The week in citizen engagement

The community's best reads, podcasts, events and more

A central part of the job for anyone working in citizen engagement is to listen to a huge variety of thoughts, ideas and suggestions from a diverse group of people. Despite this overflow of input, one of the things we most often hear from you is that you miss connecting with other like-minded public servants. 

It would seem, ironically, that the citizen engagement community is lacking a way to engage with each other. To fill that gap, we put together this — the very first weeknote on citizen engagement. 

So without further ado, here are the community’s best reads, podcasts, events, quotes trends and more.

What you’re listening to: Podcasts galore

Podcasts are more popular than ever before, and it has never been easier to tune in to new and fresh ideas. Keep your hands free and your ears happy with these audiophile recommendations from our members.

“I’m listening to NYT’s The Daily podcast: An award-winning podcast that provides a daily deep dive into major news stories, more often than not focusing on the real-life impact of global events on local communities or how people and communities are at the heart of making things happen.” — Liz Laurence, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, United Kingdom.

“I’m hooked on this This American Life. There is a really interesting citizen engagement episode — The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind — where they explore the methods that LGBTQ+ marriage activists used to engage with communities of people who were conservative and sometimes anti gay marriage. It reminded me that truly listening is one of our strongest tools when it comes to civic engagement. Definitely worth a listen.” — Rivonia Pillay, Department of Water and Sanitation, South Africa.

“Something I listened to recently that’s staying with me is a pair of recent episodes of NPR’s Planet Money, The Chicago Boys Part I & II. Topically it’s about U.S.-trained Chilean economists and their role in shaping a capitalist economy during Pinochet’s rule. But their episodes pair the facts and numbing brutality held in this history with experiences of ordinary people during that period and now. It’s such a good reminder of what theory and praxis mean on the ground, in people’s everyday lives, and how past and present are linked.” — Marites Mendoza, Seattle Public Library, USA.

What you’re reading: A look at GDP and ideas for spring

Looking to escape in a longread or two? Our readers got you covered.

“With Spring arriving, I am watching nature instead of TV. I do love me some narrative therapy though, so to reduce screen time I picked up some vintage feminist sci-fi; Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Creating space for myself, for self-care, for reflection, for new ideas and connections to emerge, are critical to my ongoing work in citizen engagement.” — Laura Wesley, Privy Council Office, Government of Canada.

“I am reading “GDP: A brief but affectionate History” to better understand Gross Domestic Product — why there is so much importance placed on GDP by institutions, its benefits as well as its weaknesses. GDP may be a useful indicator of formal economic outputs (quantity), but what about quality?” — Emmie Shields, Innovation and Women’s Workforce Participation, Department of Jobs and Small Business, Australia.

Terra Nullius,” a novel, was a gift from a friend. It is written by Claire Coleman, a Wirlomin-Noongar woman and an up-and-coming indigenous writer. Although the novel is speculative fiction, it is a powerful political tool. It provides an Aboriginal perspective on the colonisation of Australia. — Emmie Shields.

“A to Z of Amazing South African Women by Ambre Nicolson and Jaxon Hsu. This is a fun one. It keeps me inspired on different ways that women in South Africa inspired change through poetry public leadership, activism, music etc.” —Rivonia Pillay, Department of Water and Sanitation, South Africa.

If you still have room on your reading list, here are three final recommendations to cap it off:

The events you’re excited about: Jury duty

We all want to get out of the office more, and with these upcoming events there is no reason to stay in. Here are the events you told us you were excited about:

“We’re holding the second OneTeamGov Global unconference on May 21, 2019 at the Victoria Conference Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It’s our way of growing the community and bringing together public sector reformers around the world.”

“2019 Innovation Fair, hosted by the Government of Canada throughout May and June.”

“I’m excited about the Government of Canada’s Beyond 2020 Innovation Fairs that are coming up. Through internal and external partnerships, the 2019 Innovation Fairs aim to showcase innovations and everyday best practices focused on mindsets and behaviours that can help organizations and employees become more agile, inclusive, and equipped. Last year’s event was such a great opportunity to talk with people about the work they do, how they’re working for Canadians and how they’re sharing that work.” — Sabrina Nemis, Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

“The Canada School of Public Service and Privy Council Office collaborative learning experience: Learning Together for Better Public Engagement! (Starting June 10 for 5 weeks). The Canada School of Public Service and the Privy Council Office have created a collaborative online program on public engagement and consultations. Join the conversation on tools and tips on everything from planning a consultation to running and facilitating a session to analyzing your data.” — Laura Wesley, Privy Council Office, Government of Canada.

“Victoria, Australia holds an annual Law Week, which is a festival dedicated to educating citizens about all aspects of their legal and justice systems. Courts Open Day caps off Law Week, with every court welcoming citizens to engage directly with judges, judicial staff, and others involved in the sector. It’s the only day of the year several ‘behind the scenes’ areas are opened to the general public, such as the Jury Pool Area, jury deliberation rooms, and the holding cells.” — Cameron Ballinger, Juries Victoria, Australia.

Last but not least, here make room for three cheers for acronyms:

Your favourite quotes: To be or not to be — a public servant?

Feeling uninspired? Here are two quotes to get you back in the groove.

“Learn fast and fix things”

“This is one of the guiding principles from our new initiative – called the Boost – which brings together partners from across the business support ecosystem (so far 50 from public and private sector – including global institutions like Duke and New York Stern business schools) to work together to improve the productivity, environmental sustainability and well-being of our half million small businesses – and the world’s 100m small businesses.” — Matt Kennedy-Good, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, New Zealand.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear” — Martin Luther King

“This felt particularly relevant after the horrific events in Christchurch. And I believe we should always be looking for opportunities to help or support those we are working with.” — Ben Briggs, Senior Customer Centred Design at ACC, New Zealand.

The challenges you have been facing: Engaging with the substance

This week we got three anonymous dilemmas from our members.

“How do we get public buy-in?”

“How much do we pay workshop participants?”

“Why aren’t citizens more passionate about projects that actually have a day-to-day impact in the community? We’re currently undergoing a corporate re-brand project for our town and what I found fascinating was the amount of public opinion that came through. It seems to have stirred up more public opinion and feedback than I have ever witnessed during my 3 years. It begs the question why so many people in the community feel so impassioned towards a logo, but not necessarily the same passion is given to other projects that have more impact on day-to-day life in the community.”

If you have a good answer to these questions, we would love to hear from you here.

Your trends and people to watch: AOC on top and democracy in the youngest continent

The bigger picture can be hard to see in the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. Here are two tips to watch out for:

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a person to watch. She really allows a glimpse into the life of a public servant leader and her video for the Green New Deal really inspired me to think about how we can use innovation, public input and technical expertise to build a better future. The engineer public servant in me was thrilled!” — Rivonia Pillay, Department of Water and Sanitation, South Africa.

On another note, one of our attentive members pointed out the many upcoming elections across the African continent. For a handy overview, see this map from the Brookings institute:

And finally…Shout outs:

You are a generous bunch, especially when it comes to praise. Here are the people that made your week:

Shout out to Victorian Juries Commissioner, Paul Dore.

“Paul recently returned from a study tour of Canada, USA, and the UK as part of his Churchill Trust Fellowship, awarded in 2018. Paul’s Fellowship purpose was to develop a systemic approach to juror support programs, and is part of his ongoing commitment to ensuring citizens are fully supported during and after their jury service through the use of free, confidential counselling services. This timely work comes in a local and global climate of increasing awareness of and concern for the mental health impacts of evidence, testimony, and victim impact statements on jurors, lawyers, and members of the judiciary. – Nominated by Cameron Ballinger, Community Engagement Project Officer, Juries Victoria.

“Thanks Roya, Ralf and Will – for teaching me systems mapping!”

“Systems mapping is a good tool for citizen engagement as we get to understand the critical connections who the key players are and where we need to make the change in order to help.” — Nominated by Ben Briggs, Senior Customer Centred Design at ACC New Zealand.

With these words we leave you once again, with the hope you have a productive week ahead.

If you have an idea, a hat tip or a recommendation that you would like to share, please email us. If you have thoughts, ideas or just feedback on what you would like to see more of in a coming weeknote, please drop us a line as well.


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