Public Engagement

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The Public Engagement Framework was approved by City council on Oct. 3, 2017. It outlines an engagement process that is clear, fair and collaborative and allows residents to:

  • be engaged in discussions that shape the City efforts that most interest and/or affect them;
  • offer input for the benefit of decision-makers; and
  • understand how input is incorporated into the decision-making process.

The framework outlines:

  • Realistic expectations for engagement
  • Key principles to guide public engagement
  • Roles and responsibilities for employees, residents, stakeholders and council
  • An approach to planning public engagements
  • Tools and techniques

The City of Kingston's 2015-2018 Strategic Plan identified transparency and citizen engagement as an initiative under its Open Government priority. The Public Engagement Framework is one of the efforts underway to address that initiative.



Frequently Asked Questions

What is public engagement?

Public engagement is how we involve residents, councillors and City employees in the City's problem-solving and decision-making processes. Each public engagement opportunity should be based on the following criteria:

  • Clarity of purpose: Participants must be clear on the role they play in the process and how their participation will contribute to any outcome.
  • Reflective of diverse populations and opinions: Efforts will be made to engage the community's demographic diversity to the greatest extent possible and to reach out to communities likely to be affected by the outcome of an engagement opportunity.
  • Purpose: Raise awareness with residents and ensure that all participants' perspectives are heard, taken into consideration and help to inform decision-making.
  • Based on accurate information: Ensure information about the major elements of any issue or initiative is accurate so that participants can refine their perspectives, voice their points of view and better understand those of others.
  • Organized and well-facilitated: Engagements should be facilitated by someone who will encourage participation that is respectful and equitable so that discussions stay focused and sufficient time is given to the most important issues.
  • Communication of results: Results will be shared with residents. This includes reporting back after individual sessions and offering explanations of how input from participants has informed final recommendations and/or decisions.

What are the key principles of public engagement?

  1. Inclusivity: Organizers will try to ensure an accurate representation of the community is reflected by using a range of techniques to engage residents.
  2. Early involvement and timely communication: Accurate information will be communicated as early as possible in the public engagement process to help residents plan, prepare and participate.
  3. Respect: All participants must be respectful of diverse views, values and interests. The engagement must also respect decision-making protocols and jurisdictions at the municipal and provincial levels.
  4. Transparent and accountable: The engagement will demonstrate a commitment to efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars and ensure both the process and its outcome are transparent.
  5. Clear and coordinated approach: Throughout the engagement process, plain language and a variety of communication channels will be used , because people learn and engage in different ways. Public engagement activities will be coordinated and/or combined where possible to help find efficiencies.
  6. Continuous improvement: Public engagement activities will be regularly evaluated and improved.

What are the guidelines for public engagement participation?

All participants need to be aware of, and agree to, the following guidelines at the beginning of any public engagement. Participants agree to:

  • Be respectful of all participants;
  • Be open to all ideas;
  • Adhere to the established process and time frame;
  • Change a process during a session only by group decision, if necessary;
  • Allow everyone the opportunity to speak;
  • Allow people to speak without interruption;
  • Try to include everyone; and
  • Turn cell phones off/mute.

Guidelines for participation will be visible, where appropriate, at public engagement sessions.

The City is committed to providing a respectful environment for all participants that will enable them to express their perspectives on topics freely without fear of intimidation or reprisal. To maintain a respectful environment, a participant may be asked to remove himself/herself from a public engagement activity if he/she has:

  • Refused to follow the guidelines for participation. This may involve ignoring time restrictions for speaking.
  • Displayed disrespectful behaviour or made disrespectful comments when others expressed a point of view.
  • Made disrespectful personal comments or attacked other participants.

What is a resident's role in public engagement?

Residents participating in public engagement:

  • Actively implement the principles of the public engagement charter;
  • Initiate change by bringing forward ideas and thoughts that may help the City and the community find creative solutions to challenges through various means, including the online public engagement platform (;
  • Participate by offering ideas, suggestions and alternative solutions;
  • Work collaboratively with fellow participants, the facilitator, council and City employees to find solutions; and
  • Identify concerns and issues early and throughout the process, and request alternative ways of participating if required.

What is council's role in public engagement?

When it comes to public engagement, it is council's role to:

  • Endorse the Public Engagement Charter and ensure it is embedded in the culture;
  • Review any information gathered prior to making decisions;
  • Make sure that the City employee proposals, individual concerns and overall public benefit, are all considered;
  • Work collaboratively with residents and City employees to find solutions;
  • Debate and approve various motions, with direction, to initiate change; and
  • Attend or be involved in public engagement activities when feasible.

What is a City employee's role in public engagement?

When it comes to public engagement, City employees will:

  • Actively implement the principles of the public engagement charter;
  • Provide access to tools, such as an online public engagement platform (, to ensure that residents can initiate change;
  • Work collaboratively with residents and council to find innovative solutions;
  • Ensure the public engagement process is inclusive, that all information is available as early as possible and is clear, simple and informative;
  • Ensure the final reporting identifies resident feedback and explains how this feedback will be considered in the final recommendations and/or decisions; and
  • Ensure that consultants and facilitators undertaking public engagement activities on behalf of the City comply with the public engagement framework.

Keys stages of planning for public engagement

planning in 5 stages