Local government managers can have a persuasive role in involving residents in public problem solving. But they really can’t do it without a strategy. PM magazine’s August cover story “Tackling Wicked Problems Takes Resident Engagement,” written by authors (and former city managers) Mike Huggins, principal, Public Collaboration Strategies, Madison, Wisconsin, and Cheryl Hilvert, director, ICMA Center for Management Strategies, Washington, D.C., offers 10 suggestions that managers can consider in building an effective engagement strategy: 


  1. Take stock of what you are already doing, distinguishing between exchange and engagement efforts.
  2. Assess how receptive your organization is to initiatives from community groups and to what extent your organizational culture supports civic engagement.
  3. Work with your elected officials to convene a community conversation on engagement to hear from residents how they wish to be involved in shaping community life and how local government could contribute to meeting their aspirations.
  4. Identify potential issues that need resident engagement and involvement, including new ways staff could interact with residents in the day-to-day delivery of services.
  5. Plan an engagement event by matching the purpose and intended outcomes with the appropriate technique and activity.
  6. Actively recruit diverse stakeholder groups beyond the “usual suspects” who always participate.
  7. Provide participants multiple opportunities to compare values and interests and articulate self-interests and include opportunities in both large forums and small-group discussions.
  8. Seek to combine both online and face-to-face engagement opportunities and venues.
  9. Design engagement initiatives to move from talk to action by identifying tangible goals, desired outcomes and, then, measure your success.
  10. Develop an ongoing program in partnership with residents and community organizations to build meaningful engagement and facilitate resident problem solving in the work of local government.


For full details, read the August PM.

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