people visiting displays and talking to staff

Public Participation Playbook

The following information is outlined in the City of Raleigh’s Public Participation Playbook, adopted by the City Council in July 2020.

Public engagement fulfills the City’s commitment to Raleigh residents by defining goals, identifying the needs of communities, and determining key audiences. It creates an opportunity for City staff to ensure that the decisions made reflect the needs of residents and provides a platform for residents to guide those decisions.

The role of the public in the decision-making process will vary based on the project. It is necessary to identify the role of the public and the level of its participation in the decision-making process to determine the appropriate type of public engagement.

IAP2 Spectrum 

The IAP2 Spectrum of Participation, developed by the International Association for Public Participation, was designed to assist with the selection of the level of participation that defines the public’s role and the public participation goal that will drive the engagement process. Each level of public participation, and the accompanying goal on the spectrum, suggests that a commitment is being made to the public and that the agency promises to take the identified action that will achieve the goal of the level selected.

IAP2 Spectrum of Participation

(Source: Planning for Effective Public Participation, Foundations in Public Engagement, IAP2 Internation Federation 2016, p. 29-30)
 Increasing level of participation


Public Participation Goal
To provide the public with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the problem,  alternatives, opportunities and/or solutions.To obtain public feedback on analysis, alternatives and/or decisions. To work directly with the public throughout the process to ensure that public concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered. To partner with the public in each aspect of the decision including the development of alternatives and the identification of the preferred solution. To place final decision making in the hands of the public
Promise to the Public
We will keep you informed. We will keep you informed, listen to and acknowledge concerns and aspirations, and provide feedback on how public input influenced the decision. We will work with you to ensure that your concerns and aspirations are directly reflected in the alternatives developed and provide feedback on how public input influenced the decision.We will look to you for advice and innovation in formulating solutions and incorporate your advice and recommendations into the decisions to the maximum extent possible.We will implement what you decide.
Example of Tools
Fact sheets, websites, open houses, mailings, social mediaPublic comment, focus groups, surveys, public meetingsWorkshops, deliberative pollingStakeholder advisory committees, consensus-building, participatory decision-makingStakeholder Resident juries, ballots, delegated decisions
citizen sharing ideas on a sticky note


The Inform pathway is a form of one-way communication conducted by the City of Raleigh to provide information to community members.


The Consult pathway is where community members are informed of and can provide feedback on provided options, but have little to no involvement in developing solutions.


The Involve pathway allows for more discussion with community members, as well as flexibility for alternative outcomes in the project; however, it is important to be transparent with the public about the final decision-making process before expectations are formed. 


The Collaborate Pathway emphasizes the partnership between community members and the City, where a level of decision-making control is delegated to the community involved. 

Note: Public involvement in the Collaborate Pathway typically involves a Community Advisory Group (CAG) which is a membership-specific committee that provides oversight of the project planning process and ensures that decisions include a broad representation of the community and stakeholders impacted by the project. CAG members help facilitate information sharing between the community and planning staff.

Decision-making often takes the form of consensus, which requires opposing interests to work together to develop a common and mutually acceptable solution. While final decision-making authority rests with elected officials, the public can influence decision-making and assist in making informed choices by helping to define the problem, generate a range of alternatives, develop evaluation criteria, and make recommendations.


The Empower pathway allows the community to make the final decisions.



Ellen Colón
Community Relations Strategist

Community Engagement
Service Categories:
Community Engagement