How to Promote Citizen-Centered Approaches to Public Participation

Ask Us: We Want to Get Involved – How to Promote Citizen-Centered Approaches to Public Participation

By Dionne Clemons, PhD

Social media has emboldened the public to engage in ways never imagined before.  We can vote for a new potato chip flavor; we can decide who will become the next ‘American Idol’; and we can choose how large corporations disperse grant funding to various charities. Public participation is no longer a fad or quirky new way to gain followers – it’s a blueprint for encouraging citizens to become active around an issue.

The Case Foundation’s report – Citizens at the Center: A New Approach to Civic Engagement – provides recommendations to organizations seeking to give the public the tools they need to help identify the problems and provide solutions to many of the issues nonprofits focus their missions on everyday.

Here are some ways your nonprofit can take a citizen-centered approach to engaging the public around its mission:

  • Meet people where they are. Civic engagement takes place at the community level through religious institutions, neighborhood organizations, schools, or on the playground.
  • Give people ways to define and solve your nonprofit’s problems. Citizens are eager to take action. They want to experience change and see the results of their efforts.
  • Young people are citizens too. Helping youth become effective problem solvers creates lifelong stakeholders for your organization.
  • Embrace technology as your public square. Much of the dialogue, organizing and action take place online.
  • Create an environment representative of the community your organization serves. When people see themselves in the process they are more apt to engage and get involved.

These and other citizen-centered approaches outlined in The Case Foundation’s report will inspire you to leverage the power of civic engagement.

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