"Citizen engagement is coming of age," observes Rob Gurwitt. "Local governments are experimenting as never before, pushed by the excruciating decisions that come with tight budgets, the ubiquity of social media and the development of new online deliberation tools. Behind it is a recognition that the time-worn public hearing may not be the best and is certainly not the only way to interact with the public."
While opinions differ on the goals and methods for increasing civic participation, "local governments across the country now seem to be at a tipping point," writes Gurwitt. “'We’re in a period of great ferment,' says James Svara, a political scientist at Arizona State University who studies public engagement efforts. 'Governments are trying all these things, and eventually it will become a standard practice and we’ll see a new consensus about what it all means.'”