The third potential goal of your engagement efforts is to involve stakeholders, to the degree appropriate, in decision making.

The key here is to ensure that if you set this out as a goal, and communicate this as a purpose, the process and your decisions will have to genuinely reflect the input you're seeking. To do otherwise is to risk diminishing the long-term relationships and trust your engagement efforts are designed to foster. Tools to involve citizens include:

National issues forums (NIF)

is a national network of public forums that are sponsored by local organizations and citizens designed to address a wide range of public policy issues and "choices". The primary purpose of a forum is deliberation through public discourse (NIF, 2011). Forums are similar to local meetings or study circles and can be either small or large events. Forums are generally led by a facilitator who provides a diverse group of citizens with the opportunity to share their opinions and listen to others in order to gain an understanding of the issue and also search for ways in which to take action to address the problem or issue (NIF, 2011). NIFs can be a very useful tool to involve local citizens, and foster innovative plans of action regarding difficult problems (NIF, 2011).

Citizen panels

also commonly referred to as a citizen's jury, focuses primarily on the decision making process and is generally conducted within small groups (NCDD, 2010). The panels are usually done over the span of several days and include randomly selected participants (NCDD, 2010). The participants on the panel generally deliberate a specific issue and present recommendations on how to address the issue (NCDD, 2010).


focus primarily on decision making and collaborative action among a small group of professionals and a large group of stakeholders (NCDD, 2010). Generally, charrettes involve concentrated 1-3 day work sessions, although there are some instances in which these sessions can span a couple of weeks. Participants in charrettes should represent various community groups; however, those individuals with specific interest or stake in the issue should be strongly encouraged to attend (NCDD, 2010). The purpose is to hear from many as many stakeholders as possible, including government officials, developers and community members. A group of experts known as the "charrette team" then compile opinions of stakeholders to create a "feedback loop" that helps the group to develop and refine a plan of action (NCDD, 2010).

Deliberative Polling

combines deliberation in small group discussions with scientific random sampling to provide public consultation for public policy and for electoral issues. Members of a random sample are polled, and then some members are invited to gather at a single place to discuss the issues after they have examined balanced briefing materials. Participants engage in dialogue with competing experts and political leaders based on questions they develop in small group discussions with trained moderators. (NCDD, 2010) (CDD, Stanford).


"Resource Guide on Public Engagement." National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), 2010.

"The Center for Deliberative Democracy." Department of Communications at Stanford University.