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There is no such thing as experts on policy questions, which are really questions of "what should we do?" Experts are no more competent than anyone else on "should" questions.
David Mathews

Our Programs: Public Trust


A strategic tactic that genuinely seeks to involve a wider segment of the population,


or a laissez-faire approach to public engagement, which usually means posting a meeting notice because the town is required to.

Get Off the Couch!
Tools & Resources

  • Dozens of tools, resources, organizations, and funding opportunities exist to help communities nourish greater levels of civic participation. CHG is available to introduce and implement many engagement programs.

  • Some tools involve the public in brainstorming and consensus-building activities: charrettes, workshops, forums, oral interviews, visioning, strategic planning, conferences, and other deliberation formats.

  • Other tools help citizens and government, often working together, assess community characteristics as the town tries to move in a healthier place-based direction: social appraisals, environmental impact studies, mapping activities, sustainability auditing, establishing and monitoring benchmarks, and other research and evaluative initiatives.

  • The first step towns must take is deciding they do want public participation. Officials often complain that few people vote, attend city meetings, or volunteer for social programs; but when people do participate, the same officials grumble that the public "doesn’t understand the issues," and experts (traffic engineers, zoning regulators, economic development directors) often don’t appreciate the public meddling in their plans.

  • However, as the above quote from Mathews argues, many community issues are "should we?" questions, which demand a public response. The engineer decides how to build the road, but the public should have a say in if it should be built at all.