Moving forward: realizing Minnesota’s public engagement

Drawing on the 2015 Hamline University School of Law Dispute Resolution Institute’s symposiumLisa Blomgren Amsler and Tina Nabatchi examine ways existing laws make room for citizen input to better imagine public engagement for Minnesota. ‘Public Engagement and Decision-Making: Moving Minnesota Forward to Dialogue and Deliberation, published in the Mitchell Hamline Law Review, reflects on how engagement design can foster participation with greater meaning and impact.

Amsler and Nabatchi trace forms of collaborative governance, sounding out definitions by public administration and legal scholars. The article surveys legal frameworks for collaborative governance looks into federal, state, and Minnesota law. Analysing Minnesota’s administrative law, the authors find that current legal infrastructure and systems can offer potential for various forms, outcomes, and design aspects of public engagement. They refer to four key questions on design, focusing on recruitment, interaction, information, and impact: who gets to take part and how may they be enlisted? How will they engage with each other and decision-makers? What information will participants need? In what way will they affect decisions or solutions? Designers also need to consider goals, time factors, regulations, resources available and consider the level and nature of public concern with issues at hand.      

Amsler and Nabatchi suggest that Minnesota can make inroads into democratic decision-making. However, the law will need to encourage government innovation. In addition, great design and practice will need investments, learning, and sharing of insights to help public engagement in Minnesota realize its potential.        

Lisa Blomgren Amsler is Professor and Keller-Runden Chair in Public Service at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University. Tina Nabatchi is Associate Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs, and a Faculty Research Associate at the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC), the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

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