coverage 

Conversations that Matter: Is Democracy Under Attack? Special to The Vancouver Sun (January 12, 2018)