Gov. John Hickenlooper answers questions using Engaged Public's keypad polling tool.
When policymakers are confronted with problems that are unsolvable through the typical political process, how do residents become involved to set a vision, identify and evaluate options, and support recommendations? Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, during his 2012 State of the State speech, initiated a nonpartisan, collaborative project called TBD Colorado with the goal of using citizen engagement to solve compelling state issues. Organized as an independent entity with a board of directors, the initiative brought together an ideologically diverse group of framers to kick start informed and constructive conversations among Coloradans about five state issues: education, health, transportation, state budget and state workforce.
The TBD Colorado name relates to the "To Be Determined" acronym and captures the process of Coloradans determining the future of their state, actively learning about issues and joining one another to develop creative solutions.
In 2011, the board selected Engaged Public from a slate of public policy firms to design and implement TBD Colorado, and serve as researchers, architects of conversation and policy analysts.
Engaged Public designed TBD Colorado to:
- Utilize subject matter expertise developed from five diverse groups of framers who come from an array of ideological and practical perspectives.
- Use this input to develop high-quality, neutral background information, both written and video, on key issues.
- Disseminate the information in 40 regions of the state through 64 public meetings attended by regional representatives from diverse backgrounds.
- Allow communities to identify shared values illustrated in word clouds and learn together about critical issues.
- Use top-quality facilitation talent and technological tools including keypad polling and an interactive Backseat Budgeter online tool to gather input.
- Take all input, and from the most promising ideas, identify creative solutions to policy issues.
- Present policy options to the Governor and legislators.
TBD Colorado was a statewide success that went above and beyond just engaging citizens. The program was the impetus for real change across the state, including:
- Approval of $10 million in increased funding for Early Childhood Education, creating about 3,250 slots for low-income children.
- Approval of Medicaid expansion with the cost containments that provided coverage to an additional 160,000 individuals.
- Voter approval of state personnel reform after 11 previous failed attempts.
- Gubernatorial support for a grand bargain on education financing and reforms.
- Growth in support for constitutional reform to address core finding of state’s unsustainable fiscal course.
- Transportation funding and refinancing efforts to assess overall financing.
- Emphasis on health and wellness in the state’s new health agenda released by the Governor.
Citizen Engagement by the Numbers
- 1,200: Coloradans engaged in unprecedented effort to learn, discuss and provide input on some of the state's most important issues.
- 42%: Participants who changed their opinions on a policy issue during the process.
- 1,000+: Facebook followers.
- 160: Ideas submitted and "crowd sourced" via an online engagement platform.
- 70: Community meetings hosted.
- 40: Regions across Colorado.
- 85%: Participants who "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that their understanding of major policy issues facing the state increased.
- 600+: Twitter followers.
- 90%: Of participants would do it again.
Engaged Public: Capabilities and Expertise
The Engaged Public team brings a specific and unique set of skills to the table that help make public engagement campaigns a success, including:
- Comprehensive leadership
- Impeccable understanding of the policy environment
- Negotiation, consensus and relationship-building skills
- Conversation architecture creation, logistics, and group facilitation
- Transparency to ensure integrity of process
- Research, report writing, policy analysis and content production
- Public relations and media relations support
- Innovative methodology utilizing technology tools, including:
- Rapid response, flexibility and adaptability to change process to meet changing results
- Synthesis of old tools (written analysis) with new tools (keypad polling, budget simulation)
- Political "savvy" to develop implementable recommendations
- Ability to facilitate ideologically diverse viewpoints and opinions for any organization, event or community
- Responsiveness to parties whose views may or may not carry the day
- Delivery of meaningful, actionable policy recommendations
- Willingness to go the extra step and work harder, even outside original template