Did the Town of Ladysmith’s community visioning process increase broader municipal engagement?

Author/s:  Erin O'Melinn

Creation date: 2009

Contact info: erin.omelinn @ gmail.com

Senior supervisor:  Meg Holden

Keywords: civic engagement, municipal, local government, participation, community visioning

Geographic focus: Vancouver, BC; British Columbia; Canada

Research question/s: Did the Town of Ladysmith's community visioning process increase broader civic engagement? What evidence exists that broader civic engagement can be an unplanned and longer lasting effect of a short-term civic visioning process?

Significance

Citizens are increasingly interested in being involved and heard in decisions that affect their lives, and municipalities have an interest in engaging them. Community vitality is fostered by strong, active and inclusive relationships between residents, the private sector, the public sector and civil society organizations. These characteristics allow communities to thrive and adapt in changing contexts while improving citizens’ well-being. For this research, the author used quantitative, qualitative and participatory methods to investigate the potential for short-term municipal visioning processes to increase civic engagement more generally. This study sheds light on the components of public engagement exercises that may increase and expand public engagement beyond the point of planned exercises. While population and geographic differences must be considered, this research may be transferrable to other communities that seek increased levels of public participation. In a time where demand for engagement is high and financial resources are low, this is a particularly relevant subject.

Findings

Based on the quantitative indicators the author developed and participant observation, the trend points to a slight increase in broader civic engagement after Ladysmith’s visioning process. The results demonstrate the importance of trust, transparency, clear two-way communication, and shared responsibility in creating effective community engagement.