The Case for an Engaged Public

Just so happens that I’m writing this from Chicago (Second City, that Toddlin’ Town, the City of Broad Shoulders, Hog butcher for the world, or as the Wall Street Journal called it, Beirut by the lake) this week. I’m teaching the weeklong IAP2 Foundations in Public Participation course to a bunch of smart folks from around the U.S. It’s always nice to spend some time in the city that invented skyscrapers, and given the topic of the week, I thought you might like reading a slightly longer piece on the wisdom and value of (re)empowering citizens to not just elect their representatives but to stay engaged in the direct activities of their government. The work of democracy is far too important to simply concede to politicians.

I found another compelling argument in favor of public involvement from a somewhat surprising source – Michael Burke, Chairman and CEO of AECOM, one of the largest engineering and design firms on the planet. Burke points out that “For too long, government, financiers, engineers, and policy experts have operated in independent silos, and often without the benefit of an involved and educated public.” If you’d like some help in justifying the work that we do, read on for more of his reasoning.