Four ways to improve how Government engages with citizens

There are strong aspirations from people in Government to work more collaboratively with citizens. The ​IAP2 public participation spectrum​ is cited in policy and strategy as a model for engaging communities and increasing public impact. The spectrum is a useful frame to describe the current state of stakeholder engagement which centers mainly on experiences to ​inform​ and ​consult​.

From our work with different areas of government and agencies we identified some of the more meta pain points that frustrated aspirations for participative stakeholder engagement as ​involve and ​collaborate​. The following details four ways Government can improve how it engages with citizens, looking at insights, opportunities and resulting designs.

Four areas for improvement & opportunity

1.  A significant pain point was ​issue-based interactions, rather than stakeholder-led engagements​.

This framed an opportunity to work in more human-centred ways with stakeholders, starting with an understanding of their needs. We worked with our clients to design and deliver a HCD capability program across different branches of government for realising greater collaboration with stakeholders.

2.  Complexity of relationships​ was also a pain point in current stakeholder engagement experiences.

To reduce complexity, primary research along with network mapping was used to create a more holistic view of government-stakeholder relationships and issues. Social network analysis with measures of centrality then identified priority stakeholders. Priority stakeholders included those acting as ​connectors,​ ​sensors,​ and ​brokers​ or ​bottlenecks​ who control the flow of information across the network. Network mapping works in concert with HCD capability-building programs can create a shift to more deliberate strategies for engaging priority stakeholders in human-centred ways.


3.  A third insight was ​changing stakeholder expectations of purpose and services of government​.

We worked closely with our clients to design objects of evaluation to understand and explore the needs of stakeholders in the various contexts of work and how various branches and agencies are delivering to these.

4.  Insights and ideas from this work also had us playing with different models of stakeholder engagement.

In particular, prototypes of stakeholder networks with ​government as a platform​. These models draw on the concepts of pods and platforms described in ​The Connected Company​ by Dave Gray who talks about “city-like organizations” such as Apple and Amazon and the creation of “platforms that provide consistency and order, without squelching innovation.”

Possible prototypes could include stakeholders developing their own networks to collaborate with each other, while governments and their agencies provide governance and support with a set of standards (cultural, technical, systems, processes, etc.) that serve as enabling rather than governing constraints. These prototypes could test how (sometimes) limited resources of government for stakeholder interactions scale to empower more organisations and citizens in more contexts for increasing public impact.

Interestingly, we went on to learn these types of stakeholder networks already operate as models of successful engagement in some pockets of government. However, these were not shared practice. Yet another opportunity.

Where to from here?​

The work continues. Capability building and cultural transformation to be more stakeholder-centric is truly a journey of a thousand miles.

We welcome sharing of your experiences of engaging with stakeholders. And, if you want to know more about how to work in more human centred ways with your stakeholders let’s have a chat at Meld Studios.

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