The Spectrum of Public Participation: Using 21st Century Tools to Build Public Impact


Want to increase citizen participation but don’t know where to start? In yesterday’s webinar, “The Spectrum of Public Participation: Using 21st Century Tools to Build Public Impact,” three of the most prominent thought leaders in the area of public participation combined forces to demonstrate how the spectrum can be used to assist in deciding what level of participation you would like to achieve and defining the public’s role in any public participation process.

What does public impact mean for your project? Are you looking to simply inform citizens on the details of your project, or are you looking to empower them to become the final decision makers?

During the webinar, Marty Rozelle, President of the Rozelle Group and former President of the International Association for Public Participation, IAP2, explained that to successfully implement a system of public participation, a government agency must define the problem they want to solve, decide on the level of influence they want to public to have, and align public expectations. The Spectrum shows that differing levels of participation are legitimate and depend on the goals, time frames, resources, and levels of concern in the decision to be made.

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A larger project may require that you tap into different levels at different stages of the Spectrum. For instance, Larry Schooler, President of IAP2 USA, who directs community engagement, public participation and conflict resolution projects for the City of Austin showed how Austin used the spectrum to fulfill its goal of creating a new growth plan. Austin consulted its citizens by creating a survey where individuals could evaluate multiple growth scenarios and involved its citizens by holding “meetings in a box” where individuals could give feedback. Citizens were also able to collaborate through a land development exercise. Austin also found that through the use of, the Granicus SpeakUp℠ platform, it could combine the entire spectrum into one user-friendly online site. Tom Spenger, Co-founder and CEO of Granicus showed how SpeakUp℠ can be utilized with each segment of the spectrum:

  • Inform – educate through information sharing online and building a “one-stop-shop” for your projects & initiatives
  • Consult – surveys, crowdsourcing, online forums
  • Involve – focused Q&A online discussion forms
  • Collaborate – share ideas, leverage ideation/prioritization to solve problems
  • Empower – gather comments on items up for the public debate/vote
  • Align expectations –Use built-in automation to set standards and to control the public participation experience

During the webinar, Tom discussed how the City of Austin was particularly successful using the online discussion features to consult and involve the public. One example of this is their Plastic Bag Ban debate, which resulted in more than 200 participants from the community, they responded to targeted answers to questions about the Plastic Bag Ban ordinance such as “How should the City enforce the ordinance” and “what scheduled should be used for implementation.” The Spectrum is an amazing roadmap to increased community involvement and combined with 21st century tools, gives glimpse into the future of public impact.

Want to see how the SpeakUp℠ platform can help your organization facilitate the full spectrum of public participation? 

Click here to request a demo from one of our solutions experts.

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