Your destination is where you want to go. In public engagement projects, this isn’t always that easy to identify. It is easy to conflate the policy or service delivery goals (i.e. create new affordable housing policies in the city or craft better ways of delivering primary care to residents) with the engagement destination (i.e. effectively enable voice and listen to communities or empower communities to identify useful services relevant to their needs). While policy and service delivery should always be the backdrop for engagement, it is imperative that public engagement is treated separately and considered carefully.
The best way to achieve this is by mapping not only destinations (i.e. co-produced policy) but landmarks (i.e. enhanced attention to local events, increased responsiveness to debates discussed on online forums, etc.). In traditional evaluation processes, outcomes are documented in what’s called a “logic model” and they’re described as short term, intermediate term, and long term. The objective of a logic model is to map particular activities to their desired outcomes at various stages of a process. This can be a useful exercise, but it tends to be very linear in orientation - one activity leads to one outcome, which leads to another outcome, and so on. In the world of public engagement, things are rarely so linear or logical. A roadmap (think of the paper fold-out kind) shows how things connect and suggests multiple ways to get from point A to point B.
Landmarks are clarifying sites that help you understand that you’re making progress towards your destination. They should be understood as things along the way, but they don’t need to provide direct access to the destination. The most important thing about landmarks is that someone, somehow, identified them as important and placed them on the map. It is, of course, important to consider the kind of process you are adopting, and the kinds of tools you are deploying (See figure xx). Ideally, identifying landmarks happens at the beginning of a project to help you know where you’re going, to help you talk about the journey, and to help others reproduce the route in future engagement projects.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Plan a course. Articulate your destination and identify at least three landmarks along the way. Landmarks should factor in resources and time required to accomplish them.
- Identify your starting location. What are the current conditions? What is your current budget and deadline, if any? State the problem.
- Landmarks do not need to provide direct access to your destination; sometimes you drive out of your way to see something, and those are the most meaningful parts of a trip.