My name is Tristan Eclarin, and I’m currently working towards my Masters in Public Administration at the University of Victoria. This semester, I’m working here at Ascentum as a co-op student. I’m excited about the opportunity to learn everything I can about public participation and social media, and I’d like to share some of my first impressions:
1. We could be the generation that truly pushes civic engagement into the mainstream. I used to struggle with the idea of social media as a means of getting citizens engaged. But when you consider the technology that has emerged over the past few years, how rapidly it develops and evolves, and how it has been integrated into our everyday lives, you can imagine the possibilities. The claim here is not that social media, by itself, can make citizens more engaged. But if we refine the ways we use it, the easier it will be for people to get involved in issues they care about. However, a lot of this depends on my next insight…
2. It’s all about using social media effectively. Social media is an undeniably powerful tool: it is used for a wide range of purposes, and by different kinds of people and organizations. So how do we use social media to truly engage citizens? Although context is a significant factor, the key is developing good strategy and being increasingly innovative. If there is a message you want to convey, remember a few things:
- Use the tools that are appropriate for your purpose. There is no universal approach, and some work better than others,
- Think of ways to make your cause stand out from all the others out there,
- You need to evoke effective meaning to the people you’re trying to reach…don’t just advertise your company or brag about what’s going on in your life…say something important, or at least interesting!
3. Developing and implementing consultation approaches is often a strategically demanding process. Engaging citizens in public policy decisions requires a high level of strategic and technical planning, attention to detail, and long-term commitment by the organizations involved. However, these challenges do not diminish the social importance of conducting public and stakeholder consultations. With the time, energy and knowledge, there is always a way to meaningfully connect with the public.
That’s it for now! I’ll be with Ascentum until the end of April, at which point I return to school in Victoria. I’ll be blogging between now and then and will make sure to post a final blog on what I’ve learned before I leave.
– Tristan Eclarin –