Citizen Education and Promotion of Participation

Getting Started

Citizens’ expectations of legislatures and legislators are often outside of their functions and authority, which can hamper the effectiveness of citizen participation processes. While this is a challenge that can be addressed within the formal education system, parliaments and parliamentarians can also undertake efforts to educate citizens on their roles, functions, achievements and impact on citizens’ lives. This creates a foundation for citizens’ participation to be effective. Going further, parliaments and parliamentarians can also undertake efforts to raise citizens’ awareness of engagement opportunities and provide incentives to encourage citizens to participate in legislative processes.

This section of the toolkit contains a sample of  practices that  can  be  applied  to  both  educate  citizens  about  the  role  of  parliament  and  promote  opportunities  for  citizens  to  participate  in  the  legislative  process. Each type of practice includes:

(1) Responsible actor that could implement this practice

(2) Participation level assigned in accordance with the Citizen Participation Ladder

(3) Description of the practice

(4) Examples of the practice applied

For additional information on this topic, consult the ParlAmericas Toolkit on Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process

Getting Started

Citizens’ expectations of legislatures and legislators are often outside of their functions and authority, which can hamper the effectiveness of citizen participation processes. While this is a challenge that can be addressed within the formal education system, parliaments and parliamentarians can also undertake efforts to educate citizens on their roles, functions, achievements and impact on citizens’ lives. This creates a foundation for citizens’ participation to be effective. Going further, parliaments and parliamentarians can also undertake efforts to raise citizens’ awareness of engagement opportunities and provide incentives to encourage citizens to participate in legislative processes.

This section of the toolkit contains a sample of  practices that  can  be  applied  to  both  educate  citizens  about  the  role  of  parliament  and  promote  opportunities  for  citizens  to  participate  in  the  legislative  process. Each type of practice includes:

(1) Responsible actor that could implement this practice

(2) Participation level assigned in accordance with the Citizen Participation Ladder

(3) Description of the practice

(4) Examples of the practice applied

For additional information on this topic, consult the ParlAmericas Toolkit on Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process

Why engage civil society?

As leaders, we are not the most important people here today. It is the civil society leaders who, in many ways, are going to have the more lasting impact, because as the saying goes, the most important title is not president or prime minister; the most important title is citizen.

Barack Obama

Former President of the United States of America

Responsible actor: Parliament, legislators, parliamentary caucuses, political parties

Participation level: Inform

Parliaments can undertake awareness raising campaigns to educate citizens on the function of parliament and expose them to existing participation mechanisms and/or promote participation in a specific process. These can include print or online advertisement through traditional or social media, or by mailing flyers or other documentation. Campaigns can also be established in collaboration with civil society organizations.

Some practical examples are listed below. For a more exhaustive list, please consult the Toolkit on Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process (p.18).

Responsible actor: Parliament

Participation level: Inform

A citizen participation office or communications department can have various mandates, from educating citizens on the role of the parliament, to disseminating information on the work of the parliament, and collecting direct input from citizens into the legislative process.

Some practical examples are listed below. For a more exhaustive list, please consult the Toolkit on Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process (p.19).

Responsible actor: Parliament

Participation level: Inform

As a hub of information, parliaments’ websites can include a section to educate citizens about their role, work and impacts on citizens, as well as another explaining the mechanisms by which citizens can participate in the legislative process. Parliaments can also advertise these pages online and through social media to attract visitors.

Some practical examples are listed below. For a more exhaustive list, please consult the Toolkit on Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process (p.19).

Responsible actor: Parliament, political parties

Participation level: Inform

Learning about the role and value of parliament at an early age can prepare children and youth to become politically active citizens. Such programs can be virtual or in-person, and include interactions with parliamentarians, games, simulations of parliamentary processes, prizes, and interactive materials tailored for children and youth.

Some practical examples are listed below. For a more exhaustive list, please consult the Toolkit on Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process (p.20).

Responsible actor: Parliament, legislators, committees

Participation level: Inform

While town hall meetings can be held to invite citizens to participate in a particular legislative issue, they can also be useful mechanisms to educate citizens on the role and functions of the parliament, to explain the day-to-day impact of legislative issues to citizens’ lives and to share the ways in which citizens can get involved.

A practical example is listed below.

Responsible actor: Parliament

Participation level: Inform

Guided tours of the offices of parliament accompanied by commentary on the history, role and processes of this institution, and the opportunity to attend sessions of the plenary and/or committee meetings can be educational for citizens and contribute to building their interest to engage in the legislative process.

Some practical examples are listed below. For a more exhaustive list, please consult the Toolkit on Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process (p.21).

Responsible actor: Parliament, Legislators, Parliamentary Caucuses

Participation level: Inform

Parliamentarians can contribute to building a strong and independent civil society by promoting and supporting the work of civil society organizations, including parliamentary monitoring organizations, by participating in their activities, contributing to their projects and encouraging citizens to work with them.

Responsible actor: Parliament, legislators, parliamentary caucuses, political parties, committees

Participation level: Inform

Parliaments can provide incentives to citizens to encourage their participation. These can include awards, prizes, public record of input, or even providing online users special benefits based on the frequency they use a particular participation mechanism.

Some practical examples are listed below.

Responsible actor: Parliament, legislators, parliamentary caucuses, political parties, committees

Participation level: Inform

Through its own parliamentary television and radio channels, collaboration with State-owned or private channels, online or printed newspapers, and new digital platforms such as YouTube and podcasts, the parliament can develop content to inform citizens of its role and functions and mechanisms that are available for citizens to participate in its work, as well as live-stream its proceedings.

Some practical examples are listed below. For a more exhaustive list, please consult the Toolkit on Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process (p.22).

Responsible actor: Parliament, legislators, parliamentary caucuses, political parties

Participation level: Inform

Parliaments can disseminate educational information or updates on their work through social media accounts, as a cost-effective practice, particularly through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snap Chat which are the most widely used across the world. Facebook pages can be customized to include features specific to the parliament, and Facebook Live is a free feature that can be used for educational and awareness-raising purposes and allows for sharing of live videos and receipt of live comments from viewers.

Some practical examples are listed below. For a more exhaustive list, please consult the Toolkit on Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process (p.23).

Responsible actor: Parliament, legislators, parliamentary caucuses, political parties

Participation level: Inform

The way in which information is displayed and provided to citizens can impact their ability to understand it, as well as their interest in accessing it. This is particularly important in the case of budgetary and financial data which can be quite complex for individuals without this particular skillset.

Some practical examples are listed below. For a more exhaustive list, please consult the Toolkit on Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process (p.23).

Good Practices

The following practices have been submitted by parliamentarians and related stakeholders, and describe techniques that can be applied to:

Educating Citizens and Promoting Participation

Citizen Education and Promotion of Participation
Kate McCarthy
Canada
SENgage, officially launched in September 2017, aims to bring senators together with young people aged 13 to 30. Our objectives are to support senators in their work with their communities, expand the understanding of the Senate, and enable senators to hear the views of young people. We work in the following three ways: - Arranging for senators to speak to high-school classes and on college, cegep and university campuses, and facilitating meetings with senators for school groups visiting the Senate in Ottawa; - Working with youth-serving stakeholders that foster leadership and civic engagement to provide their members with opportunities to engage with senators; and - Organizing special Senate events related to youth.

Next Section: Opportunities for Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process

description