Digital Citizenship and Engagement: Guides, Playbooks, and Resources

A Living Document

Engaging the public in campaigns, planning efforts, and community-building is a science and an art that flourishes from a foundation of trust. There is an abundance of tools, digital strategies, and outreach methodologies to draw upon. This field scan of engagement guidebooks collates resources with brief summaries to understand best practices for engagement. Please feel free to add comments and contribute to this growing list!

Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent by the Center for Civic Design

In eight volumes that detail design, writing, testing, and layout instructions for voting ballots, these guides support the process of creating intuitive election materials. This series of field guides is created by the nonprofit The Center for Civic Design and is funded by the MacArthur Foundation as well as 321 backers on Kickstarter. The guides build off of previous work of design recommendations for election assistance by offering simplified and actionable steps.

Results of a sticky dot exercise in Boulder (via the CFA Engagement Toolkit)

Code for America Engagement Toolkit

This categorized resource guide was created for building transparent and engaging community participation by Code for America. Code for America addresses the growing gap between public and private sectors in their use of technology and design and created this toolkit for the City of Boulder. The guide has step-by-step instructions for setting up engagement processes in the categories of: expanding reach, providing relevant and usable information, using spaces and channels for participation, encouraging productive actions, creating useful feedback loops, and additional recommendations and tools. It includes some measurements, but stops short at analysis. While the guide is interspersed with case studies primarily from the City of Boulder on topics such as census reporting, utilizing clicker surveys, and volunteer task forces, it is short on the complexities of implementation. The guide is clear and concise and helps with comprehension by concluding each section with “signs of success.”

IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation

Created by the International Association of Public Participation, this chart helps scaffold the process for increasing meaningful engagement by addressing the goals, public communication, and example participation techniques. IAP2 is an international organization for knowledge sharing and capacity building of best practices for public participation. This straightforward graphic is based off of the Arnstein’s ladder of public participation and includes the categories of: inform, consult, involve, collaborate, empower. While this graphic does not provide any practical guidelines, it presents a clear framework for thinking about the work of public participation and can be a useful reference point.

IAP2 Spectrum (via

National Standards for Community Engagement

The Scottish Community Development Centre developed this set of national standards as a means of assuring good public process between communities and agencies. The standards are seen as a fundamental part of community planning while acknowledging the importance of increasing inclusion of minorities and disadvantaged populations. The standards were originally developed in 2005 and have been in wide use in Scotland. The standards address how organizations with a public-interest focus can improve: involvement of stakeholders, overcoming barriers in participation, project planning, methods assessment, team collaboration, information sharing practices, implementing feedback mechanisms, and more. There is a focus on measuring indicators and community-led action research, though implementation guidelines are lacking.

UCL Public Engagement Toolkit

Created by the University College of London, this list of toolkits includes checklists for planning and evaluating projects, research methods, design principles, communications resources and more. While the intended audience is primarily internal to UCL, this is a well-rounded resource with research-based models of engagement as well as practical, templated resources to use. The evaluation methods section defines the qualities of evaluation while outlining methods including interviews, creative exercises, and workshops. The research protocol provides practices for optimizing collaboration between citizen groups, academics, and public sector leaders. Users can directly apply checklists and evaluation techniques from this resource while checking the guiding principles and outreach examples for alignment with best practices.

National Assembly of Wales Public Engagement Toolkit

The democratically elected National Assembly of Wales created this toolkit for public engagement. About 20 different research methods ranging from social media, web chats, and video analysis are examined in simple one-page summaries. The summaries for each method include: description, purpose, audience, cost, and time requirements. This easy to navigate resource could be great for those looking to put together an evaluation process.

Inclusive Outreach and Public Engagement Guide — City of Seattle

This guide to inclusive public engagement was originally developed in 2009 (revised in 2012) by the Race and Social Justice Initiative in the City of Seattle, with the expressed goal of being “a practical guide and resource for all city staff.” The Race and Social Justice Initiative aims to ensure racial equity in city programming, work with community-based organizations to end structural racism, and facilitates network-building and partnerships across sectors to address racial disparities. The guide provides a useful checklist for designing and implementing inclusive public engagement processes, and an evaluation guide that helps with identifying evaluative questions for the engagement process. Other resources include strategies for inclusive engagement, a public involvement planning worksheet, and a glossary of terms as well as tools and techniques. This guide is full of helpful graphics, such as the Cultural Competence Continuum and Public Engagement Matrix. The quick guide also provides a summarized overview for this otherwise extensive resource.

National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement

The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement is a university collaborative across the UK with a mission of engaging the public in research and education activities. Of course, with this broad mission, the organization has really branched into a number of different contexts and modalities. Originally called the Beacons Project at its founding in 2007, it has since changed its name to NCCPE in 2011. The website includes a framework, toolkits, evaluation techniques, and importantly, a series of case studies. The site is organized by defining, planning, and implementing public engagement processes while facilitating cultural change to adopt best practices. The site is easy to navigate and full of tips, training resources, and ways to stay involved via an annual conference, consulting services, and newsletter subscription.

Engagement Technology for All: Best Practices for Using Technology in Engaging Underrepresented Communities in Planning

As part of a regional planning process, the New River Valley Planning District Commission worked with Sojourn Theater to modify their Built game, previously used in more urban settings, to the predominantly rural New River Valley region.

In collaboration with Place/Matters and the Ford Foundation this report evaluates different technology tools for engagement that strengthen participation in public decision-making. This guide acknowledges how emerging technologies are changing the way information is gathered and communicated and how it influences the texture of engagement. A subsect of civic technology, which focuses specifically on improving participation in public decision-making, is analyzed in this guide with a focus on outreach to minority and disadvantaged populations. Case studies are highlighted in each of the sections that explain planning processes, relevant platforms, mobile engagement, social media best practices, games, and concluding recommendations. Deployment of civic technology still needs more evaluation, which the guide acknowledges and suggests tips for tracking indicators to begin this process. The guide is well-rounded in its research-based approach, practical suggestions, and awareness of implementation challenges. it is primarily informational, as opposed to practical in its orientation.

Digital Sustainability Conversations: How Local Governments can Engage Residents Online

This user-friendly guide illustrates the business value of digital engagement as well as its risks and legal challenges. Written by a partnership between academics, a sustainability consultancy, and government leaders, this guide further lays out a 16-step process for designing, implementing, and evaluating a digital engagement strategy. This extensive guide strikes a good balance between providing case study examples and historical context with practical steps, assessment worksheets, and tools. The intended audiences are City Managers, Mayors, Directors of Sustainability, Communications Directors, Project Managers, and other department heads. The format is written in a way that allows the user to decide how deeply they would like to dive into the topic in order to understand the possible challenges of digital engagement implementation.

Via Digital Sustainability Conversations: How Local Governments can Engage Residents Online

This living document is an ongoing list. Please share your public engagement resources and experiences of using them in the comments!

Additional Resources