The following series of questions will help you prepare and think through the key issues and questions involved in developing a public engagement policy. Before you start to develop an organizational public engagement policy, discuss and respond to the following questions, which were developed to help think through the why and how of your organization benefitting from having a public engagement policy.

Getting Started
To begin, ask yourself the following general policy questions:

  1. What is the policy, and what is the background behind the policy?
  2. What is this policy trying to achieve?
  3. On what values is the policy based?
  4. What processes will be used in developing the policy?
  5. Who will be consulted in the process of developing the policy?
  6. Who is the legitimate authority making the policy?
  7. Who will benefit from the policy (in theory)?
  8. Who will be disadvantaged by the policy (in theory)?
  9. How will the policy be implemented? How will it be evaluated?
  10. How will the relevant people find out about the policy?

Adapting Sample Public Engagement Policy Questions

Use the following questions to adapt the sample public engagement policy to reflect your organization’s administrative structure, needs, and values. Each section of questions corresponds to a subsection within the sample policy. Look at your organization’s policy templates to see if there is any overlap in the different sections. The new public engagement policy should have a consistent format to your other organizational policies.

1. Preamble

  • What guides your organization’s overall duties, responsibilities and obligations?
  • How does this policy comply with other organizational policies, codes, strategic directions, priorities etc.?
  • What approval process is required to change to this policy?

2. Definitions

  • Is there an existing definition of public engagement in your organization? Is it satisfactory?
  • Do you agree with ICN’s definition? Why or why not?
  • How does your definition compare with other definitions? What are the differences? What is missing?
  • Do you call your work “public engagement”? What else do you call it? (ie: if you undertake advocacy, fundraising, communications or educational work, do any or all of these areas fall within your definition of “public engagement”? If so, should your definition include these other terms?
  • Is there alignment on your definition of public engagement across arms or departments of your organization?

3. Purpose

  • What purposes will this policy serve, within your organization?
  • What operational practices are already in place that may inform or be included within your policy?
  • How would your organization benefit from having a public engagement policy? Why does your organization need one?
  • Is there vertical alignment within your organization (between levels of staff, management and Board) on the importance of public engagement?
  • Does your organization have a “theory of change”? Who are your target audiences for public engagement work?

4. Statement of Philosophy and Core Beliefs

  • Does your organization endorse or comply with specific principles or good practices (such as the Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness, the CCIC Code of Ethics, or the ICN Core Standards of Good Practice in Public Engagement)?
  • How does your organization show commitment to your core values? How do these commitments influence your public engagement work?
  • How do your organization’s core values and/or principles affect your public engagement work?

5. Core Standards of Good Practice

1) What is the relationship between public engagement, advocacy, fundraising, communications or education, within your organization?

  • What are the good principles of public engagement at your organization?
  • How are resources for public engagement made available? How often?
  • Do you have strategies to overcome challenges?

2) How is public engagement interwoven into key organizational documents? (I.e. budgets, strategic plan etc.)

  • Does your organization have a theory of change? Does it support the ICN’s Public Engagement Theory of Change?
  • What is the extent to which different departments are engaged in public engagement?
  • How will stakeholders in your organization be involved in developing, or be informed of a public engagement policy?
  • Has a specific approach to public engagement been developed?
  • Who are your key audiences or target groups? Why?

6. Linkage to Other Policies

  • What policies exist at your organization that intersect with this policy?
  • Does one of these policies take precedence over others, or is one overarching?

7. Authorities & Procedures

  • What organizational guidelines or procedures inform your public engagement programs, projects or activities (i.e. working with vulnerable populations, inclusion etc.)
  • How often are public engagement programs, projects or activities monitored, evaluated and reported on? At what intervals do you evaluate effectiveness of your public engagement work?
  • Within your organization, what is the role of your Board of Directors, management, volunteers, others?
  • Are there any unique aspects of your public engagement work that increase certain types of risk or add others (typical risks)
  • How does your organization plan for and manage risks within your public engagement work?
  • If you have identified risks, how do you mitigate them?
  • What aspects of your approach to public engagement are guidelines, rather than policy?
  • How often and on what basis will you assess implementation of this policy?
  • Who is responsible for internal public engagement education?
  • How is public engagement work documented and shared?
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