The training “ENGAGEMENT” combines theoretical and practical elements of public policy analysis with theoretical and practical elements of participative democracy. It is ideal for organizations that have members who want to engage in solving problems of public concern in local, national or Europe-wide communities.
The training course can be adjusted to various formats. It requires at least 3-4 hours and can be extended up to 3-4 days. The basic structure is made up of three parts:
Public Policy and Civic Engagement, theoretical approach: participants develop skills about feasibility of public measures, alternative ways to solve problems, winning support and trust from certain stakeholders, and implementing the right strategy to meet the objectives and mission of the organization. Special attention is given to the legal framework of the organization, lobby groups, mass-media, budgetary limitations, creativity, institutional partners, and ethics in public work. Participants also become aware of the barriers of participation and the motivation that makes citizens engage constructively in their communities.
Civic Engagement: this practical component is using two methods of participative democracy: World Caffee and SMART Method of Public Policy. Once the problem is properly defined and explained, it is published on one of the citizen engagement platforms of SMART Method, www.politicipublice.ro for local and national communities in Romania or www.public-policies.eu for Europe-wide communities, and a problem’s page is created. The solutions to the problem being addressed are then discussed in the World Caffee, where participants work at different tables under the guidance of rapporteurs. At the end, the rapporteurs make a plenary presentation of the solutions brainstormed in the working groups, which are then published on the problem’s page. Important note: participants are served with refreshments and snacks during this exercise :).
Policy Making: during the last stage of the training, participants analyze various scenarios to solve the problem being addressed, getting inspiration from the solution proposals made during the World Caffee and published on the citizen engagement platform. The end result is a policy paper that recommends the most valuable, sustainable and feasible solution to the institution that is able to allocate resources and implement the recommendation. The policy paper is published on the problem’s page from the citizen engagement platform and enters the steps of SMART Method of Public Policy. After the training, participants can engage in lobby activities so that the policy paper receives a favorable answer from the target institution. The answer is also published on the problem’s page and the person who had published the problem can be satisfied with it and approve it or not, according to the procedures of SMART Method of Public Policy.
I organized such a training, which lasted for approximately 3 hours, to the members of the National Alliance of Student Organizations from Romania. The problem we addressed was related to the camps that the Ministry of Education was supposed to offer to the students with high academic standing during the school year. These camps were canceled for the first time in 20 years:
1. First, we talked about theoretical elements of public policy and civic engagement
2. Then, we defined the problem and published it on the Romanian citizen engagement platform www.PoliticiPublice.ro
3. Solutions were brainstormed during the World Caffee
4. The rapporteurs presented the draft solutions in plenary
5. The solutions were published on the problem’s page, entering the steps of SMART Method of Public Policy (step 2)
Participants saw the results of their efforts right at the end of the training session. In this case, the solutions they brainstormed can be seen on the problem’s page and are summed up below:
- The Ministry of Education should provide for student camps during the vacation between the two semesters (February – March). The camps would last for only four days and would target students from low-income families on one hand and students with academic achievement on the other hand. The camps should also offer various training courses so that students develop soft skills like communication abilities, leadership, or entrepreneurship.
- Universities may provide for student camps from their own resources.
- The Ministry of Tourism could contribute with camp locations, promoting Romanian attractions within students.
- The Ministry of Education could apply for European Union funding to cover the costs of the student camps.