Public participation has an important role to play in how governments respond to both everyday challenges and unforeseen crises. The last decade has seen a flourishing of new ways to work in partnership with the public, using tools like participatory budgeting, deliberative workshops, and citizens' assemblies, to deliver better policy outcomes, rebuild trust in political institutions, and empower citizens to play an active role in the decisions that affect them.

Local governments are facing challenges that are complex and, increasingly, unprecedented. Climate change, Brexit, and the Covid pandemic are examples of issues with unpredictable and potentially far-reaching impacts. Addressing them will require consent, compromise, and collaboration from residents. Centralised decision-making is poorly suited to the challenge - Councils need new approaches and new tools to work with citizens, to tap into their skills and capabilities to find and implement solutions. 

We are delighted to be teaming up with the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) to develop this bespoke training for their member Councils. From 13 May, we'll be rolling out a six part course for Council Senior Officers who are interested in learning more about innovations in public participation and how they can be applied to their work.

Places on the training course are fully funded and are exclusively open to senior staff working in any of the following local authorities:

  • Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council
  • Cavan County Council
  • Donegal County Council
  • Fermanagh and Omagh District Council
  • Leitrim County Council
  • Mid Ulster District Council
  • Monaghan County Council
  • Sligo County Council

This programme is developed in partnership with ICBAN and is funded by the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade Reconciliation Fund. 

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The course consists of 6 full days online, spread over 4 months from May - September 2021(including a summer recess). Each day will consist of a morning and afternoon session of around 2-2.5 hours each. They will take place online via Zoom.

Participants will get an overview of public participation, emphasising deliberative methods that are well-suited to building consensus on complex and contentious issues, and with a practical focus on applying learning to the existing challenges councils are facing.

They'll get insights from people who have been at the forefront of innovation in the field, and learn how governments and public bodies have been helped by applying the principles of public participation to their decision-making.

The aim of the training is not just to skill-up individual officers, but to co-create a process for embedding public participation into the core work of organisations, leading to culture change and new ways of working.

The course will cover the following areas:

  • Introduction to public participation and its role in policy development and decision making
  • Different approaches to public participation, when they are best used, and their respective strengths and weaknesses.
  • How to identify opportunities for public participation at different stages in the decision making cycle.
  • How to plan for public participation, including defining scope and purpose, identifying the right ‘public’ for your outcomes, and working with stakeholders.
  • How to design inclusiveness and diversity into your public participation projects.
  • Evaluating public participation and monitoring its impact
  • Developing a practice-based action plan for tackling an issue within your local authority area using innovative public participation approaches.
  • Case studies examples of innovations in public participation


  • Appreciate the difference public participation can make to your internal decision making processes
  • Understand the practical applications of public participation
  • Be able to select an appropriate participation approach to add value at each stage of the decision making cycle
  • Recognise where there are opportunities for deepening public participation within your own organisation, & where there are blocks.
  • Define a clear purpose & scope for a proposed participation exercise & consider its wider context
  • Understand the different outcomes from public participation
  • Know how to classify different ‘publics’
  • Identify the right ‘public’ for achieving the intended outcomes of the participation exercise.
  • Develop a plan for a participatory process and/ or criteria for the commissioning of a participatory process
  • Have a resource pack containing templates & guidance for planning & implementing a participation strategy that can be used to embed ongoing participatory approaches within the work of your organisation
  • Have identified ways that you can take action within your own organisation to roll out your learning.

If you are a Council Officer in one of the eligible areas, you can register for the course here. If you aren't eligible or are unable to attend the course, but are interested in the topic, we are offering a stakeholder webinar on Tuesday 18 May - more about that here