THE NEW BRUNSWICK PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT INITIATIVE
The New Brunswick Public Engagement Initiative (April 2007 – March 2008) In March of 2007, Don released Progressive Governance for Canadians: What you need to know, which is the final report from the Crossing Boundaries project (see the project description in the next section) and develops some of the key ideas that have become basic to his approach to public engagement. In April 2007, after reading the book, New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham invited Don to spend a year in the province and serve as the government’s Advisor on Public Engagement. In his role, Don developed and led five pilot projects on public engagement to help the government strengthen governance through better public engagement. Each project involved a series of in-person events with officials, stakeholders, and/or members of the public, where Don facilitated discussions ranging from Town Hall exchanges to strategic planning sessions. One project also used and online dialogue – a major innovation for the times. The five projects included:
- Skills Development – Reckoning with the New Economy: This project drew together stakeholders to work more closely with government on preparing New Brunswick’s workforce for the future. The process took 18 months. It involved 35 stakeholder groups in five deliberative roundtables, an online dialogue, one-on-one interviews, and meetings with the planning committee. It concluded in a Skills Development Summit involving the 35 stakeholders along with an additional 30 representatives from other groups. The entire project was conceived, designed, and managed by Don.
- The Climate Change Action Plan Initiative: Premier Shawn Graham led the Opinion Leaders Forum on Climate Change. The group included some 25 provincial “opinion leaders” in a dialogue about the public’s role in reducing greenhouse gases. The goal was to use this group to create a citizens’ voice on climate change issues. Don planned and oversaw the process and served as its facilitator. (April 2007 – September 2008)
- Sustainable Communities in a Self-Sufficient Province: Planning Our Future Together: This project engaged a group of 40 stakeholders from the Greater Saint John Region in a dialogue to build on an earlier effort between the five communities in the region to transform it into a single sustainable community. Don worked with provincial officials to plan the project and facilitated discussions between the province and municipal governments and stakeholders in the region.
- Imagining Miramichi 10 Years Out: In the spring of 2007, the last remaining pulp mill in the region the City of Miramichi suddenly closed. Don convened and facilitated several town hall meetings to explore options for a community-based approach to planning the region’s future. These discussions culminated in four community meetings around the region to develop an action plan, which was then presented to citizens at an open house, where it was discussed, modified, and adopted and, finally, presented to the premier.
- Wellness: The wellness project engaged ordinary residents and community stakeholders in a dialogue about their readiness to take a more active role in promoting wellness activities within their families and communities.