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How we do community engagement

Nurturing community engagement (also called public engagement, public participation, or public involvement) is a fundamental civic goal.

We're working to create an engaged city that brings you and other people together to:

  • Address issues of common importance
  • Solve shared problems
  • Create positive social change

Our favourite public comment of 2015

How can we help? What do you need?

asked a neighbour at the community forum on the winter shelter coming to their area.

This brought the dialogue staff and shelter operators to tears. It's a beautiful example of the value that engagement can bring in working together toward a common goal and a better future.

What's community engagement?

Community engagement gives you opportunities to participate in making City decisions that affect or interest you.

Involving you helps us make better decisions, plans, or projects that:

  • Maximize benefits
  • Minimize negative impacts
  • Satisfy a wide range of stakeholders
  • Are easier to carry out

Your role in the decision-making process

Understand your role in the decision-making process with the spectrum below, and hold us accountable to the process.

The spectrum outlines our objectives and promises to you for each type of engagement process we deliver.

Some processes use multiple types of engagement for different groups or at different stages.

Greater influence on a decision comes with greater responsibility and commitment on your part.

Our core values for public participation

We apply the following values from the IAP2 when we design public engagement processes.

If you participate in one of our public engagement processes, hold it accountable to these values.

 

International Association of Public Participation (IAP2)

  1. We believe that people who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.
  2. We promise that the public's contribution will influence the decision.
  3. We promote sustainable decisions by recognizing and communicating the needs and interests of all participants, including decision-makers.
  4. We seek out and facilitate the involvement of people potentially affected by or interested in a decision.
  5. We seek input from participants in designing how they participate.
  6. We provide participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.
  7. We communicate to participants how their input affected the decision.

Our guiding principles

We plan and evaluate our community engagement processes using these guiding principles.

Mandating the process

Mandating the process

  • The credibility, purpose, and objectives of the public process are clear.
  • The roles of participants are defined and communicated. 
  • The public is involved in making changes to processes in which they are participants.

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Resourcing the process

Resourcing the process

  • The process has adequate resources (financial, staff, community) to achieve the stated mandate.
  • Community resources and energies are used effectively and efficiently.
  • Assigned staff are trained in the community engagement process.
  • The relative effectiveness and cost of techniques to achieve objectives informs the selection of resources.

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Process participants

Process participants

  • Everyone potentially interested in or impacted by an initiative has an opportunity to become involved.
  • The process includes a balance of people who represent others and people who represent only themselves.
  • Efforts are made to include under-represented and hard-to-reach communities. Diversity is promoted.
  • Barriers to access, such as physical, economic, or language constraints, are recognized and overcome.
  • Efforts are made to involve elected representatives and all affected City departments in the process.

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Communication strategies

Communication strategies

  • Communications are effective, inclusive, and cover all necessary issues.
  • The language of all written communications is clear, concise, objective, and free of technical jargon.
  • Materials address relevant existing policy and procedure, history of the issues, alternatives, and their pros and cons.
  • The process schedule, milestones, progress-to-date, and opportunities for involvement are regularly communicated.
  • Media is used regularly to provide general information to the public at large.
  • Information is regularly distributed to all active participants and sent more broadly at key milestones.

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Involvement strategies

Involvement strategies

  • The process is transparent and deals with conflict and imbalances of knowledge in order to maximize participation. 
  • The scope and goals of the public process are repeatedly clarified.
  • The tone of the process fosters creativity and encourages civility and mutual respect among all parties.
  • Processes have a balance of proactive and reactive techniques to ensure that input is representative and to involve everyone who wants to be.
  • Input is obtained from those impacted both negatively and positively by the initiative.
  • The process addresses both agreement regarding the validity of the facts and understanding of varied opinions and values regarding the outcomes.

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Closure

Closure

  • Participants are convinced that a process has achieved its mandate at its completion.
  • The process is evaluated to identify successes and shortcomings, and results are communicated to the participants. The longer-term effects of the process on neighbourhood and community relationships and on perceptions of effectiveness of City processes are included in the evaluation.
  • Affected communities are informed of process outcomes.
  • In some instances, public feedback such as that at public hearings, is collected as part of the formal record which often includes personal identification. In other cases, feedback is received in confidence to allow for personal expression without fear of bias.
    • Privacy is always respected and, in cases of public feedback received in confidence (such as through an online or paper questionnaire), personal contact information and verbatim responses are securely stored and only a summary of aggregated feedback is published and available to the public.
    • While you can still request raw data from public feedback through a freedom of information request to ensure transparency, we always keep personal identification of comments confidential.

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