It is an issue that motivates people to take action to resolve something that they feel passionately about.
The number of people who become active citizens when their local NHS hospital is threatened with closure. Hospital closure is an issue that engages many citizens.
There has been a decline in the number of people voting in local government elections. This decline in voting concerns some people, notably politicians. But it clearly doesn’t concern everyone – otherwise they’d be out there voting! Unlike hospital closure, voting isn’t popular.
The spoof newspaper headline below shows how people may take to the streets about an issue that they feel passionate about.
Jan got involved with the campaign to save her local Post Office from closure. Despite the petitions, letters and lobbying both the local MP and councillors, the Post Office was closed. When the dust settled, Jan was left feeling disgruntled not just by the closure but also by the fact that the community never received good reasons why their Post Office should close.
Jan’s experience reminds us why citizen engagement isn’t straight forward. At first, there was an obvious issue for Jan becoming engaged as an active citizen. Most people understand the closure of local schools, hospitals and Post Offices as an issue for taxpayers. But if the process of consultation leaves people dissatisfied – a sense that they have been ignored –then a second issue emerges. They then become dissatisfied with the democratic process and this becomes a barrier to further citizen engagement.
In this TOOLKIT, we have provided tools for such barriers.
We have also recorded the importance of thinking about the type of engagement as being essential for success.