Volume 1, Issue 2, 2007When Citizens and Officeholders Meet
Part 1: Variations in the Key Elements of Public Meetings
John Gastil and Todd Kelshaw
In recent years, thinking among public administrators and civic leaders has shifted from reliance on hierarchy and control in policymaking to a desire for collaboration and empowerment. With this shift have come new calls from civic reformers and public-minded officials for public participation in governance. This emphasis on participation by members of the public has necessitated the creation of novel venues for citizens and officeholders to meet. But do both lay and professional participants have the communicative attitudes and aptitudes conducive to effective collaboration in these new public meetings? In order to answer this question, we need first to take a look at public meetings in general. Here we develop a framework for examining the connections between key elements of such meetings, including goals, communication strategies, and task and relational outcomes. This essay, the first in a two-part series, provides a conceptual grounding that will facilitate the development of a typology of public meetings.