Policy Impacts

AmericaSpeaks’ citizen engagement strategies are designed to shape critical plans and policies by bringing together large, highly diverse groups of citizens in informed deliberations that are directly linked to policy making. Our experience has shown that well-designed public processes can help public priorities to impact the reallocation of public funds and resources, shifts in public policy, the shaping of official plans, and the creation of community agendas that are driven by multi-sector implementation bodies.

  • A Harvard University study of AmericaSpeaks involvement in the creation of the Unified New Orleans plan found that the public’s involvement significantly impacted stakeholder’s views about the planning process:

“Interviews with 20 New Orleans public leaders indicated that [the 2nd Community Congress] enhanced the credibility of UNOP in their eyes by gathering a representative mix of citizen voices and enabling conversation across difference.”

Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge Morrell told the Harvard researcher: “I think it has done more to bring credibility to the table than all of the little individual meetings that people go to.”

  • Interviews with stakeholders by Columbia University researchers in New York after AmericaSpeaks’ 21st Century Town Meeting® about the World Trade Center redevelopment process found that the public had a significant impact on the planning process:

“Former LMDC Vice President for Design and Planning Alex Garvin argues that Listening to the City was critical in giving him the leverage he needed to open up the design process against the original wishes of the Port Authority.”

According to the New York Times: Governor Pataki decided it is “time to go back to the drawing board” in response to “a wave of public dismay over the first designs for rebuilding Lower Manhattan.”

  • Research by two independent evaluations firms about AmericaSpeaks’ statewide conversation on health care reform found that the policy positions of leaders shifted in the direction of the public’s priorities and that stakeholders credited the process with creating momentum for reform:

“While it is not possible to know the exact reasons why a certain policy changed over time, it is clear that that the policy debate overall did move to reflect more closely the preferences found by CaliforniaSpeaks by the time the debate ended in January 2008.”

“Most respondents felt that CaliforniaSpeaks was a successful mechanism for public involvement. Respondents believed that the event helped politicians to hear the opinions of average citizens and to build momentum around health care reform. … According to the policymakers interviewed, that engagement created a sense of political momentum, even urgency, in Sacramento as legislators and their staffs were reminded of the need for reform.”