Traditionally, public consultation meant that governments asked people for their views on an issue, then went behind closed doors to deliberate and decide on a solution. Today, people expect more. They want a real say on the issues that matter to them, especially when these require trade-offs between important values or interests. And that’s where we come in. We design and deliver dialogue processes that give citizens and stakeholders a meaningful role in finding solutions that work for governments and people.
Middle Ground is an experienced provider of public engagement services of all sorts, from convening small groups of exerts to advising governments on national dialogues. Our approach – Informed Participation – helps governments solve complex issues by giving the public a more meaningful voice in government planning and policy making.
There are lots of good models for public deliberation, from citizens’ juries to community dialogues and, while each one has its place, it is a mistake to rely on just one tool: different tasks require different tools. Informed Participation is a methodology, not a model. Rather than forcing every issue into the same model, our approach finds the one that best fits the issue and the circumstances.
Informed Participation gives the public a meaningful voice in decision-making but, in exchange, participants must agree to some “rules of engagement.” At a minimum, participants must be open about their views, listen to one another, adhere to evidence, and agree to work together respectfully to try to accommodate their differences.
Our methodology resolves process design into an ordered series of planning steps. The approach is analytical, systematic, and guided by fundamental principles, such as transparency, inclusiveness, and evidence-informed decision-making.
Every process is guided by a carefully crafted public engagement plan that sets key objectives, frames the issues, identifies the participants, describes the process, and explains the “dialogue strategy” for how we plan to tackle the issues.
Informed Participation recognizes that governments normally don’t share decision-making, and that doing so poses special concerns around transparency, accountability, privacy, representative government, and more. The approach has been designed to accommodate these concerns and addresses them at every step along the way.
Our suite of engagement services includes:
- Visioning and Strategic planning
- Process planning and advice
- Process design
- Report writing and analysis
- Change management
- Capacity-building and skills training
- Digital engagement
- Process management and implementation
Our approach is easily adapted to different sectors, from energy and the environment to healthcare and culture, as well as to a wide range of topics and tasks, including strategic planning, policy development, change management, service delivery, and evaluation. We can help you change how you do what you do.
Informed Participation helps governments solve complex issues by giving the public a more meaningful role in balancing competing values/interests. This, in turn, means the policy process must be brought out from behind closed doors to give the public some real ownership of and responsibility for the decisions
Don Lenihan is President and CEO of Middle Ground and an internationally recognized thought-leader, practitioner, and trainer in public deliberation and public engagement. Don’s approach, Informed Participation, is the product of more than two decades of research, writing, and work in the field and has been designed specifically for public sector organizations, such as governments, universities, and hospitals.
Here’s where we can help you:
Our areas of expertise and our approach include…
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Recent publications from processes
we’re helping to lead:
What is public engagement?
A discussion with Don Lenihan
Middle Ground’s Associates
Middle Ground has working partnerships with other organizations and consulting firms, including:
• The Institute on Governance
• PACE Public Affairs and Community Engagement
Our Client List
Over the years, Middle Ground has worked with scores of departments from federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments across the country, and internationally. While these projects are generally sponsored by one or more government departments, they almost always involve representatives from the private sector, civil society, and/or citizens. These working relationships are often deeply involved and may extend over many months or even years. The list of governments that have engaged Middle Ground to design and lead such projects include:
• The Government of Australia
• The Government of Canada
• The Government of Trinidad & Tobago
• The Government of Singapore
• Canadian Teachers’ Federation
• Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation
• Canadian Bar Association
• The Alberta Electric System Operator
• City of Ottawa
• Regional Municipality of Waterloo
• City of Hamilton
• City of Edmonton
• City of Vancouver
Provincial and Territorial Governments
• British Columbia
• Nova Scotia
• Prince Edward Island
• Northwest Territories
• New Brunswick
Public Sector Organizations
• The Ottawa Hospital
• The Bank of Canada
• Algonquin College