Community Engagement Charter
Read the Burlington Community Engagement Charter.
City of Burlington approves its first community engagement charter
April 11, 2013 — Burlington City Council has unanimously endorsed the first Burlington Community Engagement Charter aimed at making this city’s government more accessible to, and involved with, the people it serves.
The charter is the product of 16 months of intense work by a team of citizens and some city staff, led by the city’s public involvement co-ordinator.
“It is my pleasure to join my colleagues on council in whole-heartedly approving Burlington’s first community engagement charter,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “When I see the work of these dedicated Burlington residents, it becomes clear why we are one of Canada’s best cities. This charter will resonate with our community for many years to come.”
The charter states that engaging people on issues that affect their lives and their city is “a key component of democratic society. Public involvement encourages participation, actions and personal responsibility.”
The goal of community engagement is to lead to more informed and, therefore, better decision-making, the charter states.
The city’s public involvement co-ordinator, Christine Iamonaco, led the charter team, working with a variety of citizens that include Gloria Reid, John Searles, Steve Surya, former members of council and former citizen of the year John Boich, now deceased. The charter will now be used by City Council to guide engagement and focus on customer-first service.
“I would like to personally thank council for its support of the Burlington Community Engagement Charter,” Iamonaco said. “I have had the privilege of working with an outstanding team that has surpassed my expectations. I wish to thank everyone who made a contribution, either directly on the team or through the more than 1,000 touch points the team made into the community.”
The charter approved by City Council includes commitments made by both City Council on behalf of the City of Burlington and by the engagement charter team on behalf of the community. The charter also indicates that there is a spectrum of citizen engagement, ranging from informing residents of city decisions to collaborating with residents and fully involving them in decision-making.
“This community engagement charter is a positive step forward for the City of Burlington,” said John Searles, one of the members of the engagement charter team. “I feel strongly that my colleagues around the table have produced a charter document we can all embrace and be proud of.”
Comments from the Community Engagement Charter Team
“When I joined the civic engagement charter team what really motivated me was the overwhelming response by so many people to become a part of it. That showed the strong commitment and team spirit of Burlington citizens towards developing this challenging initiative. The next step is its implementation through a strong action plan and ongoing monitoring to measure its success.”—Mike H.
“For over a year, the charter was rewritten in exacting detail to afford all citizens the opportunity for community engagement in participatory democracy. Thanks to everyone who has given so selflessly of their time, dedicated to the enrichment of Burlington civic life. You have made it a truly rewarding experience to share.” –Joan T.
“This is a great vision for our city.”—Dave B.
“It has been quite a ride to get the charter together. We got to meet people from all venues from the Mayor (Rick Goldring) to simply concerned citizens. Some of the latter joined the team, and that was the greatest part. I am glad I volunteered some time for this community project. Thank you to City Council and the co-ordinator who have brought the charter to fruition. The process was an engagement in itself.”—Julien M.
“The charter team represented true citizen engagement at its best.”—Barry H.
“There’s many a slip ‘tween the cup and the lip.’ Development of the charter was an excellent citizen and staff initiative and is very much in line with the Shape (Burlington) Report. Speedy implementation of the Charter will require considerably more effort, and true support from citizens, staff and council.”—Chris W.
“What a pleasure it was meeting so many driven, committed residents of Burlington. I look forward to seeing much more of this group and I’m hoping that their example will inspire others of all ages and of all backgrounds to have a strong and welcomed voice in government.”—Donna K.
“The Engagement Charter is a perfect example of citizens and city staff working together and collaborating to create an excellent product. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I was proud to be part of. ”—Michelle D.
“Developing the engagement charter was a great opportunity to meet and work with wonderful people who care about building and expanding their community. Inspiring!”—Gloria R.
“Whilst working towards the engagement charter, one of the things that stood out most for me was the selflessness of those whom I worked with.” –Yvette D.
Manager, Public Affairs
Office: 905-335-7600, ext. 7841
Mayor Rick Goldring
Office: 905-335-7600, ext. 7607
August 2012 - Update from Burlington's Public Involvement Co-ordinator
The Burlington Community Engagement Charter
The Burlington Community Engagement Charter is an agreement between and among the City of Burlington's City Council and Burlington's citizens concerning the processes of citizen engagement with city government. It established the commitments, responsibilities, and fundamental concepts of this relationship, based on City Council's commitments, as set in the charter.
The purpose of the Burlington Community Engagement Charter is to create public involvement opportunities that people can easily participate in while seeing the value of their participation reflected in the decisions council makes.
You can now review the entire draft Community Engagement Charter or comment on sections that are of interest to you or your organization. To provide your comments, please see the Community Engagement Charter survey and comment form.
The Burlington Community Engagement Charter will be adopted as a city policy that ensures City Council's commitment to meaningful public involvement. These commitments include:
- Early notification
- Clear language
- Openness and access to information
- Capacity building
- Inclusivity and Accessibility
- Adequate resourcing
- Measurement, evaluation and review
The commitments set the stage for successful engagement for citizens, residents, businesses and organizations, city staff and city council.
The Burlington Community Engagement Charter includes new methods and tools, and improved processes for citizen and community engagement.
Burlington already consults and engages people to gain insight, hear new ideas, and learn of concerns and priorities on city initiatives. These comments help inform the City Council decision-making process. Examples of public and community engagement include:
- parks planning
- recreational field use
- transportation and transit planning
- cultural action planning
- the official plan review
- strategic planning
- environmental assessments, and
The charter was created by citizen volunteers and city staff and input from members of Burlington City Council.
Making public involvement processes clearer, easy to participate in, and ensuring that people understand how their ideas and input have contributed to the final decision will grow rates of participation in Burlington, making it a truly and meaningfully engaged community.
To read the charter, make comments, or learn about how you get involved go to: http://cms.burlington.ca/Page7734.aspx.
How is this changing the way the city engages and involves Burlington residents?
Even while the Engagement Charter is being written, there have been changes at the city. Nearly 30 staff members completed training and are now certified by the International Association for Public Participation, or IAP2 as it is also known. The city also included four community volunteers in the training - helping to build knowledge about best community engagement practices and building the community's skills and abilities.
Your Invitation to Get Involved
Contact Christine Iamonaco, Public Involvement Coordinator, City of Burlington at email@example.com, or call 905-335-7600, ext. 7885.
Share your insights, experiences and ideas about community engagement in Burlington.
Please send us your thoughts. Comments will be posted.
New to the City of Burlington: Public Involvement Coordinator
Dear Citizens, Residents, Public and Stakeholders of Burlington:
My name is Christine Iamonaco and I am the City of Burlington's first Public Involvement Coordinator. I am looking forward to working with the public, stakeholders, city staff, and elected officials to make Burlington's Public Involvement programs and community engagement activities excellent. In this case excellent can be taken to include: transparent; accountable; meaningful; and engaging - which results in improved decision-making.
On Monday October 17, 2011, I began working at the city in the General Manager's Office. This two-year contract position was established to ensure that the City of Burlington is successful in achieving its public involvement goals. And the newly approved Strategic Plan sets out specific tasks including that a ‘Community Engagement Charter' be established. Community engagement charters are a proven and successful model for making the practice of public involvement a regular part of city activities. Public Involvement Charters are in use by many levels of government, non-governmental organizations, corporations, agencies, boards and commissions. My first task, leading the creation of the Public Involvement Charter, will be accomplished by forming a Community Engagement Charter Team that will create the charter.
What I Bring To the Table
In short, my experience is based on years of public involvement experience with:
- Public and stakeholders
- Non-governmental organizations
- Private sector (as a consultant), and
My motto is "bringing people and projects together." Here projects also mean plans, community engagement and organizational initiatives. Through my years of practicing public involvement, I have gained an in-depth understanding of removing public involvement barriers and recognizing when and how public involvement should occur. Through my education, I have studied both the theory and practice of public involvement. I have created approaches crafted to suit unique project and community needs. I am a certified Public Participation Practitioner, certified by the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2). IAP2's principles are used my many organizations and municipalities, including Burlington.
Getting the Ball Rolling
My first six weeks at the City of Burlington began with face-to-face meetings with the Mayor, Councillors, Shaping Burlington members, the Inclusivity Advisory Committee, senior city staff and the community. I also observed meetings of the standing committees of council, and attended the Plains Road Corridor Functional Design Public Information Centre, a public meeting and open house, held on November 2, 2011. For more information about the project, that could also be called the Plains Road Beautification and Urban Design Project, follow these links:
Early Findings and Observations
Through these meetings and my observations three very clear messages emerged.
- There is city commitment to bettering the practice of public involvement in Burlington.
- Improving community engagement means new ideas, even new thinking about delivering and participating in good public involvement activities. That will take the effort of the public, stakeholders, and city staff and council, working together.
- There are opportunities, and of course challenges, not the least of which is early notification of community engagement plans and activities that offer opportunities for public involvement. Getting the word out about community engagement sounds easy, yet Burlington has some challenges that are unique because of its geographic location between the big news and bigger newspaper markets of Hamilton and Toronto. More about the challenges of early notification in the next column.
In the mean time, please share your ideas about how we can best notify you about City of Burlington public involvement opportunities. And what responsibilities do citizens have to be aware of the notifications that the city produces to gain your attention and input? (My contact information is below).
What Lies Ahead?
Achieving improvement in the practice of public involvement begins with the city's newly approved Strategic Plan, Burlington, Our Future.
Strategic direction three, Excellence in Government, states the city will implement a Community Engagement Charter and appropriate policies and tools to support community relationships. As stated by a member of Shaping Burlington, a community organization that supports this strategic initiative, "the Charter is the destination, and the process to develop it is the journey." I think that developing the Charter offers opportunity for working collaboratively with the public, non-governmental organizations, stakeholders, city staff and elected officials to craft a truly made-in-Burlington approach to community engagement.
Why Develop a Community Engagement Charter?
A community engagement charter is a social agreement that defines the commitment of the city, its staff and council, to conduct good public involvement activities in municipal processes such as: strategic planning; roads projects; environmental assessments; budget consultations; voter turnout programs; and community development projects. Ensuring that the Charter has strength can be achieved through endorsement by City Council, and potentially, its adoption as a city policy. Development of the Community Engagement Charter is also dependent on citizens and stakeholders setting specific engagement objectives, providing ideas, and undertaking review of the Charter's implementation.
Background Information - Creating an Engaged Community: Shape Burlington, April 2010
In April of 2010, the Shape Burlington Citizen's Advisory Committee presented its report Creating an Engaged Community to Burlington City Council. The report reflects the views of those people who shared their opinions on how Burlington might improve civic engagement and communications with local government. The report will serve as one of the background documents for the Burlington Community Engagement Charter Team as it works to create and implement Burlington's first ‘Community Engagement Charter'.