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  • What does learning by listening bring to citizen engagement

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What does learning by listening bring to citizen engagement?: Lessons from a government program

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number102132
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>21/07/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Public Relations Review
Issue number1
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)1-8
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date21/01/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In public relations research, the concept of engagement is often theorized but seldom observed in practice. This research focuses on what public leaders learn when they undertake actions centered on learning by listening to society to implement governmental citizen engagement programs. Taking an inductive grounded approach to data analysis which draws on tools and methods of grounded theory as well as including a review of key concepts from public relations literature, a reflexive analysis of an action learning intervention involving the members of a provincial government was conducted. Results show that, when reflecting on interaction with stakeholders of the program, government members: increase their knowledge about both sides of the public organization-society relationship; become more sensitive to what listening is and implies, and, hence, more supportive of two-way communication; are challenged about the authenticity of the motivations behind their listening; become more aware of ways in which they work to build social capital; and, subsequently, increase their willingness to act together with society. This paper shows that reflection on the real implementation of engagement programs gives policy makers a better understanding of normative assumptions, and hence it instantiates public relations theories and concepts about engagement. By identifying acting-by-listening as integral to citizen engagement, it presents implications for the study and practice of public relations in public sector organizations.