CE Handbook - Chapter 2: The Citizen Engagement Decision Tree Model

[ Table of Contents ]

Constructing a citizen engagement (CE) plan can be overwhelming. Where to start? What should your plan include? Who can help? Finding the right people and gathering their input can seem like a Herculean task; however, this Handbook has broken down the CE planning process into manageable pieces that will enable you to construct your plan with confidence.

Based on the best available guidelines from professional CE practitioners, this chapter presents a Decision Tree Model that will help you decide on the best CE approaches for your situation and needs. This Decision Tree Model serves as a decision-making tool and is tailored for CIHR's CE activities to ensure that they are designed with rigour and according to the best available knowledge for developing CE processes. Overall, this chapter will help you to clarify your CE objectives and will enable you to visualize your own tailored CE activity.

2.1 How to Use the Decision Tree Model

The Decision Tree Model actually comprises several "stages" (or sections) to lead you through a number of key steps in choosing an appropriate CE approach. The checklist/questionnaire with 5 questions found in Section 2.2 maps onto the approach matrix (Section 2.3) for each component of the CE continuum of engagement (Section 1.6).

The CE Decision Tree Questions (Section 2.2)
The CE Decision Tree asks the essential questions about involving citizens in our work: why, when, who, what, and how. This section is not designed to identify one specific CE approach or technique; instead, it will lead to a number of options that can be explored through Section 2.3.

The CE Approaches Matrix (Section 2.3)
The CE Approaches Matrix uses the answers gathered from Section 2.2 to lead you to a variety of potential CE approaches that are grounded in CIHR's Continuum of Engagement (see Chapter 1).

The Summary Table of CE Approaches (Section 2.4)
In this section, each CE approach listed in Section 2.3 is outlined in a table format, adapted, with permission, from the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Toolkit. The Table includes a high-level description of each CE approach, along with tips for use and an outline of the benefits and potential risks associated with each technique.

The model will help you choose the best CE approach for your situation. Once you have an idea of what your best options are, move on to Chapter 3 before constructing your plan.

The Decision Tree Model sections have been designed to build on one another, leading you from initial contemplations about CE through to potential activities, which will then need a CE plan (the steps are summarized in Figure 4 below).

Figure 4: How to Use the Decision Tree Model

Figure 4: How to Use the Decision Tree Model

It is important to start with Section 2.2 and work your way through sections 2.3 and 2.4 in chronological order; the answers derived from one section will provide the basis for answers in the subsequent sections.

2.2 The Citizen Engagement Decision Tree Questions

These strategic design questions will lead you through the key considerations that form the basis of a CE plan. Answer the questions in the order that they are presented. A checklist is provided at the end of this section to record your answers.

Question 1: Why should citizens be involved in this initiative?

Many reasons exist for engaging citizens. To help CIHR staff think through their own reasons for CE, the following list of reason "categories" has been developed, based on consultations with Ascentum Incorporated.Footnote 5 Please note that these categories map directly onto the CE Approaches Matrix (and a CE activity may be based on any combination of these reasons).

Reasons for engaging citizens can be to:

  • understand values
  • hear diverse perspectives
  • gather experiential knowledge ("experiential check in")
  • access untapped knowledge
  • assist with risk management
  • inform evaluation
  • inform prioritization
  • address public demand
  • address historical injustices (redressing issues from previously disenfranchised or minority groups)

Many of these reasons stem from ethical, health, social, and political considerations for the inclusion of citizens in the development of new strategic plans priorities, guidelines, or policies.

Question 2: When is citizen input needed?

Citizens (individuals or organized groups) can be included in multiple stages of the decision-making lifecycle (see Figure 5 below). For example, during the development of a specific strategic plan or guideline, there may be a need for citizen input to define the issue, to make a decision, or to evaluate the decision. The potential exists to engage citizens at any stage of the decision-making lifecycle, and there may be occasions that call for citizen input at every stage.

Figure 5: The Decision-Making Lifecycle

Figure 5: The Decision-Making Lifecycle

This generalized cycle has been developed to illustrate the wealth of opportunity that exists for including citizens in CIHR's priority setting and in the development of strategic plans, policies, or guidelines. The table below (Table 1) outlines some of the ways that Canadians can be included at each stage of the process.

Table 1: Including Citizens in the Decision-Making Lifecycle

Decision-Making Stage Citizens can be engaged to…
1. Define the issue
  • Recognize the problem/identify risk
  • Analyze the context
  • Begin to characterize the issue
  • Agree on an issue statement
2. Gather information
  • Provide data (qualitative or quantitative, including personal stories, ideas, survey results, formal responses
3. Establish decision criteria
  • Clarify values and goals
  • Clarify the normative, moral commitments
  • Describe the desired results
  • Develop indicators
4. Develop alternatives
  • Focus on goals
  • Develop a range of alternatives
  • Think broadly and outside established forms
5. Evaluate alternatives
  • Analyze options
  • Use tools to evaluate alternatives
  • Understand potential impacts and tradeoffs
  • Recommend preferred options
6. Make the decision
  • Make a decision or decide on options
  • Communicate the decision (within a community, etc.)
7. Implement the decision
  • Understand success factors
  • Assess (community) capacity to implement the decision
  • Assign roles and responsibilities
  • Develop an evaluation framework, criteria, and indicators
8. Evaluate decision
  • Collect data
  • Evaluate against objectives, identified indicators, and shared learning
  • Recommend any changes required

Question 3: Who should be engaged?

Target audiences need to be identified before any kind of CE initiative is launched. Who will be affected by the issue, direction, or decision? Who is involved, interested, or able to influence?

The CE Framework established a CE Typology for CIHR (see Section 2.1.1 of the Framework). The four main categories of this typology are as follows:

  • Affected individuals (personal)—those citizens who are directly affected by a decision, but are not affiliated with an organized group;
  • Individuals from the General Public (personal)—those people who are personally interested and wish to contribute;
  • Primary Groups (organized)—groups that represent citizens who are directly affected by a decision; and
  • Secondary Groups (organized)—groups that have potential to reach both primary groups and individuals.

Identifying your target audience is an important step in the development of a CE plan. CIHR's Partnerships and Citizen Engagement (PCE) Branch is available to provide you with advice and insight. In addition, keep in mind that voluntary health organizations, advocacy groups, community groups, and decision-makers can help identify CE participants or can help promote the CE activity to target audiences.

Question 4: What type of contribution are we asking citizens to make?

The following broad categories suggest types of contributions that citizens can provide and will determine whether the approach will be one of informing, discussion, dialogue or collaboration.

  • explore ideas—Canadians bring new ideas and perspectives to allow CIHR to consider diverse viewpoints in the decision-making process;
  • validate ideas—Canadians and CIHR examine proposed research directions or issues in order to assess their applicability and fit with their experiences and "on-the-ground" reality;
  • suggest ideas—CIHR gathers new and innovative ideas, approaches, or solutions from a broad range of Canadian perspectives (with a strong focus on practicality and shared problems or challenges); and
  • reconcile ideas and values—CIHR engages Canadians in a discussion to reconcile or prioritize competing ideas or values (with an emphasis on weighing the advantages, disadvantages, preferences, and tradeoffs to select the best aspects of alternative approaches).

For example, if ethical guidelines have been drafted on research involving children and the guidelines committee has established that it would like to validate and reconcile ideas and values with citizens, mapping these as key design criteria on the CE Approaches Matrix will suggest the approaches that can best capture these contributions. More than one of these contribution types may be needed to meet the objectives of a given CE activity.

Question 5: How will we interact with citizens to achieve our objectives?

CIHR's Continuum of Engagement, or types of interaction for CE, was introduced in Chapter 1. The continuum consists of four "levels," which map directly onto the CE Approaches Matrix:

  • Listening/Informing
  • Discussion
  • Dialogue
  • Collaboration

Choosing the appropriate type of interaction for a given CE activity requires an assessment of the complexity of the issue. What degree of controversy, conflict, or trust already exists around the policy, priority, guideline, or strategic plan being developed? What commitments have been made about the level of influence that citizens will have on decision making (or what impact will the engagement have on the decision)? Typically, the level of engagement should increase with the complexity and scope of the project, level of public interest, conflict, or controversy. For example, as a general guideline, the greater the potential impact on interested parties, the higher the level of involvement required.Footnote 6

Taken together, questions 1-5 are meant to help you to consider the initial needs and objectives that will shape the overall CE plan. CIHR's CE principles and the data needs driving your activity will also influence your plans.

Questions 1-5 will be mapped onto the CE Approaches Matrix (Section 2.3), using the Key Strategic Design Questions Checklist.

Key Strategic Design Questions Checklist

  1. Reasons for CE
    [ ] understand values
    [ ] hear diverse perspectives
    [ ] experiential check-in
    [ ] access untapped knowledge
    [ ] risk management
    [ ] evaluation
    [ ] prioritization
    [ ] public demand
    [ ] historical injustices
  2. Input in Decision Lifecycle
    [ ] define the issue
    [ ] gather information
    [ ] establish decision criteria
    [ ] develop alternatives
    [ ] make decision
    [ ] implement decision
    [ ] evaluate decision
  3. Target audiences
    [ ] affected individuals
    [ ] individuals from general public
    [ ] primary groups
    [ ] secondary groups
  4. Contributions of Citizens
    [ ] explore ideas
    [ ] validate ideas
    [ ] suggest ideas
    [ ] reconcile ideas and values
  5. Type of Interaction
    [ ] listening
    [ ] discussion
    [ ] dialogue
    [ ] collaboration

To use this checklist, simply go through all the CE Decision Questions and check (X) the appropriate box that matches your answer(s). For example, if one of your reasons for engaging citizens is to address historical injustices, check the appropriate box to indicate your choice. Check all the relevant boxes.

Once you have completed the checklist, you will be able to map your answers onto the CE Approaches Matrix (Section 2.3).

This checklist is available (separately) as a tool in the Citizen Engagement shared drive of resource materials.

2.3 The Citizen Engagement Approaches Matrix

The CE Approaches Matrix has been developed to suit the needs of CIHR. Using the answers to the CE Decision Tree Questions, the Matrix leads the user to approaches that may be appropriate for specific CE goals. Detailed descriptions of each activity listed in the Matrix are provided in the Summary Table of CE Approaches (Section 2.4).

How to Use the CE Approaches Matrix

Mapping your answers from Section 2.2 onto the Matrix requires a few simple steps:

Step One: Identifying the Type of Interaction

The Matrix is divided into four categories: 1) Listening/Informing, 2) Discussion, 3) Dialogue, and 4) Collaboration. These categories match the "types of interaction" from Question 5 of Section 2.2. Locate the appropriate table(s) on the Matrix below (e.g., "Approaches for Discussion").

Step Two: Matching Answers

The sections of each table in the Matrix link with the questions from Section 2.2. Match your answers from Section 2.2 to the Matrix with a highlighter. For example, if we wanted to understand values and address historical injustices through a Listening/Informing type of interaction, you would highlight the checks (X) in the Reasons for Engagement section of the Approaches for Listening/Informing table as shown in Example 1 below:

Example 1: Approaches for Listening/Informing

Why? Reasons For Engagement Discussion papers with comments Key Informant Interviews Focus groups Surveys Public hearings
Understand values X X
Hear diverse perspectives X X
Experiential check in X X
Access untapped knowledge
Risk management X
Evaluation X X
Prioritization X X X X
Public demand X
Historical injustices X X X

Complete each section of the appropriate table(s).

Step Three: Evaluating the Activity

Once you have finished matching your answers from Section 2.2, evaluate which activities align best with your answers.

Let's continue with the example from Step Two. We have already established that the reasons for engagement are to understand values and to address historical injustices. Let's also assume that we are at the gathering information stage of the decision-making process, that we want to engage affected individuals and primary groups, and that we're hoping to validate ideas that we've already discussed. In this scenario, Key Informant Interviews is the best choice because all of our answers align in the activity column, as noted below:

Step Three: Evaluating the Activity

If your answers from Section 2.2 fail to line up completely with a single CE approach, choose the CE approach that matches most of your criteria. As you develop your CE plan, the CE approach(es) may be adapted to suit your needs.

As you go through this exercise, you may notice that some rows within the Matrix are blank. For example, in the Listening/Informing matrix, there are no activities checked for the "making the decision" option in the "Decision-making Stage" category. This blank row indicates that Listening/Informing is not the best type of involvement for such an advanced stage in the decision-making lifecycle. If your answers correspond to a blank row, then you need to make a commitment to a different level of involvement. This will ensure that you are receiving the type of input required and will enable participants to have more influence in the discussions.

The full Matrix (Table 2) is provided below, one page per category. Each of the charts is also available separately on the Citizen Engagement shared drive of resources. Once you have identified the appropriate activities for your CE goals, proceed to Section 2.4 to learn more about what each approach can entail.

Note: There is no Matrix dedicated to "Collaboration". Two CE approaches for that type of involvement are introduced below, and both are suitable for situations requiring collaboration. The Decision Tree Questions exercise will help you to think through your CE needs, but you won't need to "map" your answers if you have chosen "Collaboration" as your type of involvement.

Table 2: The Citizen Engagement Approaches Matrix

Table 2.1: Approaches for Listening/Informing

Why? Reasons For Engagement Discussion papers with comments Key Informant Interviews Focus groups Surveys Public hearings
Understand values X X
Hear diverse perspectives X X
Experiential check in X X
Access untapped knowledge
Risk management X
Evaluation X X
Prioritization (strategic) X X X X
Public demand X
Historical injustices X X X
When? Decision-making stage
Defining the issue X X
Gathering information X X X X
Establishing decision criteria X
Developing alternatives X X
Evaluating alternatives X X X X
Making the decision
Implementing the decision X X
Evaluating the decision X X X X
Who? Identify target audience
Primary groups X X
Secondary groups X X
Affected individuals X X
General public X X X
What? Type of contribution
Explore ideas X X X X
Validate ideas X X X X
Suggest ideas X X X
Reconcile ideas and values

Table 2.2: Approaches for Discussion

Why? Reasons For Engagement Bilaterals Expert panels Townhalls (meetings) Consultation workbooks
Understand values X
Hear diverse perspectives X
Experiential check in X
Access untapped knowledge X
Risk management X
Evaluation X
Prioritization X X
Public demand X X X
Historical injustices X
When? Decision-making stage
Defining the issue
Gathering information X X
Establishing decision criteria X X
Developing alternatives X X
Evaluating alternatives X X X
Making the decision
Implementing the decision X X
Evaluating the decision X X
Who? Identify target audience
Primary groups X X
Secondary groups X X
Affected individuals X X
General public X
What? Type of contribution
Explore ideas X X X X
Validate ideas X X X
Suggest ideas X X X X
Reconcile ideas and values X

Table 2.3: Approaches for Dialogue

Table Legend:

  1. Roundtables
  2. Open space technology
  3. World cafes
  4. Study circles
  5. Deliberative dialogues
  6. Deliberative polls
  7. Online discussion boards
  8. Charrettes
  9. Citizen juries
  10. Consensus conferences
Why? Reasons For Engagement A B C D E F G H I J
Understand values X X X X X X
Hear diverse perspectives X X X X X
Experiential check in X X X X X
Access untapped knowledge X X X X X X
Risk management X X X
Evaluation X X X X
Prioritization X X X X X X
Public demand X X X
Historical injustices X X X X X X
When? Decision-making stage
Defining the issue X X
Gathering information X X X X X
Establishing decision criteria X X X X
Developing alternatives X X X X X X X X
Evaluating alternatives X X X X X X
Making the decision X X X X X
Implementing the decision X
Evaluating the decision
Who? Identify target audience
Primary groups X X X X X
Secondary groups X X X X
Affected individuals X X X X X X
General public X X X X X X
What? Type of contribution
Explore ideas X X X X X X X
Validate ideas X X X X
Suggest ideas X X X X X X X X
Reconcile ideas and values X X X X X X X X X X

The Citizen Engagement Approaches Matrix

Approaches for Collaboration

Approaches for Collaboration are a little bit different than the CE approaches for Listening/Informing, Discussion, or Dialogue. With this level of engagement, citizens participate in the analysis of issues, contribute to the development of alternatives, and influence recommendations, decisions, and outcomes directly. As Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer and Lars Hasselblad Torres explains in Public Deliberation: A Manager's Guide to Citizen Engagement, collaboration "explicitly recognizes that successful policy will result when impacted groups, experts, policy-makers, and the public share power in policy development and implementation." This level of engagement consists of processes that build capacity for long-lasting cooperation among groups and decision-makers.Footnote 7 With collaboration, then, the goal is to create both CIHR-to-participant relationships and participant-to-participant relationships that are mutually beneficial.

There are two main CE approaches for collaboration: 1) advisory groups, and 2) task forces. There is no matrix for collaboration because both of these approaches are appropriate for activities at the higher end of the engagement spectrum. These approaches are described in detail in the Section 2.4.

CIHR has some excellent examples of collaboration in the "inventory" of CE activities that was captured for the development of the CE Framework. These activities range from membership opportunities for citizens on CIHR's committees to volunteer opportunities on task forces as part of an Institute Advisory Board sub-committee. (See Table 1 of Appendix 1 in the CE Framework or the case studies in Chapter 4 and Chapter 6 of this Handbook for more information.)

2.4 Summary Table of Citizen Engagement Approaches

In this section, high-level descriptions of all the activities listed in the CE Approaches Matrix are provided in a table format. Some of these descriptions have been adapted, with permission, from the IAP2 Toolbox for Public Participation (to see the complete IAP2 Toolbox, visit the International Association for Public Participation); they are also available separately on the Citizen Engagement shared drive of resources.

Once again, the tables have been built around CIHR's Continuum of Engagement, noted in Chapter 1. With the results of the CE Approaches Matrix exercise, these tables will provide tips for using a given CE approach and an outline of the benefits and potential risks associated with each one. Simply find the approaches that were recommended for your situation through the CE Approaches Matrix, and use the information in the table(s) to guide the development of your CE plan. See Chapter 3 for more information on developing a CE plan.

Approaches for Listening / Informing

Listening/InformingListening / Informing
Primarily to explain and gather information; priorities and decisions are still being shaped. It allows CIHR to explain the issue while gathering information to understand the perspectives and ideas of each citizen.
Technique Think it Through What can go Right? What can go Wrong?

Discussion papers / documents for comments

A discussion document is intended to stimulate debate and launch a process of consultation.

A commonly used approach in the Canadian federal context.

If comments are required from a specific target audience, it may be necessary to buy and or assemble an up-to-date mailing list.

Ensure adequate time is given for audiences to respond once the document is posted or distributed.

The format of discussion documents is often structured to present the various issues with relevant background information, accompanying recommendations, and discussion sections to stimulate informed input from participants. If distribution or posting of the document does not reach targeted audiences or does not provide sufficient time for input, it may result in limited feedback.
Key informant interviews*

One-to-one meetings with stakeholders to gain information for developing or refining public involvement and consensus-building programs

Where feasible, interviews should be conducted in person, particularly when considering candidates for citizens committees. Provide opportunity for in-depth information exchange in non-threatening forum.

Provide opportunity to obtain feedback from all stakeholders.

Can be used to evaluate potential citizen committee members.

Scheduling multiple interviews can be time consuming.
Focus groups *

Message testing forum with randomly selected members of target audience. Can also be used to obtain input on planning decisions.

Conduct at least two sessions for a given target.

Use a skilled focus group facilitator to conduct the session.

Provide opportunity to test key messages prior to implementing program.

Work best for a select target audience.

Relatively expensive if conducted in a focus group testing facility.

May require payment to participants.

Telephone/mail surveys or polls*

Random sampling of population by telephone or mail to gain specific information for statistical validation.

Make sure you need statistically valid results before making the investment.

Survey/questionnaire should be professionally developed and administered to avoid bias.

Most suitable for general attitudinal surveys.

Provide input from individuals who would be unlikely to attend meetings.

Provide input from cross-section of public, not just those on a mailing list.

Telephone surveys have a higher response rate than mail-in surveys.

Significant budget is required to produce a statistically valid survey, administer it, analyze the data, and produce a report.
Internet surveys/polls

Web-based response polls or Internet surveys.

To understand the opinions or preferences of interested parties.

To learn about changes or trends in public opinions.

Be precise in how you set up the website.

Chat rooms or discussion places can generate more input than you can look at.

Opportunity to access individuals not on mailing lists or who are unlikely to attend meetings.

Individuals can complete and submit survey at their leisure.

Low cost to produce and administer.

Response rate higher than other survey forms.

No additional data entry is required and results can be analyzed immediately.

Generally not statistically valid results.

Can be labour intensive to look at all the responses.

Cannot control the geographic reach of the poll.

Results can be easily skewed (e.g., risk of campaigns from activist or organized groups).

Expertise may be required to design and post online surveys.

Public hearings

Formal meetings with scheduled presentations offered.

Typically, members of the public individually state opinions/positions that are recorded.

May be required by sponsor and/or legal requirement. Provide opportunity for public to speak without rebuttal. Does not foster constructive dialogue.

Can perpetuate an "us vs. them" feeling.

* Adapted from the IAP2 Toolbox for Public Participation (© 2006 International Association for Public Participation)

Approaches for Discussion

Two-way information exchange in which the public discusses a policy, issue, or research priority. Discussion among and with different stakeholders is encouraged. This type of interaction allows CIHR to deepen its knowledge by exploring and responding to the ideas and concerns described by individual participants.
Technique Think it Through What can go Right? What can go Wrong?

Generally comprise one-on-one meetings between two groups that may represent organizations, sectors, regions, or nations.

Involve groups with an interest in the proceedings, which may include multiple bilateral meetings with various groups.

Conduct briefings for stakeholders on relevant information well in advance.

Proceed by setting an agenda in order to inform all of their roles and responsibilities.

Parameters and scope of the meetings need to be defined beforehand in order to manage expectations.

Allow the main decision-making body to ensure that views are represented and understood.

Useful as a formal process to determine the nature of a problem and identify common ground among the parties involved.

Serve to provide opinions, interests, values, and objectives to the policy development process or implementation phase.

Possibility exists that process would not be inclusive enough, and would fail to adequately address the concerns of various stakeholders.

The process may be seen as predetermined and used to achieve political "buy-in" and support rather than to share ideas and information.

Expert panels *

Public meeting designed in "Meet the Press" format, with panel interviews of experts with different perspectives.

Can also be conducted with a neutral moderator asking questions of panel members.

Provide opportunity for participation by general public following the panel.

Have a neutral moderator.

Agree on ground rules in advance.

Possibly encourage local organizations to sponsor rather than challenge.

Encourage education of the media.

Present opportunity for balanced discussion of key issues.

Provide opportunity to dispel scientific misinformation.

Require substantial preparation and organization.

May enhance public concerns by increasing visibility of issues.

Townhall meetings *

A group meeting format where people come together as equals to share concerns.

Townhall meetings are often hosted by elected officials to elicit input from constituents.

There are cultural and political differences in the understanding of the term "townhall meeting." It may be interpreted differently.

Views are openly expressed.

Officials hear from their constituents in an open forum.

The meeting escalates out of control because emotions are high.

Facilitators are not able to establish an open and neutral environment for all views to be shared.

Consultation workbook

A publication, produced in print, electronic form, or both, that provides contextual information and invites users to suggest solutions to a set of problems or challenges.

Depending on the issues to be addressed and the scope and depth of input required, a workbook can be distributed as a stand-alone public involvement tool or as one part of a larger consultative or deliberative exercise.

Need to limit open-ended questions; otherwise, the project will require substantial analytical resources to review the high level of qualitative analysis.

Content and questions need to be fully integrated.

Useful when there is a need to state a problem or challenge, particularly if different aspects of the issue require careful consideration or specific knowledge.

Highly scalable tool that is informative and participative.

Provides objective information in a structured format.

Can provide participant with the option to access supporting information and data within the workbook, without having to leave the tool or the website to get additional information.

May generate unanticipated responses from citizens or stakeholders if it is distributed far and wide as a stand-alone resource. This may or may not be a welcome result, depending on the purpose and design of the overall discussion process.

* Adapted from the IAP2 Toolbox for Public Participation (© 2006 International Association for Public Participation)

Approaches for Dialogue

Thorough and in-depth deliberation about the policy, issue, or research priority. Different perspectives are shared and parties can influence each other. These dialogues allow CIHR and participants to explore and work through issues together, and gain a greater understanding of each other's perspectives. The closer relationships and greater interaction can identify new ideas and consider complex tradeoffs.
Technique Think it Through What can go Right? What can go Wrong?
Round tables

Meetings, usually around a table, to examine an issue through discussion by all participants.

Round tables are often breakout groups, focusing on one or more topics related to the entire issue or project.

When you want to focus on thorough discussion of an issue.

Ensure that a skilled facilitator manages each round-table discussion.

Consider volunteer facilitators to reduce costs.

Record input from each session on flip charts.

Present discussion summaries when the larger group reconvenes.

Facilitator can solicit in-depth feedback about issues, concerns, preferences.

Free discussion and diverse opinions are encouraged.

Each participant is a stakeholder, so the issue is debated from many sides.

Level of comfort among the public may increase in smaller setting.

Facilitator helps to ensure more equitable participation.

Cost of hiring professional facilitators can be prohibitive.
Open space technology *

Participants offer topics and others participate according to interest.

Important to have a powerful theme or vision statement to generate topics.

Need flexible facilities to accommodate numerous groups of different sizes.

Ground rules and procedures must be carefully explained for success.

Provides structure for giving people the opportunity and responsibility to create a valuable product or experience.

Includes immediate summary of discussion.

Most important issues could get lost in the shuffle.

Can be difficult to get accurate reporting of results.

World cafes *

A meeting process featuring a series of simultaneous conversations in response to predetermined questions.

Participants change tables during the process and focus on identifying common ground in response to each question.

Room set-up is important. The room should feel conducive to a conversation and not as institutional as the standard meeting format.

Allow for people to work in small groups without staff facilitators.

Think through how to bring closure to the series of conversations.

Participants feel a stronger connection to the full group because they have talked to people at different tables.

Good questions help people move from raising concerns to learning new views and co-creating solutions.

Participants resist moving from table to table.

Reporting results at the end becomes awkward or tedious for a large group.

The questions evoke the same responses.

Study circles *

A highly participatory process for involving numerous small groups in making differences in their communities.

Study circles work best if multiple groups work at the same time in different locations and then come together to share.

Typically structured around a study circle guide.

Large numbers of people are involved without having them all meet at the same time and place.

A diverse group of people agrees on opportunities for action to create social change.

Participants may find that the results are hard to assess and may feel that the process didn't lead to concrete action.

It may be difficult to reach and engage some segments of the community.

Deliberative dialogues *

A systematic dialogic process that brings people together as a group to make choices about difficult, complex public issues where there is a lot of uncertainty about solutions and a high likelihood of people polarizing on the issue.

The goal of deliberation is to find where there is common ground for action.

Considerable upfront planning and preparation may be needed.

The deliberation revolves around three or four options described in an Issue or Options booklet.

Process should be facilitated by a trained moderator.

Deliberation should occur in a relatively small group of about 8 to 20 people. A larger public may need to break into several forums, requiring more moderators.

Participants openly share different perspectives and end up with a broader view on an issue.

A diverse group identifies the area of common ground, within which decision-makers can make policies and plans.

Participants may not truly reflect different perspectives.

Participants are not willing to openly discuss areas of conflict.

Deliberative polls *

Measure informed opinion on an issue.

For more information, visit The Center for Deliberative Democracy.

Do not expect or encourage participants to develop a shared view.

Hire a facilitator experienced in this technique.

Can tell decision-makers what the public would think if they had more time and information.

Exposure to different backgrounds, arguments, and views.

Resource intensive.

Often held in conjunction with television companies.

Two- to three-day meeting.

Online discussion boards

Discussion boards or newsgroups are electronic forums where questions or ideas can be posted and responded by interested persons.

Have become increasingly sophisticated with traceable threads, auto-summaries, and community moderation.

Often dedicated resources are needed to either approve or review all posts made to a discussion board.

They allow interaction to take place at the convenience of the participant and new topics can be created as soon as they are needed.

It is a valuable resource that allows users to engage in group discussions.

Moderation becomes an issue in any discussion forum, but becomes even more of a challenge in the government context.

Generating sustained interest is a challenge that can be overcome with high-profile moderators.

Results are sometimes difficult to analyze and require qualitative synthesis. There is also an intimidation factor for participants when there are hundreds or thousands of posts to weed through and consume.

Charrettes *

Intensive sessions where participants design project features.

Best used to foster creative ideas.

Be clear about how results will be used.

Promote joint problem solving and creative thinking. Participants may not be seen as representative of the larger public.
Citizens juries *

Small group of ordinary citizens empanelled to learn about an issue, cross-examine witnesses, and make a recommendation.

Always non-binding with no legal standing.

For more information, visit Citizens Jury® The Jefferson Center.

Requires skilled moderator.

Commissioning body must follow recommendations or explain why.

Be clear about how results will be used.

Great opportunity to develop deep understanding of an issue.

Public can identify with the "ordinary" citizens.

Pinpoint fatal flaws or gauge public reaction.

Resource intensive.
Consensus conferences

A group of citizens with varied backgrounds meets to discuss issues of a scientific and or technical nature.

Consists of two stages:
1) meetings with experts, discussions, and work toward consensus (involves a small group of people).
2) conference during which main observations and conclusions are presented to the media and general public.

The organization of the consensus conference must be prepared properly to ensure that conditions for an open, balanced, and constructive debate are met.

The process will lose all credibility if it is viewed as biased or partial in any way. For this reason, the process should be carried out by an independent facilitator.

Initial task is to recruit an advisory committee of 8 to 10 members. This committee will oversee the entire process, ensuring its independence and integrity.

Process of communicating information about the conference topic provides a strong educational component.

Useful method for obtaining informed opinions from lay persons.

Most useful to bring together experts with citizens to learn, discuss, and debate about a subject and formulate a set of recommendations.

Encourage a group of citizens to address scientific or technical issues in an informed way. Give participants a sense that they have a voice in democracy.

Recruitment method for stage 1 may not ensure representative participation.

Elaborate process requiring significant resources.

Multiple conferences may be required to ensure that broad, representative opinions are sought.

* Adapted from the IAP2 Toolbox for Public Participation (© 2006 International Association for Public Participation)

Approaches for Collaboration

Parties share responsibility for implementing decisions and this often involves a mutually beneficial relationship. Under this type of interaction, the goal is both to create CIHR-to-participant relationships and participant-to-participant relationships. The participants have a greater role in shaping the process as well as its outcomes.
Technique Think it Through What can go Right? What can go Wrong?
Advisory groups

A body of representative individuals convened to meet on a regular basis over time to provide advice to a decision-maker.

For more information, see the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's Public Participation Guide.

Define roles and responsibilities up front and record them in a terms of reference.

Provide equitable access to resources and information.

Recruit and interview potential participants.

Ensure that stakeholders represent a cross section of affected interested parties, points of view, or fields of expertise.

Provide a cross-sampling of public views and concerns.

Provide for detailed analysis of issues.

Participants become informed before reaching conclusions.

Facilitate cooperation and understanding among various interests.

Build relationships.

Cost and staff time for support and resources can be substantial.

Members may be required to dedicate considerable volunteer time.

General public may not embrace group's recommendations.

Members may not achieve consensus.

Task force

A group of experts or representative stakeholders formed to develop a specific product or policy recommendation.

For more information, see the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's Public Participation Guide.

Members should represent a cross section of interests and have credibility with the public.

Clearly establish the specific task, desired outcomes, and anticipated time frame.

Provide access to information and experts.

Strong leadership is necessary.

In highly charged situations, it should report to a neutral third party.

Provides an opportunity for differing interests to reach a compromise.

Resulting products or recommendations typically have credibility with the public.

Substantial time is needed for preparation.

Costs may increase if facilitator is required.

Requirements for staff support may be considerable.

Significant commitment of volunteer time required by participants.

* Adapted from the IAP2 Toolbox for Public Participation (© 2006 International Association for Public Participation)

2.5 Guiding Principles and Data Needs

CIHR's Guiding Principles for Citizen Engagement, which were introduced in the CE Framework and presented in Chapter 1 of this Handbook, should always be considered as you begin to develop your CE plan. Before applying your answers from this section to the CE Approaches Matrix, consider the criteria you will need to meet in order to abide by these principles (provided in the checklist, below). Keeping this checklist in mind as you solidify the details of your CE plan will enable you to ensure that your activities are aligned with CIHR's vision for CE.

Guiding Principles and Criteria Check
  1. Working with citizens will add value to the program or project.
    1. We have a rationale for including citizens and reasons for asking their input.
    2. We have a commitment for how this input will be used in decision making.
  2. Mutual learning/understanding will build trust and credibility.
    1. Our plan includes CE approaches that facilitate informed participation and meaningful discussion.
  3. Openness will enhance transparency and accountability.
    1. We will provide citizens with information about how decisions are made.
    2. We will be proactive in sharing information and in communicating how citizens' views were considered.
  4. CIHR will be inclusive in its approach to citizen engagement.
    1. Our plans pay special attention to which citizens should be included in the process-especially affected groups and populations.
  5. Citizens will be supported to ensure their full participation.
    1. We will provide participants with adequate background information, written in plain, accessible language.

Even in this early stage of the planning process, it is also worthwhile to contemplate the data needs that are driving your CE activity.

Quantitative data can be collected through a variety of ways (e.g., closed survey questions, participant counts, and demographic characteristics) and will provide you with results that can be measured or expressed numerically. Qualitative data can also be collected using a multitude of techniques (e.g., open-ended survey questions, interview notes, and field notes) and will provide you with more textual output or quotes.

Generally speaking, it is best to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. Collecting both will allow you to report on statistical information about the input received, descriptive data and provide quotations about concerns (or praise!) that surfaced over the course of the CE process.

The CE Decision Tree Questions are meant to build on each other (why, when, who, what, and how), while CIHR's Principles for CE and the data/input needs of a given CE activity are meant to inform the overarching decision tree process.

Figure 6: The CE Decision Tree Questions

Figure 6: The CE Decision Tree Questions

2.6 Conclusion

This chapter was designed to provide readers with the tools to assess what type of consultation or engagement is warranted in specific circumstances. Its components, which have been formatted to build on each other, are meant to provide staff members with an overview of the CE methods that exist and the breadth of considerations that need to be taken into account as one choose the best CE approach for a specific situation. For information about developing a specific CE plan, please see Chapter 3.

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