Get Meta on Engagement

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

by Kent Aitken RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Kent Aitkentwitter / kentdaitkengovloop / KentAitken

This is a Story as an Introduction, and it is as Long as the Rest of the Post

For a while I've held the opinion that public officials should be blogging or writing Op-Eds about decision rationale and key strategies. This is for several reasons: to get feedback with which to make decisions, to expose unforeseen adverse effects, but perhaps most importantly, to get past mere information availability and into actual transparency. Both public officials and citizens would be better off receiving information with both context and some level of thoughtful presentation.

Which I why I applaud initiatives like St. John's Councillor Dave Lane's blog. I can't speak for him as a city Councillor, but I'm a big fan of his recent 566-word post entitled Yes, I voted for a propane tank. Spoiler alert: it explains why he voted to allow a large propane tank to be built on the waterfront. Propane tanks aren't usually popular, but in context, his decision seems incredibly reasonable.

File:StJohns Newfoundland ViewfromSignalHill.jpg
St. John's harbour. It's lovely, and you should go. Don't miss Raymond's, it's epic.

Get Meta

But that's all an aside. In his post from the day before that, Lane hit on a great lesson for stakeholder engagement. The city is launching a public engagement initiative, and they're starting with the question:
"How would you like the City of St. John's to engage?"
Surprisingly, an oft-overlooked idea in engagement activities, and great as either a starting point or a periodic gut-check: asking your stakeholders for input on your relationship with them. Don't just ask, "What do you want us to do?", but "How do you want us to ask you 'What do you want us to do?' "

It's simply a periodic testing of the assumptions on which your processes rest. And it's useful. Get meta. 

Photo by Aconcagua (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons