The week in citizen engagement #2: Embracing complexity and theme parks

Tips, tricks, thoughts and ideas made for sharing

Welcome back to the second instalment of Apolitical’s weeknote from the citizen engagement community. In this note we showcase the best thoughts, ideas, tips and tricks from our diligent public servants working in citizen engagement, bundled up and ready to be shared with citizen-minded public servants around the world.

Is there a better way to start the week? We think not. However, if you have recommendations for how we might make the weeknote better, we are all ears.

This week we’re bringing you quotes, events to look out for, some essential reads and a request for a theme park. There’s no reason to wait, so let’s get to it.

What you’re reading: The smart enough city and embracing complexity

This week you are grappling with some of the profound questions in life: How to be successful at work, how should we embrace complexity and… how smart should a city be? While there isn’t one right answer to any of these questions, it’s never a bad idea to hear from the experts. Here’s your best read of the week.

“I’ve been reading Erik Barker’s “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” newsletter on being successful and effective at work (as well as the rest of life) and I’ve just started his book”. — Sabrina Nemis, Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

“Embracing Complexity: Strategic Perspectives for an Age of Turbulence by Jean Boulton, Peter Allen and Cliff Bowman. I facilitate a lot of multi-stakeholder dialogues around the transition to healthier and sustainable food systems. I find this book very helpful in embracing a complexity worldview, meaning one that is systemic, emergent as well as path and context-dependent.” — Dr. Afton Halloran, External Consultant to the Nordic Food Policy Lab, Nordic Council of Ministers.

This citizen engagement blog from the Open Innovation Team at the UK Cabinet Office is something I came across which was an interesting read, with some useful case studies on citizen engagement. — Christina Webley, UK Ministry of Justice. 

Leading From the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies by Otto Scharmer and Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together by William Isaacs. I was motivated to pick up these two books after dabbling in the “U.Lab: Leading for the Emerging Future” online course.  I’m hoping to learn more about designing dialogue in support of a new community of practice in my Department. — Eric Shoesmith, Free Agent, Government of Canada. 

“The Smart Enough City: Putting Technology in Its Place to Reclaim Our Urban Future, by Ben Green. I’ve only recently started reading this book, but I’ve already gained a lot of insight into how to pragmatically focus and deliver on what really matters for the progress of cities and citizens”. — Ricardo Martello, City Futures, Logan City Council, Australia. 

What you’re listening to: Doughnut insights

Looking to reduce your screen time, and tune in to some bright ideas? This podcast recommendation might just hit the spot.

“I have been listening to this podcast with Kate Raworth, the author of Doughnut Economics. She is in NZ to attend our ‘Just Transition Summit’ in Taranaki. It is very encouraging to think of how our economy CAN be reconfigured to keep us within ‘the doughnut’ of sensible environmental and living standard limits”. — Chris McDowall, New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment. 

Your trends and people to watch: Don’t smoke and drive

This week you are shining a light on admirable causes, working to make society healthier from two different perspectives.

“Helen Bevan (@HelenBevan) is Chief Transformation Officer for @HorizonNHS (the health sector). She is a force and every tweet is of utmost value to the entire community engaged in scaling change and improving service delivery”. — Nancy Gharib, Shared Services and Procurement Canada. 

“Public Safety Canada’s “Don’t Drive High” campaign has been one of my favourites to watch. They’ve done a Facebook Messenger bot, short videos, testimonials, and other things, sharing their work and results openly with the Government of Canada community”. — Sabrina Nemis, Public Prosecution Service of Canada. 

The events you’re excited for: Storytelling and True North

Get your calendars out. We got two updates for our Australian and Canadian audience and readers elsewhere with some wanderlust to take advantage of.

“I am excited up the upcoming Story Conference, November 27-29 in Melbourne, Australia on using narrative and storytelling to influence and communicate. Narrative and storytelling is a compelling way to engage stakeholders, empower change and explain why we do what we do in government departments. It is more interesting than a boring brief. Many cultures still use storytelling to impart information and this builds on that”. — Kerri-Ann Hobbs, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

“While I won’t have an opportunity to attend, I love the theme of focus of the True North event in June 19-20 in Waterloo, Canada, which is: “Help make Tech for Good the core of digital life, work and play.” Events such as this are helping shift the paradigm of tech companies that subscribed to the Facebook growth model of “move fast and break things” to a more responsible and humane approach of “move fast and fix things.” — Ricardo Martello, City Futures, Logan City Council, Australia.

Your favourite quotes: To be young and want a theme park 

They say a picture says more than a thousand words, but it would also be unfair to claim that all words carry an equal weight. These are the quotes that have been hitting home with you this week.

“You will never reduce risk to zero… we have to get used to managing in a world where there will always be risk. When talking about service delivery, get comfortable talking about risk because it isn’t going anywhere.” — Alex Benay

“I attended a presentation Government of Canada Chief Information Officer Alex Benay on May 7 on the last 50 years and the next 50 years, and it was riveting. This is a quote from that presentation and a challenge to the audience”. — Nancy Gharib, Shared Services and Procurement Canada. 

“Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” — Brené Brown

“This beautiful quote that resonated with me is from Brené Brown. Since coming across this, I’ve become more conscious of how I communicate with team members and other stakeholders, and how avoiding or skirting around difficult conversations is detrimental to all involved”. — Ricardo Martello, City Futures, Logan City Council, Australia. 

“Dialogue is a conversation in which you see yourself through the eyes of another, and in the context of the whole.” — Otto Scharmer

“I like this quote because it reminds me what true dialogue is and why it is so important. By listening and creating space for conversation with all stakeholders in a system, we can cultivate solutions that serve the collective”. — Eric Shoesmith, Free Agent, Government of Canada.

“My community would be even better if you build a theme park in my village!”

“From a child whom we spoke to at a recent engagement session. Can’t beat a bit of creativity!” — Abigail Barton, Communications, Marketing and Engagement Manager for Monmouthshire County Council, United Kingdom.

What you’ve learned recently: Having the difficult conversations

Social media gets blamed for much, and its not uncommon to hear criticism of online platforms as a place of harsh words, internet trolls and echo chambers. But might social media also be a channel for a rare level of honesty? Here are your reflections from the week that went by.

“We must live with enduring urgency, which is the understanding that there is important work requiring swift action; that important work may not be easy, and improvements may not happen immediately; nevertheless, it is important to consistently act now”. — David Brown-Dawson, U.S. Air Force. 

“Some people are more open and honest on social media/digital channels than face to face – it’s easier to hide behind”. — Abigail Barton, Communications, Marketing and Engagement Manager for Monmouthshire County Council, United Kingdom. 

“After finishing a recent engagement process, I learned that the most difficult conversations are the ones that are the most important to have. In future, I want‎ to‎ learn more about  the ‘art of ‘difficult conversation’ and its role in public/stakeholder engagement”. — Eric Shoesmith, Free Agent, Government of Canada.

Shout Outs: The people that have made your day

Time has a tendency to fly, and sometimes we forget to show our appreciation for our colleagues when we’re pressed for time. Luckily, there is no expiration date on saying “thank you”. This week we bring you some collegial shout outs from Australia and the UK.

“Rhian Cook, Engagement and Communictaion Officer at Monmouthshire County Council, UK. Our engagement genius, with a creative eye and the ability to listen to everyone”. — Nominated by her colleague, Abigail Barton.

“CX ComPrac, New South Wales. NSW Public Sector Community of Customer Experience professionals convened its first ‘hang-out’ to have a deep dive on complaint handling. Chris Wheeler, Deputy Ombudsman from NSW Ombudsman, talked about the conduct by ‘serial’ complainers and the importance of having a structured approach in dealing with this segment. He highlighted the importance of showing respect at all times. He also recommended face-to-face meetings and stressed the importance of an apology and even suggested turning up a few minutes late and offering a sincere apology for your lateness to set the tone for the meeting”. — Nominated by Luke Murray, Department of Premier and Cabinet.

We hope that you enjoyed reading these tips, thoughts and recommendations from the community, and we invite you to share and forward the notes to other colleagues working in citizen engagement. Are you hungry for even more citizen engagement? You can click your way through to the first inaugural weeknote here, where we cover a lot of ground (and podcasts). If you haven’t read it yet, you should go check it out.

As always, if you have a bright idea about how we might make the next weeknote better, or if you have a recommendation you’d like to share with the community, please get in touch. We hope that you have a productive week ahead – and as they say in show business: That’s all folks.


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