Doing Citizen Engagement
What is it?

What Is This?

This is an information tool that gives you the meaning of key terms that you may come across in citizen engagement.

What Is Its Use?

There are two main uses for this tool.

  • For reference
  • As a topic for discussion in, say, a workshop.

Key Terms

We accept that different people have different definitions for each of the following terms. However, for our purposes the following definitions were used.

We gathered the definitions from a range of sources. (Acknowledgements to Vegeris et al (2007) for sources and to Wikipedia and togetherwecan). We appreciate that not all of these are  easy to understand so in some cases we have added our own explanation.

Active Citizenship (see also Engaged Citizen)

Citizens taking opportunities to become actively involved in defining and tackling the problems of their communities and improving their quality of life. (togetherwecan)

Civic engagement

Civic engagement can take many forms - from individual volunteerism to organisational involvement to electoral participation. It can include efforts to directly address an issue, work with others in a community problem or interact with the institutions of representative democracy. (Wikipedia)

Individuals or groups can get involved in may ways for example, through a community partnership or campaigning to prevent the closure of a local Post Office.

Civil Renewal

The renewal of civil society through the development of strong, active and empowered communities, in which people are able to do things for themselves, define the problems they face, and tackle them in partnership with public bodies. Civil renewal involves three essential elements: active citizenship, strengthened communities and partnership in meeting public needs. Its practical process is community engagement. (togetherwecan)

Basically the same as ‘Civic Engagement” but focussing on working together as a team

Deliberative Democracy

Deliberative democracy, also sometimes called discursive democracy, is a term used by some political theorists to refer to any system of political decisions based on some tradeoff of consensus decision-making and representative democracy. In contrast to the traditional economics-based theory of democracy, which emphasizes voting as the central institution in democracy, deliberative democracy theorists argue that legitimate lawmaking can only arise from the public deliberation of the citizenry. (Wikipedia)

Basically ordinary people have the same rights to be involved in decision making processes as elected officals


  • Engagement has more or less the same meaning as involvement or participation
  • People have levels of engagement ranging from reading a newsletter to Chairing an older people’s forum
  • Local Authorities and other organisations can provide different types of engagement, for example, setting up meaningful consultations or running a citizens’ panel
  • Some types of engagement require a more extensive level of involvement, for instance, organising a campaign
  • ‘It takes two to tango’ – engagement is about working together.

Engaged Citizen

Is someone who:

  • Recognises everyday rights and responsibilities, for example, having the right to vote and showing respect for the law
  • Helps to support and develop community life, for example, by voting and attending meetings run by Local Authorities
  • Is active in community life, for example, by helping neighbours or supporting local sports teams
  • Helps to promote the links between public and personal life
  • Is willing to listen and learn – especially ‘listening to a different point of view’ and ‘learning to agree to disagree’
  • Is supportive of democracy and all that involves.


A person who spends time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or people, either individuals or groups other than or in addition to close relatives. (togetherwecan)