inCommon is the Participatory Governance Blog of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy. Here you will find information about the latest resources, studies, programs and discussions about Civic Engagement in California, throughout the nation and around the world. We hope that the case studies and technological innovations discussed here will spark new reflection and conversation regarding both what legitimate civic engagement looks like and why it is important for good governance, particularly at the local level.

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Friday Deadline: What Works Cities

After an encouraging phone call with senior staff at the DC-based Results for Amercia, we at the Davenport Institute wanted to inform you all of a great opportunity for cities across the country.

What Works Cities (WWC) is a national intitiative working with cities across the country to improve their use of data and evidence to engage residents, make government more effective, and improve residents’ lives. Through world-class partners, including the Harvard/Kennedy School’s Performance Lab and the Sunlight Foundation, the initiative provides technical assistance to cities with populations between 100,000 and 1,000,000 who are committed and excited to improve the way they use data in governance.

WWC is gearing up to select the next group of cities to receive support from these experts. All applications received by February 8 will be considered for the next round of selection. You can learn more and join the movement by submitting a brief Statement of interest HERE.

WWC is currently working with San Jose, San Francisco and Victorville, and have been engaged with Richmond, Oakland, Pasadena, and Long Beach.  Excited for more California cities to come!

Still Accelerating

Ron Littlefield, lead analyst for the City Accelerator initiative at the Governing Institute, discusses how several cities in Cohort II of the initiative are “rewriting the rules of public engagement”:

Perhaps I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I have a long and sometimes tortured history with the process of civic engagement. If you have read this far, chances are you know the feeling first hand. But you persevere — because it matters.

In an earlier post, I recalled Chattanooga’s former Mayor Gene Roberts once announcing, after an exhausting city commission meeting, that public officials who failed to live blameless lives would likely be condemned to a purgatory of eternal zoning hearings.

As a city planner and elected official, I have endured more than my share of that particular sort of hell on Earth. I know firsthand how depressing the process of civic engagement can be.

However, nothing is more important in sustaining democracy than an involved citizenry.

Read more at Governing here about various engagement efforts City Accelerator is supporting. Over at our Gov 2.0 Watch, we have featured Eric Gordon’s thoughts on the challenges of incorporating new communications technologies into civic engagement processes, also in connection with City Accelerator.

Contributor: Ben Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16


St Paul: Pop Up Civic Engagement

St. Paul, MN is bringing “city hall to the people” with a pop-up van, swapping ice-pops for locals’ opinions:

Last year, the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, held countless planning meetings in church basements and community centers across town. A couple hundred people showed up.

The city also held pop-up meetings out of a van parked at busy intersections — and spoke to over a thousand people, most of whom had never before been to a city meeting.

“City artist” Amanda Lovelee came up with the idea, partly out of frustration and partly based on self-reflection:

Lovelee was working with a landscape architect to design a more compelling presentation on a playground redesign. “I was like, ‘I’m going to blow their socks off,’” Lovelee says. “So we have our first meeting, and it’s in the basement of a nursing home and it’s at 7 p.m. And I think, like, seven or eight people showed up.” Thus was Lovelee’s introduction to the world of public meeting participation — or non-participation, as is often the case.

Lovelee and other city staff were excited to hear from residents who don’t make typical city hall meetings, broadening the range of input. Read Rachel Kaufman’s fun story at Next City here.

Contributor: Ben Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16.