Engaging Citizens in Social Innovation: A short guide to the research for policy makers and practitioners

Published: June 2013 Publication Type: Publication

Authors: Anna Davies,

Public and civic engagement activities are now widely seen as critical in building trust in public institutions, developing social capital and social cohesion in local communities, and lending great legitimacy to public decision making processes. In the context of social innovation, the idea that citizen engagement is critical to the development and implementation of new solutions is often regarded as a self evident truth.
However, this report argues that it is important to have realistic expectations about what citizen engagement can achieve. In this paper, we provide an overview of our recent research on citizen engagement and social innovation. We explain how we understand these two concepts, their relationship, and why this is important. We also give some concrete examples of three methods of engagement activity relevant to social innovation: crowdsourcing, co-design and participatory budgeting. We then summarise recent research on the benefits and risks associated with engagement practices and conclude by suggesting a number of critical issues that policymakers, funders and practitioners must consider before advocating, funding or developing engagement activities.