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.

New to Civic Engagement? Check out our foundational documents »

Your experiences with the PE spectrum

Those of you who have attended Davenport Institute trainings have heard us talk about how, when it comes to public engagement, purpose determines process and offer the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) “Public Participation Spectrum” as a helpful way of determining what your purpose is and what type of process might help you achieve it.

IAP2 Canada is asking whether its time for a refresh.  If you’ve used the PE Spectrum in your municipality, your feedback could be very valuable:

Over the coming months, IAP2 Canada will be seeking out and welcoming input from anyone around the world with something to say about the IAP2 Spectrum.  We are providing a loose structure around the conversation (offering a few key questions to guide discussions), and offering to serve as a central repository for ideas and questions, which we’ll do our best to report on, and respond to on behalf of the IAP2 Federation which holds copyright for the Spectrum.

So join the engagement about engagement!  You can find out more here.

Grantee Update – News from Riverside

The Davenport Institute has been pleased to partner with the City of Riverside in their neighborhood engagement program through our annual grant program.  Riverside recently released a video highlighting one event from this program – check it out here.

Could your community use some support for a public engagement project?  The 2015 grant period is open right now.  Find out more about our grants and apply online on our website.

Bipartisan Conversations on California Governance

Davenport Institute Executive Director Pete Peterson is one of four panelists in a series of bi-partisan conversations around the state of California hosted by California Forward.  The series seeks to blend conversation across party lines with public engagement for a vibrant conversation about California governance in the 21st Century:

California Forward has held multiple regional convenings to get input from civic and political leaders on what the next steps should be. We also convened a group of four bi-partisan leaders for in-depth conversations on the subject – Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin (R), former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (D), Davenport Institute Director and recent candidate for Secretary of State Pete Peterson (R), and former president of Green Dot Public Schools and recent candidate for Superintendent of Instruction Marshall Tuck (D).

The discussions were so thoughtful and constructive that we encouraged them to continue their conversations in front of public audiences. The first of these will be held in San Jose on August 19. A second is slated for Clovis on September 23. Others will be scheduled across California this year and next.

You can read more about the upcoming events here.

Whose Job is it Anyway?

The City of Winnepeg, Manitoba is asking that question about clearing snowy sidewalks in winter:

“We typically look at it annually during the budgeting process,” said Brad Sacher, director of public works, adding the city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every winter clearing sidewalks.

“We’re asked to look at what kind of efficiencies we can find, and this one sticks out like a sore thumb because so many other cities do it this way.”

Coun. Janice Lukes, chairwoman of the public works committee, said if Sacher doesn’t raise the issue in a pending cost-benefit analysis of snow clearing, she will make sure it becomes part of the public debate.

“We should put the facts on the table about what it costs,” Lukes (St. Norbert) said. “We’re one of the very few cities that do it.”

This sort of returning responsibility to residents is happening is cities across the US and Canada in the wake of the 2008 recession.  Where trade-offs are understood and resident engagement is invited, engaging residents in service provision can be beneficial.  But without it, it can lead to quite a battle.  You can read more here.

Toward “Meaningful Engagement”

Ron Littlefield, writing last month to hail the announcement City Accelerator’s Cohort 2 project, believes civic engagement efforts have taken on a new importance in today’s social climate.

A former mayor of Chattanooga, TN, Littlefield witnessed that city’s “turnaround,” in which he argues civic engagement efforts were critical:

It’s a wonderful story and one that we enjoy telling and retelling, but the hard fact is that the methods used to engage the public back in the 1970s and 80s don’t work as well today. The world is different, and the media environment is certainly different. Public information and public relations tactics that worked well when there were just three channels on a television set and people actually read the local newspaper are no longer effective. Meaningful engagement must be accomplished using new methods and new tools…

So what does all of this mean as we embark on Cohort 2 of City Accelerator? Will all of this really make a difference in the lives of the urban poor, the frustrated and disaffected, the alienated youth, the discouraged, the homeless and the hungry? If you could roll the tape (as we used to say) and see once again with your own eyes what was written on the shirts and placards of those marching and demonstrating — even those throwing rocks and bottles and otherwise engaging in the drastic and dramatic events of recent history — it can all be summed up in three words: “Listen to Us!” As hard as it might be to get beyond the heat and anger and prejudice that brought us to this point, meaningful engagement is really the most important and effective thing that we can do to try to turn things around for the better.

Read the full story at Governing here.