Topic: Citizen Participation
Although city and county elected officials frequently hear from their constituents, officials and citizens often do not fully understand how public participation occurs and how it informs decision making by municipal and county boards.
This book, part of the Local Government Board Builders series, offers ideas for engaging the public, assesses the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of participation mechanisms, and provides guidance for better public outreach. It also discusses ways of developing long-term community participation.
See the Local Government Board Builders Series webpage for other books in the series and related School of Government publications.
Stephens, J., Morse, R. and O’Brien, K. (2011). Public Outreach and Participation. [Chapel Hill, N.C.]: UNC School of Government.
Chapel Hill 2020: An Assessment of Public Participation — Analysis and Recommendations for Near- and Longer-term Public Involvement
In 2011-12, the Town of Chapel Hill tried something big: using the goal of updating the town’s
comprehensive plan to experiment with a wide range of public information and engagement
methods. The goal was “to touch 10,000 people” in this community of about 55,000 permanent
In order to learn from the Chapel Hill 2020 (CH2020) initiative, selected public participation and
staff roles are evaluated. This formative evaluation provides:
a) Summary feedback from key participants and stakeholders
b) Recommendations for concerned residents, civic leaders, and town government elected
officials and staff on near-term and longer-term public involvement strategy and tools.
Chapel Hill 2020: An Assessment of Public Participation — Analysis and Recommendations for Near- and Longer-term Public Involvement. http://www.townofchapelhill.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=15998 , Pages: 62
Learning from Your Neighbor: The Value of Public Participation Evaluation For Public Policy Dispute Resolution
Public policy dispute resolution [PPDR] and public participation [PP] are closely related fields of
practice. Despite many similarities, we identify gaps in most evaluation studies conducted in the two
fields. Evaluators of PPDR can better draw upon PP evaluations.
The values, concepts, objectives, and practices of PP and PPDR are compared for similarities and
differences. Focusing on the last 15 years, PPDR and PP evaluation literature is analyzed, with attention
to four PP evaluation studies of special relevance to PPDR. Five ways that PPDR evaluation can be
improved by drawing on PP evaluation studies are identified. Two promising works that begin to bridge
the PPDR-PP evaluation gap are summarized.
John B. Stephens and Berner, M. (2011). “Learning from Your Neighbor: The Value of Public Participation Evaluation for Public Policy Dispute Resolution,” Journal of Public Deliberation. 22 pages.
Civic Technology: Open Data and Citizen Volunteers as a Resource for North Carolina Local Governments.
Civic technology is an emergent area of practice where IT experts and citizens without specialized IT skills volunteer their time using government-provided open data to improve government services or otherwise create public benefit. Civic tech, as it is often referred to, draws on longer-standing practices, particularly e-government and civic engagement. It is also a new form of citizen–government co-production, building on the trend of greater government transparency.
Stephens, J.(2017). Civic Technology: Open Data and Citizen Volunteers as a Resource for North Carolina Local Governments. Report, School of Government.
How can educators leverage blogs and other social media spaces to encourage a reflective, critical discourse about civic engagement that fosters a true learning exchange over promoting one’s own ideas? This article reports upon a single case study of the “Community Engagement Learning Exchange,” a multi-author blog on civic engagement. Through qualitative content analysis and expert interviews with the blogger community we explored the interaction of digital citizenship and civic online discourse, in order to map out civic engagement pedagogies that make use of blogs or other shared writing / media tools. The content analysis of blog posts indicates that high verbosity scores for factual orientation, personalization and interactivity correlate with broader reach. The interview material was condensed into concept maps that identified specific themes for digital citizenship (inevitable, easy, transparent, technologically diverse and changing, unequal, divisive, difficult, superficial) and civic engagement pedagogies (content, format, authenticity, tone, listening, exemplary conduct, accountability, hope). Overall, in the community analyzed, ground rules and a shared writing style lead to discussions and learning processes that transcend differences in views, backgrounds and opinions. Further efforts to support and measure the right amount of friction that exemplifies diverse and even clashing opinions while keeping an online community together emerged from the case study as a future area of practice development for digital citizenship.
Panke, S. & Stephens, J. (2018). Beyond the Echo Chamber: Pedagogical Tools for Civic Engagement Discourse and Reflection. Educational Technology & Society, 21(1), 248 – 263