CE can be used to achieve a wide range of goals, which imply different levels of public involvement. The most commonly-used descriptions of CE goals are variations of the “Spectrum of Public Participation” developed by the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2). The IAP2 Spectrum describes five goals for public participation along a continuum ranging from Informing (with a low level of public involvement) to Empowering (with a high level of involvement).
Although the goals lie along a continuum, there is no inherent value judgement implied; each goal can be equally “worthy”. The appropriate goal for a CE process depends on what you set out to achieve. Quite often, a single CE process can span a number of goals, with one goal predominating. Or if it is a complex project, there may be different types of engagement at different points in time, such as a survey to gather information (Consult), followed by a dialogue to analyze the results and make decisions based on them (Collaborate). It is important, however, that the goal is clear and transparent to all stakeholders, to avoid misunderstanding or the creation of unrealistic expectations.
The definitions of CE goals being used in EPIC are:
These definitions of CE goals are based on IAP2, with modifications to better fit the health sector. Health Canada’s helpful icons are used to illustrate each CE goal.
To identify your CE goal, it is useful to consider the promise or commitment you intend to make to your stakeholders:
- If a decision has already been made and you simply promise to keep stakeholders informed about an issue, then your CE goal is to inform.
- If a decision has not yet been made and you commit to keep stakeholders informed, listen to and acknowledge their concerns, and provide feedback on how their input influenced your decision, then your CE goal is to consult.
- If you commit to reflect the concerns and aspirations of stakeholders in the alternatives developed and provide feedback on how their feedback influenced your decision, then your CE goal is to involve.
- If you turn to stakeholders for their advice in forming solutions, and commit to incorporating this advice into decisions to the maximum extent possible, your CE goal is to collaborate.
- If you commit to assist stakeholders to manage and control their own process, for example by providing training, resources or other supports, then your CE goal is to empower.