1.1 – Understanding public engagement and global citizenship

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Understanding public engagement and global citizenship Tools and guidance Measuring progress Resources from the Government of Canada External resources Going further


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Working definition of public engagement activities

At the moment, Global Affairs Canada uses the following as guiding principles for public engagement (PE):

Public engagement activities aim to promote global citizenship and engage Canadians as global citizens.

More specifically, this means activities and initiatives that must demonstrate:

  • The connections between major global challenges and local issues;
  • The impact of global challenges on Canadians;
  • The ways in which Canada’s international development efforts directly contribute to alleviating these global challenges.

At the moment, the Government of Canada is using the following ultimate outcome for funded initiatives: “Canadians are expected to take action in their own ways and as a result, become global citizens.”

However, some communications activities do not correspond to Global Affairs Canada’s interpretation of public engagement. These include:

  • Fundraising
  • Annual general meetings
  • Partisan political advocacy or lobbying
  • Online and social media activities used to promote an organization
  • Activities that take place outside of Canada
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What is a "Global Citizen"?

In the context of this toolkit, Global Affairs Canada defines global citizens as individuals who are aware of global issues and understand the complexity of the world, including their place in it. These citizens usually understand that major global challenges have repercussions in their local reality, and vice versa. They are also aware that Canada’s international development efforts contribute to alleviating global challenges. In some cases, and at different stages of their lives, they may take various types of actions that allow them to take an active role to help build a peaceful, prosperous and inclusive world.

As individuals become more engaged, they tend to better appreciate the impact of Canada’s international development efforts in the context of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy and the collective contributions of Canadians toward the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The global citizenship “continuum” or cycle

Individuals who identify themselves as global citizens continuously move along a continuum from basic awareness of global issues, to deeper understanding (or knowledge) of global development challenges through to active involvement and informed action. (In our interpretation, knowledge and awareness mean the same thing.)

The learning process is not linear and individuals can be at different stages of this continuum, depending on circumstances. For example, one might be at the awareness level regarding judiciary reform, at the understanding level for peacebuilding and at the action stage on women’s rights.

As well, organizations may get involved at different stages of the continuum and with different target groups. One could, for instance, provide information to the general public or deliver education programs to students to deepen their understanding, while providing opportunities for concrete actions to individuals and groups.