Dave Meslin’s 4 Ingredients for Citizen Empowerment

May 30, 2013
Dave Meslin’s 4 ingredients for citizen empowerment are ownership (expanded living room), confidence (citizens' opinions matter), tools (how the system works) and malleability (change is possible).

Considerations for Citizen Political Empowerment in City Decision-Making

Citizen Political Empowerment

Breakout teams are asked to design a model Citizen Political Empowerment process for deciding the future of False Creek South. For the purpose of this workshop, Citizen Political Empowerment is defined as a citizen engagement process where the city and citizens work collaboratively to frame issues, develop options and identify preferred solutions, and/or citizen engagement processes where the decision making power rests primarily in the hands of citizens.


Breakout teams should explore some or all of the following focus areas when designing their model engagement process. If teams are short on time, they are welcome to selectively explore the focus areas that they consider to be of highest interest or importance.

Pre-Conditions for Success
  • What pre-work is necessary to prepare citizens and politicians to engage in more collaborative decision-making and to establish both groups’ trust in each other and in the process?
Initiation and Management
  • Who should design and manage the engagement process? 
  • For instance, who should set the terms of reference, facilitate the process, and manage interactions between empowered citizens and interest groups?
Citizen Representation
  • How can the City ensure the empowered citizens are representative of the City and include members who have barriers to participation? 
  • Are participants chosen or do they self-select? 
  • How can the City prevent the process from becoming politicized? 
  • In what way should stakeholders who have direct interests in decision outcomes be involved?
Group and Power Dynamics
  • How can the engagement process promote dialogue and effective working relationships among diverse participants? 
  • How can the process prevent dominant members from overriding other voices, especially where some participants face barriers in language, education, or social standing?
Role of Experts
  • What is the appropriate role of experts to inform the opinions and decisions of empowered citizens?
Standards for Reporting
  • What are the appropriate standards for reporting the input and/or final decisions of empowered citizens? 
  • What information do citizens who do not participate in the process need to know?
Accountability for Outcomes
  • How are empowered citizens accountable to stakeholders and the wider citizenry? 
  • What forms of accountability exist in a citizen-driven decision-making process? 
  • How can the City ensure that empowered citizens act in a fair and reciprocal manner when giving input that will impact their fellow citizens?
City Oversight and Approval:
  • Who is accountable to the electorate for final decisions and how? 
  • What expectation is there for Council to act on the decision or recommendation, especially if Council does not agree with the outcome?