This page belongs to: APS framework for engagement and participation


Engagement is a core skill for public servants, and a well-established and sophisticated profession.

It has rich traditions and established norms and practices. Like other professions, it has developed some specialised terms.

The framework defines common engagement terms it uses. Please note that different and very valid definitions of these terms exist. The definitions below were selected because they are most fit for purpose as a common engagement language for the APS. They were designed with and tested with public servants and the people they serve.

Indeed, both public servants and civil society have expressed the need for shared language to drive understanding, because the same terminology can mean different things to different people. This is a way to ensure that everyone is on the same page.


Processes through which public servants and the public interact. These processes seek to unearth and exchange expertise to design, improve and test policy, programs and services. They may also share information with the public about a policy, program or service.

This is obviously a broad and abstract definition. Engagements can include anything from information shared on a website or social media, to an issues paper process, a roundtable, a town hall meeting, co-design processes, participatory budgeting and a citizen jury.

To make it more meaningful, the framework’s ‘ways to engage’ classifies engagements into four concrete categories: share, consult, deliberate, and collaborate. See ‘ways to engage’ for further detail.


An expansive term, referring to useful knowledge or inputs that the public and civil society holds, that can improve policy, programs and service delivery. To make this more concrete, there are two types of expertise.

The first is expertise in the classic sense of technical skill or knowledge of a subject matter or field, in the way that lawyers have expertise about the law, scientists about science, nurses about nursing, business people about business, and so on.

But it also means less technical knowledge that is also crucial to good policy, programs and services. That is, people are the experts in their own lives, and on questions of basic values and priorities. They have opinions, preferences, user experience and practical know-how: is a (potentially functional) policy, program or service actually desirable? Does it really support the needs of end users? Will it work on the ground? Does it make sense, should it be trusted?

Public participation

Two-way communication and collaborative problem solving with the goal of achieving better and more acceptable decisions. It is a form of engagement which assumes active participation. For the purposes of this framework, public participation is mostly deliberative and collaborative forms of engagement with some elements of consultation.

The public

Everyone other than government and public servants, including civil society, business, media, private citizens, academics and not-for-profits.

More specifically, in the context of engagement, the public refers to anyone who has expertise to share or an interest in the work of government.