Future of Civic Engagement

Civic engagement refers to the inclusion of citizens in public sector decision-making. Deliberative exercises can take place for matters ranging from a micro-to-macro scale, from the installation of community bike lanes to the revision of the Penal Code. With more digital technologies and innovative platforms, it has become easier for citizens to share their views on a variety of topics. However, it may not be as easy for governments and policymakers globally to capture and respond to public sentiments. Civic participation is not only a topic of interest in Singapore; it is of critical policy importance.

Looking ahead, these are the “likely known” trends that will shape the future of civic engagement:

  1. Growth of digital technologies and interactive platforms that increase connectivity and enable civic activities. This may open up new ways to engage with the political system (e.g. digital voting, e-courts), and the resulting awareness and excitement may be a catalyst in lifting apathy towards public affairs. While new technological tools help to bring people together for a common purpose, echo chambers may arise within communities that are driven more by a hive-mind mentality than collective deliberation.

  2. Possible rise in citizen’s interest in deliberative processes, with the population being more educated and more vocal in expressing their views and engaging in robust debates.

This theme will focus on the future of civic participation and how we can incorporate more citizens’ voices in the governance process, and to do so in a manner that is equitable, effective, and consistent. Civic engagement in a future-ready society should be guided by the following elements: inclusivity, transparency, trust, embracing opposing views, and action.

To be future-ready, new forms of participation must be envisioned and spearheaded, rather than being led by technological advancements. This means that citizen participation should create avenues where the state, community, and individuals can interact and share their own understanding and expertise, while possibly correcting each other’s misinformation and learning. These new forms of participation will also build social capital among the participants and the state agencies involved.