Public officials brainstorm hypothetical projects during a mock participatory budgeting exercise at the NLC's Congress of Cities.
Our local public officials are thirsty for better and deeper ways to engage the people they serve.
This sentiment was cast in sharp relief during a workshop on participatory budgeting at last month's National League of Cities Congress of Cities in Austin. Our partners at the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP for short) delivered the workshop to a variety of elected and appointed officials from cities across the country. Public Agenda's Allison Rizzolo attended the session and wrote about her experience on our blog.
Participants in the workshop shared the barriers they perceived as preventing them from engaging with constituents on a deeper level. These included:
- Low participation. How can we get more people to show up and weigh in?
Boring meetings. How can we bring more enthusiasm and energy into decision making?
- Drama. How do we keep resentful, angry, and inflammatory comments at bay so interactions and critiques are constructive?
- Memories of mistrust. How do we acknowledge frustrated constituents and move forward?
- Limited resources. How do we increase participation while making the best use of our time, energy and money?
It's no wonder healthier, deeper engagement with constituents seems a monumental task to officials.
Sure, deep, thoughtful and authentic engagement of constituents may not be easy. But these forms of engagement, through methods embraced by Public Agenda, the Participatory Budgeting Project and our peers, can contribute to a more informed citizenry and stronger communities.
Better engagement improves the relationship between officials and their constituents in many ways. Allison expands on three of them:
- Constituents become more thoughtful and informed.
- Engagement builds trust and promotes equity.
- Engagement saves costs and effort.
And if you're interested in learning more about how Public Agenda can help you engage your constituents in better ways, please contact Susan Shelton at firstname.lastname@example.org.