While public engagement continues to take place on a number of large-scale provincial and federal initiatives across Canada, it is also happening at the local level, as Canadian towns are finding ways to engage their communities in issues that affect them the most.
In the town of Hinton, Alberta, Council recently gave reading to a bylaw that will consolidate current committees into one advisory committee called the Community Engagement and Accountability Committee. This will bring together residents from Hinton and the surrounding area to provide direction to Council’s strategic planning, monitor the sustainability plan and receive feedback from residents on community issues. The committee will be expected to act as Council’s eyes and ears on matters of culture, recreation, education, wellness, local economy and environments.
“This must be achieved”, according to Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, “through public engagement and dialogue.” He continued, “Efficient and effective use of a committee member’s time was also an important consideration as was a structure that motivates volunteer interest. We have come to learn that volunteers prefer to commit to specific projects for specific time frames. This new model will encourage that to happen and I think that we will actually end up with more volunteers and more satisfied volunteers who will help advance our community.”
I found it inspiring that a small Canadian town has not only made the move to empower its citizens, but that the town mayor has recognized the importance of dialogue. To me, this is one of those examples of great community engagement, where although it takes form in small pockets, it can still have tremendous impact.
Also intriguing is that this town’s mayor understands the importance of targeting the right volunteer for the right task. The reality is that most people want to do their part, but will of course seek activities that suit their own personal needs as well. On a lot of our project work, Ascentum tries to maintain this mentality when reaching out to participants for dialogue sessions. The key is approaching the right audience; only then will you get the best result.