Home Citizen Engagement Citizen Engagement – from goal to reality

Citizen Engagement – from goal to reality

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Who needs to work together?
Depending on its particular form, the government of the country is in charge of many aspects of society’s daily life as well as carrying out the will and needs of the people. The individual needs to be part of the community for it provides him with safety, confidence and allows him to foster social bonds. Engaging people in the decision-making process is crucial for a country or region to develop and provide its citizens with a better quality of life. Citizen engagement can take multiple forms, local, regional and state authorities must look to make use of those that can provide the best outcome for all parties.

Why is citizen engagement important?
No political system is perfect and because the citizens are the ones facing the day-to-day challenges they have a better insight on the flaws that each of these systems has. Having this sort of idea is something that authorities should utilise, people need to be given a chance to address their problems for authorities to make improvements to both policies and practices. Besides this, it is a complementary practice helping to educate both citizens and policy-makers and putting on the table various opinions on the same issue. If you are a business then you will try to identify with your customer to increase sale and customer satisfaction – this is the attitude that all forms of government should have when creating new policies and systems for their citizens (customers).

Another argument for bringing people into the decision-making process is that it builds trust. It is easier to shape a community when people know they can address their officials and are into consideration – while officials know they can rely on people to share accountability with them when the results are not as expected. Not all problems are easy to solve, but citizens often think that officials should “switch on a light” to address them – successful engagement will create a better bond between all parties and give the authorities the confidence to try new things without the fear of a public backlash if they fail. Failure, after all, is how we learn!

Urbanisation brings along challenges which are not easy to overcome and solutions with a sole focus on a top-down approach can no longer apply. For this reason, new ideas, emerging from concepts like ‘the sharing economy’ or ‘creative economy’ give people a chance to be actively involved in their city’s development and future success.

How can they work together?
There are some ways people can be engaged and all of them stand on one core value, knowing the role of the citizens in society. Only by having this in mind can we think of ways to make the people and important part of the decision-making process. New economy models bring to the surface different ways in which the people can make an impact on their community. Crowdfunding gives citizens the chance to contribute to the development of their city and be part of the spending decisions. Moreover, people want to be involved and feel in control of the future of their town, so allowing them to participate as investors in companies which help to transform their city is a great way to engage citizens.

On the other hand, social media can help keep citizens informed in real-time and gives them the chance to debate and state their opinion – analysing this feedback is important in finding solutions to the challenges that city management brings forth. Another useful tool for keeping people in touch with the city is through mobile apps, bringing the city to the citizen via the tap of a finger. Developing apps and opening up data to allow others to make apps will improve the experience and communication between the resident, institutions and service providers. This can result in great gains in the efficiency and productivity (for all parties) while data collection through these apps grants an excellent opportunity for ongoing improvement of services.

Adjustability, coming from authorities, is key when wanting to engage citizens. Social involvement, coming from the people, is essential when wanting to improve the city’s standard.

Instead of a top-down approach, engaging citizens allows the individuals and policy-makers to take credit for success, be held accountable for failure and most importantly, draw conclusions and learn how to build upon each experience.