|dc.description.abstract||For years, we who are involved in local government have treated citizen engagement as an option to enhance policymaking and community building in local government. I would argue that now engagement no longer is an option; it is imperative. It is made mandatory by the challenging and often
confusing context of contemporary local governance, increasingly characterized
by the ad hoc presence of foundations, nongovernmental organizations, private firms, and other nongovernmental actors in processes and decisions that significantly affect community development and well-being. If we are to anticipate effectively and plan for coherence in community building as an overarching goal of professionalism in local government, we must find a way to channel toward the collective good the diversity of actors, their energy, and their collaborative minds. One way to do this is through a significant commitment
and more systematic approach to planned citizen engagement.
To understand the role of engagement, first we must distinguish two types. The
initial form is spontaneous. This is the expression of citizenship that local government professionals have grown to expect and often dismiss as emotion driven, self-interested, and influence yielding.
Planned engagement, an alternative form, has taken time to reach a place of legitimacy in the administrative arsenal in part, I would maintain, because we lump
all engagement under the same rubric—the one we would prefer to avoid! But we must realize that planned engagement is different. It leads to an expression of the rational community mind as it deals with issues of community importance, as a balance to the emotion that comes from the heart in spontaneous engagement.||