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Community engagement the theme of UN Conference

23 November, 2005
By Fergus Hogarth

Brisbane became the community engagement capital of the world after hosting the International Conference on Engaging Communities in August 2005.

The three-day conference was co-hosted by Queensland Government and the United Nations and included over 400 community engagement-related presentations to more than 2,100 delegates from 50 countries.

The conference provided a forum for people from around the world to, share their knowledge on community engagement and its role in effective governance, to showcase innovation and to promote good practice.

Conference Chair and the Department of Communities' Assistant Director-General Michael Hogan said, "The calibre of presenters and material delivered was exceptional. Delegates were provided with a great deal of information and a host of ideas regarding effective community engagement."

Brisbane Declaration

One of the primary outcomes from the conference was the development of the Brisbane Declaration on community engagement.

"The Declaration sets out the intent of conference delegates and their organisations to adhere to best practice in engagement with communities and outlines a number of actions to achieve this," Mr Hogan said.

"The first draft of the Declaration was drawn from a number of sources for global definitions and aspirations for communities such as the International Association of Public Participation's (IAP2) core values, Queensland Government’s community engagement resources and the work of leading academics in the field."

In true community engagement style, conference participants including community engagement practitioners, academics, policy advisers, government and other interested people were consulted on the Declaration, with both an online and printed draft version made available for comment.

"The conference participants' involvement and input was critical to the Declaration’s development and showcases how effective community engagement can be extremely beneficial," Mr Hogan said.

Following the conference, people were invited to read the final Declaration and share their views online on how they could best apply it, how it could be actioned, and the difference it could make to their organisations and communities.

"The Declaration is being provided to the Premier and Prime Minister and also to the Secretary General of the United Nations for implementation in the international environment," Mr Hogan said.

eDemocracy and online engagement

One of the key conference themes was "Engaging Communities Through the Use of Information and Communication Technology".

In addition to a keynote presentation by Professor Stephen Coleman from the UK, the conference included a major panel on eDemocracy, as well as a number of workshop sessions and presentations.

A range of online services were also deployed to enable participation in the conference before, during and after the event, especially for those not able to travel to Brisbane.

"Providing online opportunities for people to participate in the conference really demonstrated the value of technology in increasing accessibility and broadening participation," according to Fergus Hogarth, manager of eDemocracy Policy in the Department of Communities.

The initiatives, organised by the Department of Communities' eDemocracy Policy team, included audio webcasting of keynote and panel presentations, video highlights of the conference, an "email a panel" function, an online participant feedback form, an eNewsletter to conference participants and an online discussion forum.

The audio webcasts were accessed over 3,000 times. Over 130 people provided online feedback on the conference and participated in the discussion forum.

"Providing the online tools enabled us to learn more about how new and existing technology, such as discussion forums, can be best used to engage communities in government policy development activities," Mr Hogarth said.

"This experience will assist our future planning regarding the development and implementation of the government’s eDemocracy agenda, and enable us to provide new ways for communities to engage in government and with each other."

More information about the conference, including the Brisbane Declaration, is available from the Get involved website or contact Fergus Hogarth, Manager, eDemocracy Policy, Department of Communities on (07) 3227 7593 or by emailing fergus.hogarth@communities.qld.gov.au.

Related Links

  • Engaging Communities 2005
  • Engaging Communities 2005 audio webcast
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