2. Create a Career Path for Government Engagement Staff

Proposal: Create a Career Path for Government Engagement Staff that trains, develops and rewards staff across government departments involved in engagement and public input.


Principles to implement:

  1. Create differentiated roles within government engagement
  • To make public input work, it needs a range of activities and staff with varying skills and aptitudes to carry them out. It’s not just about organising a one off consultation. For example it could include:
    • Government Liaison Staff – who manage the relationship with government; so they gather politician’s input into the design and focus on public input, ensure they receive the outputs from public input; solicit and communicate the government’s response
    • Public Input Collection Staff - ensure public input is collected according to best practice such as using a range of sources; using a range of methods that produce constructive conversations; with transparency about is on/off the table; and accurate recording of the input. In particular, Participation selection officers collect public input from a diverse range of sources with a mix of all potential groups, but making sure that elites do not dominate and participants treat each other as equal peers. Issue selection strategists collect public input on any issue including those that are most important to the public, those politicians haven’t yet decided on, crisis issues, complex issues and those more manageable. Public input designers: design public input in its various forms would mostly use methods that create open, constructive conversation that is deliberative in nature (even if other methods are used to measure current views or behaviour), including people with different perspectives and positions in the same room and ensuring proceedings are kept respectful. Objective public input collection staff: could help ministers to identify a range stakeholders, those who they haven’t yet heard from, and help ministers forge connections with everyone.
    • Public Input Processing: staff here analyse and disseminate the results of public input to the government, public, and media transparently and accessibly; and also disseminate a leadership response to public input to help political leaders explain how public input relates to their decisions


  1. Offer training in required/gold standard principles of engagement


  1. Give Awards to recognise best practice


  1. Hold monthly meetings between engagement staff
  • from all different areas of practice/government
  • to create a positive supportive network and peer learning


  1. Organise a yearly workshop/retreat
  • for long-term strategic development in engagement practice

Why the contribution is important


Like any professional area, effective engagement requires experience, training, and sharing of best practice. The OECD (2001, 44) notes the importance of staff training to effective engagement - without it ‘activities to strengthening government-citizen relations cannot go ahead.’


However staff working in engagement in government are often dispersed through different departments, therefore operate in small numbers, are combined with communication or other roles, and change positions frequently, so rarely get the time or resources to develop high quality practice.


Whilst best practice would be to collate such staff in a public input unit which then services all government ministers, another way is to bring them together in another way be creating a cross-government career path.



Research source: The Ministry of Public Input https://leesmarshment.wordpress.com/books/the-ministry-of-public-input/

by JenniferLM on May 07, 2018 at 10:37AM

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  • Posted by JanR May 20, 2018 at 13:41

    This kind of approach would have some great benefits. It goes some way but is only a partial solution. What is needed in this area is a wholesale renewal of government legitimacy in this area of public consultation.

    We need also to describe why what has happened is in the past is so wrong and to put in place policies to correct that. This bad practice has included eg:
    The silencing of advocacy bodies (often best placed to comment) if they also want funding from government.
    The lack of public grants for research and advocacy organisations. (This is the way that the anti-smoking advocacy became strong in the first intance - but similar funding for community expertise on public good projects is almost non-existent across all domains of society these days)
    "Consultation" as a post-hoc endorsement of contentious issues.
    "Consultation" approaches that elicit information without informing participants of wider related issues
    Wholesale dismissiveness of legitimate public concerns
    The inability to have conversations which include people from opposite sides of complex contested issues to find real common ground and broadly acceptable policies that will endure.
    The instruction that public servants find 'research' to endorse ideologies for which there is widely understood to be only contrary evidence.
    The dissolution of bodies like the Bioethics Council that mean important issues are addressed only through the law.
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