What is civic engagement?

Discover how the theory and practice of civic engagement can make your decision-making more inclusive, participatory, and responsive.

Defining civic engagement

Civic engagement brings communities together to address issues of public interest and co-create solutions. It involves individual community members, elected officials, and other stakeholders taking an active role in creating a change in their community. This can include:

  • Being aware and informed of the issues your community faces
  • Recognizing that all community members have expertise worth tapping into
  • Creating the conditions necessary to build a culture of engagement

By fostering reciprocity between community members and local governments, civic engagement helps shift how power and decision-making is shared.

Why is civic engagement important?

Civic engagement is the foundation of a strong democratic culture. It’s important because it has the potential to empower individual community members to engage in the issues that matter to them. In turn, it helps improve policies, programs, and services and brings communities together by working towards a common goal.

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How CitizenLab enables civic engagement

CitizenLab’s mission is to build stronger democracies by making public decision-making more inclusive, participatory, and responsive. Our platform has helped  300+ governments and organizations with their civic engagement journeys.

Wichita’s example of civic engagement for affordable housing

Using their CitizenLab-powered public participation platform, Wichita heard directly from residents on affordable housing needs in their community. Using civic engagement they explored how to improve the quality of the existing affordable housing while also adding new options to address changing needs.

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Philadelphia’s example of civic engagement for placemaking

Philadelphia’s Edit the City! collaborative used civic engagement to collectively reimagine main streets as public spaces in an effort to support small business recovery and community revitalization. Using unique storytelling and placemaking strategies, this project shows just how innovative civic engagement can be.

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Related civic engagement resources

Don't just take our word for it.

Here is what some of our clients are saying about CitizenLab:

"A lot of times in local government everyone is excited about a new product but not everyone is trained to know and engage with the new initiative. The Government Success Manager from CitizenLab  really helped us to have people engaged across departments to make sure this program is successful.”

Milzy Carrasco
Director of Neighborhood Engagement, City of Lancaster, Pennsylvania (USA)

“We presented the platform to our leadership team, and they absolutely lost their minds. They are so pumped for the site and the work it will enable us to do for the Comp Plan. Your team deserves a huge thank you for being so incredibly responsive and flexible and working with us to stand our platform up on such a short timeline. We really appreciate it!”

City of Seattle
Office of Planning & Community Development (WA, USA)

"The way the data and stories were mapped geospatially helped communicate the need for pedestrianization to City Hall’s leaders. Suddenly, decision-makers could see themselves in the data through relatable stories that innovatively measured human experience and made the case for maintaining the elements that made them possible."

Edit the City! team
Philadelphia (USA)

" With our digital community engagement platform, we have the opportunity for real-time feedback that meets the needs of the community – they can engage whenever it works for them, in multiple ways, because the platform is always up and running. "

Crandall O. Jones
Municipal Administrator of the Municipality of Norristown, Pennsylvania (USA)

"I am immensely pleased that so many people made their voices heard and shared their ideas with us. The numerous positive ideas strengthen our policy and ensure that we can set priorities that reflect reality. The user-friendly and well-arranged platform that CitizenLab has certainly contributed to the success of our participation initiative.”

Mohamed Ridouani
Mayor, City of Leuven (Belgium)

“When you drill down into the functionality you see that CitizenLab is more flexible, visually appealing, and user-friendly... I feel the way CitizenLab’s platform is set up fosters a positive participation environment [and] the fact that the back office is so easy to use has been a massive bonus because it doesn’t scare anyone away, no matter their comfort level with technology.”

Jennifer Maclean
Digital Services Team Leader (Stirling, UK)