CULTURE SHOCK: Boulder’s Public Participation Working Group – FINAL REPORT

The verdict is in: The City of Boulder needs to change the culture of public engagement. After almost a year of research, discussion, deliberation and drafting, the Public Participation Work Group (PPWG) produced their Final Report – the report is currently on Boulder’s PPWG website and was approved  by the City Council.

Root problems identified by the PPWG include: lack of understanding of how public engagement and decision-making processes work and lack of consistent productive public conversations. As a result, this leads to frustration, anger and disruptive behavior, even for the “happiest City in the country.” The PPWG worked to support a fundamental shift in the way Boulder culture is played out by: 1) Changing the Culture of Public Engagement and 2) Utilizing a Comprehensive Decision-Making Process to enable community members to play the appropriate roles in partnership with the City of Boulder and key decision makers. The PPWG emphasized that this process will take time, require resources, and ought to be evaluated to measure improvements and modify accordingly.

In our last edition of CDR’s “Talking Points,” we provided a snapshot of the PPWG deliberations and the desire to re-vamp Boulder’s public engagement processes. Six months later, the PPWG’s Final Report provides five key problem statements and a road map to address these problems through a series of cultural shifts and decision-making process recommendations. The report is directed to everyone in Boulder – as the responsibility of good public participation is shared among community members, the City of Boulder Council, Staff, Boards and Commissions, decision-makers.

One of CDR’s strengths was highlighted during this process:  designing and implementing public-involvement processes to fit the specific community needs.  CDR facilitated the successful conclusion of this challenging and complex process by reaching agreement with the PPWG members and gaining approval from the Council.

For us, the PPWG process provides an opportunity to improve the community where we live and work.  Going beyond the mechanics of public involvement and focusing on the culture and principles of public participation can result in improved decision-making and stronger relationships.

For more information: Contact Taber Ward or Jonathan Bartsch