Citizen engagement refers to the different forms of interaction between citizens and policymakers. It is a two-way communication where central and local government bodies take into account the reasoning and viewpoints of the public to improve their decision-making process.
Citizen engagement lies at the centre of public sector governance, prioritising participation in processes to enhance transparency and accountability.
Forms of citizen engagement
Common forms of citizen engagement include:
Holding public consultation sessions to dissect issues allows the local people to express their views on topics concerning them.
Town hall meetings
Town hall meetings are a way for the public to engage with elected officials and discuss a wide range of topics related to the issues affecting them.
Online community forums allow policy-makers to issue important updates. The general public can ask questions and engage in informative discussions.
Like advisory boards, citizen advisory committees are panels of individuals in the community from different backgrounds, with varied experiences and expertise. They act as a sounding board, offering feedback on specific policies and decisions of the governing body.
Policy-makers can get real-time feedback from the community and keep the public informed of the latest developments in different initiatives via websites, social media and other online media.
Surveys are a more direct method to gauge public opinion. The questions can be focused or generalised depending on the level of feedback required.
Benefits of citizen engagement
Here are the key benefits that make citizen engagement vital for local government:
Citizen engagement improves accountability as councillors understand the active participation of the public in examining their decisions.
It leads to increased transparency and, consequently, greater trust between the public and government institutions.
Better decision making
By gaining input from people across the community regarding their current needs, decision-making processes become more informed.
Increased public participation leads to better relationships between local governments and their people. By knowing that their opinions can make real changes, citizens feel empowered and motivated to play their part.
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