Public engagement involves communication between the public sector and people, organisations and groups affected by or interested in what government does. Engagement can be about the flow of information, from the government to Islanders, or from Islanders to government.
Public or stakeholder engagement can also be a way of bringing citizens, community organisations, businesses, and government together to solve problems.
There are many different types of engagement, including:
- consultations (full public consultation or targeted consultation)
- social media
- news releases
- newsletters, flyers, letters
- drop-in sessions in public spaces, for example the library
- Citizens' Juries and Citizens' Assemblies
- customer feedback
- focus groups
Consultation is a particular form of public engagement. It tends to happen within a defined time period, and with clearly defined parameters. During a consultation government will ask people what they think should be done to solve a particular problem. Or to give their views on a specific set of plans or proposals. Consultations allow people to contribute to the development of government policy and services.
The format and design of each consultation will vary depending on the:
- issue being consulted on
- questions being asked
- groups who may be affected by the proposals
For major changes to policy or legislation, a multi-staged approach may be most appropriate, consulting with different groups at different stages of the process.
Matters of significant public interest (for example, the Island Plan) may require extensive public consultation. Whereas other matters may be better suited to more limited stakeholder engagement (for example, consultation on complicated areas of tax law may be targeted only at specialised representative bodies or tax experts).
Some consultation is done on a statutory basis (for example, planning applications) and follows a process established in law.
The approach to consultation will always depend on the nature of the issue under consideration. A full public consultation will only be required in some circumstances. Where it is required, the Government of Jersey will aim to follow the code of practice set out below. It will also ensure the consultation information is available online and in other accessible formats.
Consultation code of practice
Consultation is an exchange of views and information between people who are affected by a decision, and people who are making a decision. It aims to:
- help identify issues
- develop or change policies
- test proposals
- evaluate provision
Where it is determined that a full public consultation is required, the following code of practice should inform Government of Jersey consultations:
- Every consultation is unique. Consultations should be designed to seek views on a specific topic or set of issues in a way that is effective, accessible and inclusive. This means that not all consultations will look the same.
- Only consult if change is possible. Public participation includes the expectation that people's contribution will influence the outcome. So only consult if there is scope for change.
- Know your stakeholders. Spend time identifying all the potential groups who may have an interest in the issue. However small. Different groups of stakeholders may be involved to different degrees, or a consulted on different areas or in different ways. Whilst some consultations will involve the general public, others, such as draft legislation of a technical nature, may be better suited for targeted stakeholder consultation only.
- Make it accessible. An accessible consultation benefits everyone and increases the response rate. Use accessible methods, formats and words that are suitable for the intended audiences. Work towards removing barriers to access and making your consultation as inclusive as possible.
- Don't delay because you don't have all the answers. Consultation may provide some of these answers. Furthermore, there may already be speculation about the project or policy and engaging early gives people more opportunity to influence the outcome.
- Tell it like it is, be clear and transparent. It is good practice to be forthcoming with information unless there's a compelling reason not to. Be open about areas where decisions have already been taken.
- Give enough time for meaningful engagement. People need to be able to give sufficient consideration to the proposals. Significant public consultations should normally last for at least 8 weeks (excluding major holiday periods).
- Consider Data Protection obligations. Ensure that your consultation is run in accordance with the
Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2018, make sure that your departmental data governance officer and the Government of Jersey central data protection unit have been consulted.
- Objective analysis. Information and views gathered during consultation must be assessed objectively.
- Publish the data and the outcome. Publish data from the consultation online, in accordance with your privacy notice, as soon as possible. Within a reasonable timeframe, give clear feedback on the consultation outcome and how the consultative process affected the decision.