Forum Paper | 2020

Engagement to Action: Improving Policy Outcomes Through Better Consultation

In an era of increasing political polarization, compromise seems difficult to come by. Simultaneously, recent reports show public trust in government is declining. Both conditions can make public consultation more difficult as communities become reticent to engage with one another and with institutions. However, bringing people together in thoughtful dialogue may be especially important in this environment.

In December 2019, the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) hosted a panel discussion on the role of public consultation in policy making within the context of intensifying polarization, erosion of trust, and increasing diversity.

Engagement to Action: Improving Policy Outcomes Through Better Consultation contextualizes and summarizes remarks from the event. It puts forward five key principles for more meaningful consultation, distilled from panelists’ insights and relevant academic literature:

  • Build trust between government and communities, and between neighbours.
  • Recognize privilege and its impacts on decision-making, and address inequities by making every effort to design more inclusive consultation processes.
  • Share power and let communities lead, including by reformulating concepts of power and recognizing the expertise and knowledge that communities hold.
  • Communicate clearly and honestly, recognizing the power dynamics inherent in determining and sharing information.
  • Record feedback and take action to build trust, legitimize the process, and ensure mutual benefit for participants and organizers.

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