3 comments on “Why We Should Stop Using the Word ‘Citizen’

  • Andy Kuhn says:

    My worry in this effort is that if governments amend the word citizen, then the public will echo that effort by engaging even less. The concept of citizenry is already severely misunderstood and under-utilized and the tourist nature of the community residency would only be furthered by use of a term so encompassing and non-binding.

    • Francesca Patricolo says:

      People are motivated to engage when they understand how they could be impacted by decisions and are provided with entry to engage at levels of participation that work for them, that are culturally-relevant, and based in the languages they speak, period. The truth is that “citizen” is NOT synonymous to our “public” and we serve the public with every effort to avoid concentrated burdens and promote social and racial equity and inclusion. It’s a slippery slope fallacy to imply that people need to see themselves as “citizens” to see themselves as participants, stakeholders, interested parties, or individuals potentially impacted by our plans, public policy, or project decisions.

  • Francesca Patricolo says:

    On August 18, 2016, the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) USA Board of Directors acknowledged the need to review all the organization’s materials to ensure use of inclusive, bias-free language and specifically remove instances where the word “citizen” is used as synonymous to “public.” The IAP2 USA Board discussed that the term “citizen” may be interpreted to imply perceived exclusion -which is contrary to the organization’s explicit commitment to inclusion. Board members noted use of the term “citizen” is contrary to social and racial equity ideals in best practice of public participation, may alienate and limit participation among people who experience anything other than United States “citizenship,” is not culturally sensitive and there are a number of alternative word choice options, such as “community member” that could be used instead. Board members noted the reality of historical oppression based on citizenship and acknowledged that individuals experiencing anything other than citizenship may therefore interpret the term “citizen” in context of exclusion, persecution and fear. I’ll also note that this oppression is not just “historical”.

    The IAP2 USA Board of Directors passed the following resolution:

    1. IAP2 USA commits to inclusive, bias-free language in all the content we author and publish. This work will begin by removing the word “citizen” and continue with other language that needs to be addressed.
    2. Over the next year, staff and volunteers will work through all our internal and external materials to ensure we are using inclusive, bias-free language throughout.
    3. To guide our decisions, we will use recognized references on inclusive, bias-free language that are Internet-accessible, and regularly updated.
    4. We will proactively share this commitment and the reference information with authors and reviewers (staff, volunteers, contractors, and others) of all communications, include this in our Governance information, and routinely monitor our communications to ensure we meet our own expectations.

    Still interested to know if anyone has any recommendations for #3!

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