Burlington Community Engagement Charter - Version two.

Burlington has engaged in the creation of an Engagement Charter, which was one of the recommendations in the 2010 Shape Burlington report.

The creation of the Charter has not been an easy task and the document has yet to be approved by Council and made city policy.

The document set out below is the second version of the Charter put forward by the Engagement Charter Team after considerable discussion with senior city hall staff.

This document is expected go through additional revision.

  Burlington Community Engagement Charter – Version two

  1. 1.   Introduction

 The Burlington Community Engagement Charter is an agreement between and among the City of Burlington Council (City Council) and the citizens of Burlington concerning citizen engagement with city government. It establishes the commitments, responsibilities, and fundamental concepts of this relationship, based upon the City Council commitments set forth throughout this Charter.

This Charter’s overarching objective is to bring meaningful citizen contribution and insight to city decision-making by enhancing communications and access to information for citizens, and to facilitate and enable meaningful citizen engagement.

Details of the charter actions are presented in the Burlington Community Engagement Charter’s Action Plan and Staff Guide.

The Burlington Community Engagement Charter does not supersede existing laws, by-laws, statutes or acts.

 3. Charter Vision and Mission Statement


Burlington aspires to become increasingly more engaged and connected with its community.


To provide Burlington citizens, members of City Council and City staff a plain language, living, policy and procedural document that guides and promotes active and meaningful citizen engagement in the City of Burlington’s planning, policy-setting and decision-making processes.

4. Burlington City Council Commitments:

To fulfill the vision and mission of the Burlington Community Engagement Charter, City Council makes the following commitments:


The City of Burlington will be responsible to its stakeholders for decisions made and policies implemented, as well as its actions or inactions. [1]


The City of Burlington will actively encourage and facilitate stakeholder participation and openness in its decision-making processes. Additionally, transparency means that the City of Burlington’s decision-making process is open and clear to the public.[2]

Early and Widespread Notification

The City of Burlington will provide early and widespread notification to citizens about proposed developments, policies, initiatives, and municipal projects.[3]

Delegation Process

The City of Burlington Council’s delegation process, which allows citizens to address Council and Standing Committees on issues, will be respectful and welcoming.[4]

Clear Language

The City of Burlington will use plain and clear language in documents and public communications that is more engaging and understandable for citizens than technical language and jargon.[5]

Openness and Access to Information

The City of Burlington will provide open data and information to the public in recognized and useable formats to facilitate healthy discussion of city issues. The City of Burlington will provide a variety of ways, including routinely available information in on-line formats, print material, and face-to-face opportunities for citizens, city staff and Members of Council to share information and, discuss ideas and options.

Community Feedback

The City of Burlington will inform citizens how their input was considered and used or why it was not used in City projects, initiatives and policy development.

Capacity Building

The City of Burlington will support citizens and community groups to develop their skills, ability, and confidence to participate effectively with respect to decisions that affect their community and lives. This support will involve education and information about City processes, initiatives, and policies, as well as supporting citizens’ ability to connect with other citizens on city issues.

Inclusivity and Accessibility

The City of Burlington’s public engagement processes will involve and enable the participation of the full range of its diverse population. [6]

Adequate Resourcing

The City of Burlington will provide adequate resources including staffing and budget to achieve the goals of the Burlington Community Engagement Charter and to implement and realize its recommendations.[7]

Measurement, Evaluation and Review

A public process will be established in which The City of Burlington will measure and periodically review the effectiveness of the Burlington Community Engagement Charter. Improvement based on the evaluation of the success of public involvement processes will ensure that the Charter is a “living document”.

Conflict Resolution

Regardless of the best intentions of all involved, conflict can arise in the course of an engagement process. Depending on the type of conflict and the issues involved, different resolution mechanisms will be appropriate. Conflict resolution is described in appendix “A”.

 6. Public Participation Spectrum:

 Five levels of engagement, referenced from the IAP2’s Public[8] Participation Spectrum will be used in City of Burlington community engagement activities. A more complete description of the IAP Spectrum of Participation appears in appendix “B”.

7. Bringing Charter Commitments to Life

 The Charter establishes important citizen engagement commitments by the Burlington City Council.  This section summarizes City of Burlington practices and procedures to both define and implement those commitments and to bring to life citizen engagement.

Early and Widespread Notification:

The City of Burlington will have an early notification system that provides early information about planned policy development, projects, issues, meetings, and events.  This system will include notice posted on the City website about topics to be considered by Standing Committees and City Council at least two months prior to the relevant meetings.  The notice will include staff contact information for citizens who may have questions or wish to provide early input.

To ensure that notification is as widespread as possible, the City will use a multi-media approach including local print media, the City of Burlington website, other relevant websites, on-line digital communication, social media, as well as reaching out to groups that might have an interest or would be affected by decisions.  The City of Burlington will establish a direct notification system to which citizens and groups can sign up for early notification through email, social media, or other means.

Staff Reports:

When citizens have been engaged on a city initiative; prior to submitting the staff report to committee or council for decision, staff will check with citizen participants to ensure the report accurately reflects citizen input. This is especially important for major issues and long-term planning, with the noted exception of the city’s development section of the Planning and Building department. Usually this will be done through a response summary document or report section.

 Talking with Council – The Delegation Process:

The City will publish a document outlining the delegation process as a guide for citizens.

 Staff Training and Performance:

Public engagement training will be provided to all staff who will be engaging

citizens to ensure consistency in the engagement process.

Community engagement practice will be reflected in staff performance expectations, and measured in the same way as performance of any staff core competency.

Communication and Outreach:

Relevant and important information will be available through the website and social media, making information accessible to citizens when they require it.

Making relevant information available in print form, including newspapers, the City Talk publication, and special mailings, remains of great importance for many citizens and stakeholders

Full use should be made of all available sources and reference copies should be available at city libraries and community centers.

Inclusivity and Accessibility:

Enabling participation requires removing barriers to enable citizen participation. Examples of enabling actions may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Meeting the needs of persons with disabilities; the city relies on the City of Burlington Accessibility Advisory Committee; the Burlington Accessible Customer Service Guide: and the expert advice of City of Burlington Accessibility Coordinator. For more information on accessibility.
  • Using language that has been verified as being clear/plain;
  • prearranged, language translation; transportation; child care
  • options for participating online/digitally
  • Public involvement processes will consider ways to enable participation.

Citizen Advisory Committees:

Citizen Advisory Committees should provide both City Council and staff with a valuable array of experience, knowledge, skills, and community contacts, as well as being a source of informed advice on issues related to their Terms of Reference. For more information about Citizen Advisory Committees and enhancing their role and effectiveness, see appendix “C”.

 Capacity Building:

Capacity building will focus on increasing the number of participants, the frequency of participation, and knowledge, ability and skills of those involved to meaningfully participate in engagement processes.

Budgeting / Resourcing:

The City of Burlington will support implementation of the Burlington Community Engagement Charter by providing sufficient resources to ensure its success. These resources include:

  • Hiring of a full-time engagement coordinator at a senior level to manage the implementation and ongoing performance of the charter and related costs to support this function, and
  • Providing resources to implement the actions in the charter’s section – Bringing the Commitments to Life,  the charter’s outreach processes and the strategic actions described in the Burlington Community Engagement Charter’s Action Plan

Charter requirements will be met by city staff in their engagement work, and also by outside consultants or contractors hired by the city. Staff managing consultant-supported work will ensure that all external consultants are informed of Burlington’s engagement requirements and then advised on how to meet them. Advice will be provided by the city’s public involvement coordinator.

Measurement, Evaluation and Review:

Measurement and evaluation  will comprise a two-step process. Each community engagement plan will set out: its objectives; the steps to reach those objectives; and, specific and objective measures to determine success. At the conclusion of each project, staff will prepare a brief evaluation report assessing to what degree the success measures were met. The public who have participated will be asked to provide their assessment of the engagement activities as they are delivered, and these views will also form part of each evaluation report.

Each City department and the Engagement Coordinator will share responsibility for reviewing these evaluation reports as part of the continuous improvement process and create best practices to be shared and shortcomings to be addressed on an ongoing basis.

Evolution: The Charter and its implementation will be reviewed every year in the first two years, then every two years thereafter. This second level review will assess overall compliance and results, how to better the practice of engagement management, and the relevance of new factors, such as changes in technology and demographics that may influence the practice of citizen engagement.

These reviews will seek input from citizens, staff and members of city council and may include peer review. A key action in delivering continuous improvement will flow from the feedback provided to the community. Anticipated improvements will include using new technologies, engagement methods, the growth of staff competency, and the increasing capacity and participation of Burlington’s citizens.

The City will use a web-based reporting mechanism, similar to a report card, to inform the public of the City’s engagement performance in relation to the measures established by the Charter. Reporting will occur annually and the results will be posted to the City website.

Version 1 of the Charter


[1] Definition from City Council Procedural By-law 93-2010

[2] Definition from City Council Procedural By-law 93-2010

[3] Based on the Shape Burlington Report, April 2010

[4] Based on the Shape Burlington Report, April 2010

[5] Based on the Shape Burlington Report, April 2010

[6] Based on the Shape Burlington Report, April 2010, and the Report of the Burlington Inclusivity Advisory Committee, June 2010

[7] Based on the Shape Burlington Report, April, 2010

[8] Note: The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) uses the term ‘public’ to refer to what the charter calls citizens, ‘community’ or ‘stakeholders’.


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