- 18 Nov 2021
The Victorian Government commits to meaningful, principled and inclusive public engagement. Inclusive engagement supports better decisions for all parts of government. Infrastructure, regulation, policy, services, disaster prevention and recovery all benefit from engagement. Engagement helps to build more resilient communities.
The framework provides principles, a how-to guide and measures for engagement evaluation. It aims to strengthen meaningful engagement practice in Victoria.
Public engagement definition
Public engagement is a planned process to support decision making. It encourages people to get involved in decisions that are of interest to them. Engagement refers to a range of opportunities including:
- educating people about a topic (i.e. road safety or health awareness)
- obtaining feedback on a project (i.e. planning new housing)
- working with stakeholders to address local issues (i.e. traffic safety and planning)
Public engagement activities may include:
- workshops, forums, reference groups or consultative committees
- deliberative, participatory budgeting and co-design and processes
- online discussion forums, surveys, mapping tools or social media commentary
- submissions, feedback forms or questionnaires
- communications materials like fact sheets, newsletters, displays or letters
- focus groups, interviews, phone surveys or door-knocks.
The Victorian Government is committed to enabling meaningful and inclusive public engagement across the Victorian public sector.
The Public Engagement Framework (Framework) outlines the Government’s approach to working with communities to make better decisions and improve the lives of all Victorians.
The Framework aims to:
- build stronger relationships and engaged communities, and
- support the public sector to design and deliver best practice public engagement to ensure all Victorians can participate in the decisions that matter to them.
It reflects the collective knowledge of community engagement specialists and community feedback to ensure we understand Victorians’ priorities and expectations when participating in Government decision-making that impacts their lives.
The Framework includes principles that underpin the design and delivery all Victorian Government public engagement to be:
- meaningful by being genuine and informing the final decision
- inclusive by being respectful and accessible
- transparent by being clear and open about what the public can and cannot influence
- informed by providing relevant and timely information to the public
- accountable by being responsive to the public, and
- valuable for the community and government.
By implementing the Framework, we commit to continually working across the public sector to improve and strengthen meaningful engagement practices in Victoria to ultimately improve the lives of Victorians.
The framework includes:
- A consistent public engagement vision for Victoria.
- Principles and definitions for engagement.
- A how-to guide for the design and delivery of engagement.
- Evaluation outcomes, indicators and measures.
- A promise to the public.
The Victorian Government commits to meaningful, principled and inclusive public engagement. Inclusive engagement supports better decisions for all parts of government.
Infrastructure, regulation, policy, services, disaster prevention and recovery, benefit from engagement. Engagement helps to build more resilient communities.
The framework provides principles, a how-to guide and measures for engagement evaluation. It aims to strengthen meaningful engagement practice in Victoria.
The public engagement vision
The public engagement vision was developed collaboratively with engagement practitioners from across the Victorian Public Sector. It was endorsed by the Victorian Secretaries’ Board in 2018. The vision provides an overarching policy frame for public engagement, including setting community and system outcomes.
The whole-of-government public engagement vision is:
Working together to make better decisions and improve the lives of Victorians.
A collaborative approach
Engagement specialists from across the Victorian Government collaborated to develop the framework. They considered existing and emerging practice, new research, ideas, policies and barriers. They also ran a public engagement to test a draft framework with the Victorian community. This framework reflects the collective knowledge of the community and engagement specialists. It applies to the whole of Victorian Government.
Vision, goals and outcomes
Public engagement vision
The public engagement vision is Working together to make better decisions and improve the lives of Victorians. The vision was endorsed by the Victorian Secretaries’ Board in 2018. Alongside the vision are two domains (community and system) and a series of outcomes.
The domains outline the priorities for building stronger relationships and engaging with Victorians. The outcomes focus on engagement success for the community and government. They are part of the evaluation framework for public engagement.
Domain 1: Community outcomes
Building stronger relationships and engaged communities
- People are involved: People engage and know their views have been listened to and used by Government.
- People have choice and flexibility: People can choose how they would like to be involved.
- Communities are well represented: We collect representative views and build strong relationships with communities.
Domain 2: System outcomes
A public sector that engages effectively with Victorians
- Our workforce values engagement and uses it to inform decisions: Our workforce has the skills, resources and competencies to engage with Victorians effectively.
- Our systems enable engagement: We will make better use of data and information, and insights from public engagement to inform government decision-making.
Our promise to the public
By implementing the framework, we commit to ensuring that people:
- are supported with the knowledge and time to provide informed contributions to the engagement
- are provided with timely reporting on the engagement process and outcomes
- can see that their contributions to the engagement are listened to, put to use and treated with respect
- understand how decisions have been reached
- have a clear understanding of the purpose of public engagement; this includes how public participation will influence decision-making
- can choose from a range of engagement activities that are safe, accessible and inclusive.
How does good engagement benefit the public?
Public engagement benefits people by providing opportunities to exercise their right to take part in decision making. These decisions support our systems, policies, services, infrastructure and legislation. They ultimately affect our lives.
Engagement is a process to build knowledge, share feedback and ideas, discuss priorities and/or identify solutions. It also provides opportunities to hear other people’s views and learn from their experiences. Good public engagement leads to stronger communities by involving people in creating better outcomes for everyone.
How does good engagement benefit the government?
Engagement enables government to make decisions that take into consideration the rights, needs, preferences and values of the public. It enhances the process of sustainable decision making by drawing on the public’s knowledge and experience.
Public engagement can help identify issues early, so they can be addressed. Additionally, engagement can help the public to understand the decision-making process. Good engagement leads to increased public confidence and trust in government.
There are several actions that will support implementation in 2022. This is to ensure we can deliver on the commitments of the framework.
- Building awareness of the Public Engagement Framework 2021-2025 across the Victorian Public Sector.
- Programs and systems required to support implementation will continue to be improved.
- Implementing a reporting process to establish a baseline and measure progress over time.
Legislation, policy and best practice
Legislation and policy
Public engagement is embedded in a broad range of legislation, regulations and directives. They guide why, when and how Victorians are engaged in government projects and decisions. Legislation and policies that have informed the framework are:
- Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006
- The Child Safe Standards, Commission for Children and Young People
- Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees 2015
- Code of Ethical Practice, Youth Affairs Council of Victoria 2007
- Disability Act 2006
- Equal Opportunity Act 2010
- Heritage Act 2017
- Information Privacy Act 2000
- National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2018
- Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
- Outcomes Reform in Victoria 2018
- Planning and Environment Act 1987
- Privacy and Data Protection Act 2004
- Public Administration Act 2004
- Public Participation in Government Decision-making, Better Practice Guide, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office 2015
- Subordinate Legislation Act 1994
- Transport Integration Act 2010
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007
- Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018-2023
- Victorian Guide to Regulation 2016
- Victorian Public Sector Values
- Victorian State-Local Government Agreement 2014
- Victoria’s Value Creation and Capture Framework 2016
Other legislation and policy were indirectly considered as part of the development of the framework. These have not been listed above.
Public engagement best practice
The Public Engagement Framework 2021-2025 provides a guide to best practices. It builds on the values and standards developed by the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2), and nuances this for the Victorian Government context. IAP2 is a leading organisation in public engagement practice. IAP2 has a series of tools that support the delivery of engagement, including:
- Core Values informing best practice engagement and defining expectations of the process
- Public Participation Spectrum defining the role of the public in engagement processes
- Code of Ethics for public participation practitioners, a guide for ethics in public engagement
- Quality Assurance Standard describing the important elements of public engagement processes.
Engagement practitioners must be familiar with the IAP2 values, spectrum, ethics and quality assurance standard. These tools should inform engagements with the public.
Principles for public engagement
There are six public engagement principles. The principles are of equal importance. They underpin the design and delivery of all Victorian government public engagement.
Public Engagement Principles
How-to guide for public engagement
Why do we need a how-to guide?
We engaged with the public about this framework. We learned that there are areas where the public would like us to improve, including:
- reporting back to the community on the feedback and outcomes
- clarity of what the public could influence
- understanding how feedback was used
- clarity of purpose for the engagement.
The how-to guide provides steps to help engagement staff meet the needs of the public. There are eight key steps to design, deliver and complete public engagement.
This section details the eight steps. There are also recommended points for review during the process. At these points, managers are prompted to review and authorise progress to the next stage of engagement.
Additional resources to support the eight steps will soon be made available.
The evaluation approach aligns with the Victorian Government's outcomes reform. The outcomes reform focuses on identifying and quantifying public value created by departments and agencies. By doing so, it supports Government to focus on what really matters. It contributes to making genuine and lasting change in the prosperity and wellbeing of Victorians.
Tracking progress on outcomes helps Government to:
- provide evidence of what works
- support more rigorous testing of public agency strategies
- encourage a culture of continuous learning.
The evaluation approach will be incrementally rolled out across the whole of Victorian government. This will begin with those measures that are more readily available and where data can be simply gathered and stored. Advanced measures will be rolled out in future years. Departments and agencies will have notice, so there is time to prepare.
The purpose of gathering this evaluation data is to have a shared set of consistent metrics. These measures will support continuous improvement in engagement practice.
The implementation of the evaluation approach will be supported by an outcomes and monitoring plan. The outcomes and monitoring plan provides:
- guidance and tools for how evaluation data will be collected and reported
- roles and responsibilities for the collection
- reporting requirements for each outcome
- timing for annual reporting.
This section of the framework defines the outcomes, indicators and measures for the framework. Each outcome can have multiple indicators, which can in turn have multiple measures. They are numbered to indicate their relationship.
The evaluation framework is divided into two domains, which are derived from the public engagement vision. Performance in each domain is determined through a series of outcomes, indicators and measures.
Domain 1: Build stronger relationships and engaged communities
Outcome 1: People are involved. People engage and know their views have been listened to and used by Government.
|Increase participation in public engagement
Proportion of projects that involve the public in decision-making.
Proportion of people who have participated in public engagement more than once.
Proportion of people who participated in public engagement for the first time.
|Increase transparency in how public engagement informs decision making
|Proportion of people who report that they were informed about how their views informed decision-making.
Outcome 2: People have choice and flexibility. People can choose how they would like to be involved.
|Increase participation in the design and delivery of engagement processes
Proportion of public engagement projects that involve people in the design and delivery.
Proportion of people who report that they know how to engage in government decision-making.
|Increase accessibility of public engagement projects
Proportion of public engagement projects that offer a variety of engagement options/methods.
Proportion of people who report that participation in public engagement was accessible.
Proportion of public engagement activities delivered through digital solutions.
Outcome 3: Communities are represented. We collect representative views and build strong relationships with communities.
|Increase involvement and engagement with communities to better understand their needs
|Proportion of public engagement projects designed and delivered in partnership with communities.
|Increase diversity in public engagement
|Proportion of public engagement participants from diverse backgrounds/cohort groups, by cohort groups.
|Represent diverse communities
|Proportion of people from priority communities who are represented.
Domain 2: A public sector that engages effectively with Victorians
Outcome 4: Our workforce values engagement and uses it to inform decisions. Our workforce has the skills, resources and competencies to engage with Victorians effectively
|Increase skills and capabilities in public engagement
Proportion of staff who have completed engagement training and/or skills development.
Proportion of staff who have undertaken diversity training or have demonstrated understanding and experience working with diverse communities.
Proportion of staff who report that they used their training/skills to design and deliver engagement activities.
|Increase leadership and support to enable quality public engagement
Proportion of public engagement activities/projects allocated suitable time and resources.
Proportion of leaders who report that they use public engagement feedback to support decision making (by the focus areas of service, policy, regulation, disaster preparedness and recovery, legislation and infrastructure).
Outcome 5: Our systems enable engagement. We will make better use of data and information, and insights from public engagement to inform government decision making.
|Increase coordination and collaboration across the VPS
Proportion of public engagement activities delivered in partnership, by partnership type i.e. community, cross government etc. Increase use of data and evidence to inform decision-making.
Proportion of public engagement activities informed by data and evidence from previous engagements.
|Increase evaluation and reporting of public engagement activities/processes
Proportion of public engagement projects evaluated and findings reported.
Proportion of public engagement activities where findings and decisions made were reported (by reporting type i.e. internally across government, externally to community/participants.
Key definitions for common terms used in the Public Engagement Framework 2021-2025
Accessibility is the ability to access and benefit from a process, system, service or product. If something is accessible, then anyone can directly access or use it, regardless of their ability, location, language, culture, time and resources, or any other differentiating factor that contributes to the diversity of our communities.
The process of working together to solve a problem.
Sharing or exchanging information or ideas, using a range of methods.
A group of people who live in the same geographical area or have a shared background, interest, affiliation or membership.
Seeking feedback or advice on a select topic or project.
A method of engagement process with a select group of participants. The process focuses on a defined issue. It weighs up options and provides recommendations to decision-makers.
Digital public engagement
A way to collect public feedback using digital tools. The tools and techniques used to deliver consultations varies depending on the aims.
The different types of people which make up a community. Diversity includes race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, disability, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.
A logical structure for grouping related outcomes, and a line of sight from an outcome to a vision.
Free, prior and informed consent
This term comes from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It recognises their rights and makes specific mention of Free, Prior and Informed Consent as a prerequisite for any activity that affects their ancestral lands, territories and natural resources. It is linked to the human right of self-determination.
The practices that allow all people to feel valued and respected. This is irrespective of age, disability, gender, religion, sexual preference or nationality. This is evident when anyone who wishes to can fully participate. This means they can access, understand, and contribute their perspectives and talents to the engagement.
The public understanding that government is one entity. This approach encourages streamlined engagement, systems and processes for the public. It creates efficiency through shared data, effort and impact for the community.
Articulate what success looks like and reflect our ambition for Victoria. They are clear, unambiguous and high-level statements. They are about the things that matter for people and communities.
Specify what needs to change to achieve a desired outcome and set the direction of change. Outcome indicators reflect the key drivers and influences on progress towards an outcome.
Provide specific detail about what will change and how we know if we are making progress. Outcome measures are the specific way we know or count the size, amount or degree of change achieved.
Two or more people or organisations working in a formalised relationship with a clear sense of purpose. Accountabilities and responsibilities are shared.
Approaches defined by a geographic location. They are collaborative, long-term approaches to build communities.
Reference to priority communities will vary across government to suit department and agency portfolios and areas of responsibilities. It is recommended to use the Everybody Matters: Inclusion and Equity Statement as a guiding document to define priority communities at a whole of government level.
A relationship between key steps, activities, tasks, policies and / or resources.
Individuals who live, work, visit or have an interest in a defined place.
Public engagement is a planned process with a specific purpose. It involves working with individuals and groups to encourage active involvement in decisions that affect them or are of interest to them.
Individuals or organisations, which affect, or can be affected by project decisions. Organisations can include not-for-profit and community-based groups, business and industry, and volunteer networks. They may also include other departments or agencies across federal, state and local government.
The structure, processes and tools that support the delivery of the framework.