Improving Government Programs, Policies, and Outcomes by Reimagining Community Engagement

Improving Government Programs, Policies, and Outcomes by Reimagining Community Engagement

Mathematica provides recommendations to Office of Management and Budget on building a framework for public participation and community engagement with the federal government
May 20, 2024
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Mathematica provided recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for creating a government-wide framework for public participation and community engagement (PPCE) that leads to more effective and sustainable programs, policies, and practices and, ultimately, better outcomes.

“Collaborative, participatory methods with communities and feedback mechanisms that are accessible and encourage active public participation can actively disrupt the status quo, as they enable the public to provide input on important policy decisions,” wrote Mathematica. “Engaging communities—and most importantly, incorporating their voices into policy and program decisions—can reduce harm and improve the outcomes that matter most to populations that have traditionally been left out of this area. This shift toward sharing decision making with communities requires OMB guidance that reflects the needs of each agency and its staff as it builds processes, structures, and capacity to engage with communities and creates spaces that rebuild public trust.”

Specifically, Mathematica’s recommendations to OMB include:

  • Support and invest in advisory boards as a first step toward understanding the goals and communities most impacted by the agency’s mission. Advisory boards and working groups that include a range of community perspectives can support agency capacity building, learning goals, and rulemaking.
  • Adopt a culturally sensitive and community-focused approach to engage effectively with Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities. It is crucial to move beyond mere consultation policies and instead establish collaborative decision-making structures that actively involve Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities in developing, implementing, and evaluating federal programs, policies, and projects.
  • Recognize community members as experts. When developing a federal framework for PPCE, it is important to collaborate with communities to ensure components align with their needs and preferences. Collaboration must go beyond asking community members for input; it must include community expertise in decision making.
  • Prioritize hard-to-reach communities by creating partnerships with community organizations. A priority for a federal PPCE framework should include partnerships with community organizations that best understand the needs of community members, can support engagement and participation in decision making, and know what forums are best suited to gather public feedback.
  • Uphold Tribal sovereignty and self-determination in goals and objectives for Tribal engagement. This entails emphasizing clear goals related to transparency, accountability, and information sharing to build trust and foster constructive relationships with Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities while ensuring these goals align with and uphold Tribal sovereignty and self-determination.