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Civic engagement


The Guelph Lab is working with the City of Guelph, the Guelph Wellington Local Immigration Partnership and KidsAbility to build civic engagement in Guelph.

From setting climate goals to deciding the location and programming of a new rec centre, the City makes decisions that drastically shape the lives of residents. These decisions are often difficult and sometimes contentious. Constructive engagement with residents offers elected officials and City staff the insights, perspective, and sensitivity that these difficult public issues demand.

We currently have two projects underway to better understand civic engagement locally and identify potential interventions: 

  • Bikes for Community Connection - A project of Guelph Wellington Local Immigration Partnership (GWLIP), Guelph Coalition for Active Transit, Immigrant Services Guelph Wellington, Bike Friendly Guelph (Transportation Services, City of Guelph) and the Guelph Lab

  • Equity, Civic Engagement and Road Safety - A project of Transportation Services (City of Guelph), Geography, Environment and Geomatics (UofG) and the Guelph Lab.

The Problem

Good democratic processes are essential in enabling constructive civic engagement. Similarly, we must build the readiness and capacity of all community members and organizations to play an active role in the governance and life of their community. Successful civic engagement is possible, including most recently through the Community Plan. 

There are two sides to this challenge. Firstly, building the capacity of all community members to play an active role in the governance and life of their community. Secondly, good democratic processes that enable residents to meaningfully participate in local government. We will need to address a number of themes identified by a sample of City staff and leaders of local community organizations, including: 

  • Civic Literacy, Democratic Participation - Civic literacy rates are unevenly distributed among Canadians. Citizens with higher socioeconomic status, who have things like more wealth and better education, tend to have higher levels of civic literacy and they have higher levels of democratic participation as well    

  • Policy Making Process - Delegating to City Council can be an intimidating and at times frustrating experience for residents, meetings can run into the night, and are not always a constructive or timely source of advice and perspective for Council 

  • Engagement Processes – Despite successful community engagement efforts, many municipal decisions can feel opaque and complicated to residents 

  • Collaborative Local Governance – Municipalities cannot tackle our most pressing social, environmental and economic challenges alone. Instead, these challenges demand the collective efforts and intelligence of a wide-range of stakeholders 

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