Designing Public Engagements/Teaching groups

From wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Setting up

Each activity includes instructions and guiding questions, as well as a completed examples based on the following fictional scenario. You may want to write down your own scenario that describes the public engagement issue you or your team are examining.

At this point you'll want to print out the activity pages here so that you can fill in your own information as you move through the workshop activities.

If you are working on a team you could print the activity pages as posters and work together, or you can project these activity pages or the deck onto a wall or dry erase board and use markers and sticky notes to work as a larger group.

Hacks: If you laminate the paper it becomes re-useable with dry erase markers. You could also get a graphically inclined colleague to sketch the activities on a large whiteboard.

Fictional Scenario:

You are an employee of the Fictitious Engagement Department (FED). In the last five years, health studies have revealed potential damaging effects of sugary drinks on human development. This has led lobbying groups to put pressure on the federal government to place a ban on sugary drinks. Based on your minister’s mandate, your team has been asked to propose government intervention on sugary soft drinks to address these health concerns. This may include legislative options.

Public Opinion Research suggests that Canadians hold strong opinions on both the benefits and disadvantages of continuing to sell sugary soft drinks. Media analysis reveals strong interest in Central Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta, with 14 related editorials written this year. Recommendations for any new legislation must be tabled within eighteen months.

Activity 1 - People

Activity 1 helps to identify the People who have a stake in the issue at hand. Consider who has influence and who is affected by the issue. Another term for this activity is stakeholder mapping, although we encourage you to think beyond stakeholders to potential partners, influencers, and people who may not have been engaged in the past.


First, make a list of all the people (partners, influencers, affected) who are involved in the issue. Next, use the activity page you printed earlier – sticky notes help you make change if needed - to map all those people onto two axis: influence and affectedness. See the example based on the fictional scenario for help, keeping in mind that you may have many more people involved in your issue than those we have shown in the example.

Completed example of Activity 1, where individual people or groups have been placed into quadrants based on their position along the horizontal axis of affecteness and the vertical axis of influence.

Consider the following questions as you complete Activity 1.

  • Who will you have to engage on this issue (e.g. high influencers such as lobbying groups)?
  • Who could you empower? (e.g. those who may be highly affected but of low influence)
  • With whom might you partner to expand your network?

Image Description: Completed example of Activity 1. People or groups have been written on sticky notes and placed into quadrants based on their position along the horizontal axis of affectedness and the vertical axis of influence. In the top left low-affected high-influence quadrant are Heath Canada and the Grocery Trade Association. In the top right high-affectedness high-influence quadrant are sticky notes for Provincial Governments and Soft Drink Manufacturers. In the bottom right high-affectedness low-influence quadrant are citizens, and the final quadrant of low-affectedness low-influence is empty.

Activity 2 - Context

Activity 2 helps you define the Context in which your engagement will take place. Understanding the deeper context for different people involved in the issue is will help you design engagement for different people’s needs.


Note that you may need to print multiple copies of this activity page if you have many people involved in the issue, or, you may wish to start with just a few key people or groups.

Use past engagements or research such as surveys, interviews or published position papers to inform your decisions for Activity 2. If you cannot make Context ratings for all People involved, you may wish to do research before moving forward.

Assign each person or group identified in Activity 1 a symbol (e.g. star, spiral, square) and place it next to their name on the space provided. You can, if you wish, ask members of your team to role play representing the persons or groups chosen. This can help ensure you have a strong grasp on the perspectives of different people involved in the issue.

Use the following prompts to rate where each person or group falls on the continuum of left (low, negative, poor) to right (high, positive, good) and then mark each with their chosen symbol.

Awareness of the issue

  • What is the quality of People’s information?
  • Are they knowledgeable about the trade-off?

Relationship with government

  • Is there an existing relationship?
  • What is the level of trust they have?
  • Are they open to collaboration with us?

Confidence in system

  • People’s perceived integrity of government?

Image Description: Completed example of Activity 2. A top portion of Activity 2 is meant for you to choose a selection of People or Groups to focus on and bottom section includes a list of three consideration areas on the left and a horizontal continuum to rate each Person or Group on the right. For our example a sub-selection of people has been chosen, and includes Citizens as the affected party, Soft Drink Manufacturers as the influencer party, and Provincial Government as the partner party. Citizens have been given a heart at their identifying symbol, Soft Drink manufactures a spiral, and Provincial Government a start. Each symbol has been placed on the left-to-right continuum which reflect a less-to-more or negative-to-positive continuum for each of the three consideration areas of Awareness of Issue, Relationship with Government, and Confidence in System. Citizens were rated just to the left of centre, just to the right of centre, and directly on centre for each consideration for awareness, relationship, and confidence, respectively. Soft drink manufacturers were rated between centre and the right pole, halfway between centre and the left pole, and just right of centre. Provincial Government was rated almost all the way to the right pole, slightly left of centre, and on centre.\

Activity 3 - Goals

Activity 3 helps you identify and prioritize your Engagement Goals with consideration for the People and the Context you have just mapped out. Engagement goals are not the same as policy goals; they focus on the people you engage rather than the policy or issue at hand.

Identifying clear engagement Goals helps to ensure that those involved (the engagement team, decision-makers, and participants) have shared expectations. Clear Goals also allow you to define and measure your intended impact.


Examine the Context considerations discussed in the previous activity (Awareness, Relationship, Confidence)and take note of which areas show the most negative (leftward positions) or polarized (combinations of leftward and rightward positions) ratings.

Let the outcome of Activity 2 drive which engagement Goals you choose. Start with one or two Goals for each person or group. Use the designated symbols to identify which engagement Goals you have chosen for all People involved. Don’t choose too many!

  • Which negative or polarized Context consideration will most impede your planned engagement strategy?
  • Which Goal might help address challenges and barriers identified in this group’s Context?

Image Descriptions: Completed example for Activity 3. The same three consideration areas from Activity 2 are presented as containers for specific Engagement Goals as follows. Awareness has separate goal items of Expose tradeoffs and constraints surrounding issue, Hear diverse perspectives or understand values, and Identify or enhance understanding of public problems. Relationship has separate goal items of Transform a conflict or narrative on specific issue, Develop relationships for ongoing collaboration, and Develop consensus. Confidence has separate goal items of Ensure public policies reflect public values, Enhance citizen trust in government, Increase support for decisions and implementation. There is also an empty item box for you to write in a different engagement goal if needed. The symbols for Citizens, Soft Drink manufacturers, and Provincial Government have been placed beside specific goals as follows. The heart symbol for Citizens has been placed next to Identify/enhance understanding of public problems and Ensure public policies reflect public values. The spiral and start symbols for Soft Drink manufacturers and Provincial Government have both been placed next to Develop relationships for ongoing collaboration and Increase support for decisions and implementation.

Activity 4 - Methods

Activity 4 helps you determine the Methods that will correspond with your identified Goals. This activity is paired with the Methods Table.


With consideration for the Goals you have chosen, examine the descriptions of the Methods in the Method Table. Consider possible matches between Goals and Methods. The Goals and Methods are grouped into themes with corresponding symbols to help with this task (see blue circular icons). Note that some Methods have multiple icons associated with them because they can serve different goals.

Write your chosen methods down on cue cards or sticky notes and arrange them for each person or group to build your engagement strategy along the timeline. You can combine People who will benefit from similar engagement Methods into a single group like we did in the example.

Consider the following when arranging your Methods:

  • Are there contingencies between certain goals that need to be met before others?
  • Which Methods will help serve Goals at which stages?
  • Are certain Methods better for certain People?

Image Description: Completed example for Activity 4. The image shows 3 columns, the first is a placeholder for different people or groups, the middle column is divided into the four quarters of the fiscal year, and the last column is a space to write down how you might measure whether goals have been met. Groups of People are organized into rows. The top row shows the Citizens sticky note in the first column, and has sticky notes for Online Discussion Forum in Q1 and on for Deliberative Polling in Q3. The next row is a combination of the Soft Drink manufacturers and Provincial Government, and it shows a sticky note for an Advisory Panel starting in Q2 extending to the end of Q3. The final row is for Provincial Government only, and shows a sticky note for Collaborative Planning Process in Q4.


By now you have examined the underlying aspects to consider when building an engagement experience (People, Context, Goals) and have mapped out a possible Engagement Strategy (Methods). We hope these activities have helped you gain a better understanding of the details and climate surrounding the issue about which you are engaging the public.

If you have questions that are specific to your own projects leave a comment.