Evaluating public engagement

Public engagement is now a central element in democratic, organisational and public policy-making. Activities range from major events involving thousands of people, through to the use of small focus groups or workshops. The important things is that such initiatives are outcomes driven, and planners take account of the purpose, the process and the context (see the related page planning, monitoring and evaluation). Evaluation is a relatively new element of public policy-making, but is seen as increasingly important as the use of new engagement techniques become more common.

Making a Difference: A guide to evaluating public participation in central government
Written by Diane Warburton, Richard Wilson and Elspeth Rainbow this report shows how evaluation can help in planning and managing a successful engagement initiative. Covers setting objectives, developing measures, scope, etc.

So What Difference Does it Make? Mapping the Outcomes of Citizen Engagement
This IDS working paper by John Gaventa and Gregory Barrett reports on a meta-case study analysis of a ten-year research programme on citizenship, participation and accountability.  Looking across a range of stuies in a number of countries  they hightlight important implications for the design of and support for participatory programmes meant to improve state responsiveness and effectiveness.

Social media campaigns that make a difference: what can public health learn from the corporate sector and other social change marketers?
This 2015 report by Becky Freeman and colleagues show that social media hold promise in changing user behaviours and that social media are highly effective in recruiting participants and motivating them to take small, concrete actions. The case studies also demonstrate that there is room in social media for targeted, inexpensive, small-scale projects, as well as large, well-funded, mass-reach marketing blitzes. Social media campaign process and impact evaluation measures are readily available.

Designing Public Participation Processes
This 2013 paper by John Bryson and Kathryn Quick provides suggestions for iteratively creating, managing, and evaluating public participation activities. The article takes an evidence-based and design science approach, suggesting that effective public participation processes are grounded in analyzing the context closely, identifying the purposes of the participation effort, and iteratively designing and redesigning the process accordingly.

Evaluating participation in water resource management: A review
This 2012 paper by G. Carr and colleagues points to different methods of evaluation: (i) process evaluation assesses the quality of participation process, for example, whether it is legitimate and promotes equal power between participants, (ii) intermediary outcome evaluation assesses the achievement of mainly non-tangible outcomes, such as trust and communication, as well as short- to medium-term tangible outcomes, such as agreements and institutional change, and (iii) resource management outcome evaluation assesses the achievement of changes in resource management, such as water quality improvements. This review suggests that intermediary outcome evaluation should play a more important role in evaluating participation in water resource management.

Dialogue and science: Innovation in policy-making and the discourse of public engagement in the UK
This 2013 paper by Magda Pieczka and Oliver Escobar  examines the way in which innovation in science policy in the UK over the last 25 years has been built around a discourse of changing preference for modes of communication with citizens.  The analysis questions the existing narrative of progress and evolution constructed around key switch points, highlights the overwhelming influence of PUS approaches, and attends to the question of the viability of Public Dialogue as the mainstream activity in science communication and policy making.

Evaluating Public Participation in Policy Making
This 2005 OECD report  reviews the theory and practice of evaluating public participation in policy making based upon the (then) current experience of OECD countries.

Citizen Participation in Decision-Making: Is it Worth the Effort?
This 2004 paper from Renee Irvin and John Stansbury  reviews the citizen participation literature and analyzes key considerations in determining whether community participation is an effective policy-making tool. They list conditions under which community participation may be costly and ineffective and when it can thrive and produce the greatest gains in effective citizen governance.

You may also want to visit the main managing participation and engagement page – which reminds us to look not only at how well citizens and other stakeholders engage, but on the capacity that government and other agencies have to support the engagement of citizens and other stakeholder groups.Other key pages on this site provide links to information on related areas such as risk communication and engagement, social license and ethics.