As the City of Melbourne, Australia, set out to build its Citizen Engagement (CE) strategy, one of the first steps was to make the staff champions of CE, themselves. Desley Renton, Melbourne’s Community Engagement Manager, and Community Engagement Officer Kate Henderson, were the presenters for our April webinar, “Creating a Framework for Citizen Engagement”. Their project led Melbourne to be named Organization of the Year at the IAP2 Federation Core Value Awards last year.
Desley pointed out that they started from scratch in 2009, when a new Chief Executive Officer was hired. She (the CEO) was already a champion for P2 and she made creating a CE strategy a key “activity area” on her agenda for the city.
Job One was to develop the “four pillars” for CE: People, Practice, Policy and Performance. Desley describes it as a very organic process, taking a year to bring form as more and more people were involved and their input captured and included. “We had to ask, ‘What does this organization need in order to live out its vision of becoming an engaging organization?’.”
But making a successful CE strategy took more than just getting the city staff onside. The next task was to train them, so they were not only fans of P2, but star players, in their own right. “The investment in people is important,” Desley says. “The people in the organization need to give confidence in the CE process and have confidence in it, themselves.” To date, 700 to 800 employees have been trained in the basics of P2, and about 50 of them have gone on to train as facilitators. Some have also trained as practitioners, using the IAP2 Foundations program.
In an age when politics can be extraordinarily polarized, Melbourne’s City Council is what Desley calls an example of “healthy democracy”: a saw-off with 3 Liberal (centre-right) councillors, 3 Labour (centre-left) members, 3 Greens and 2 independents. This made it important to have a good CE strategy, in which the politicians would truly be guided by the will of the people. Melbourne’s Councillors came to see that the payoff of effective and meaningful CE was better, sustainable decisions.
Members can hear the whole webinar for yourself and download the slide deck (including the chart above) HERE.