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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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Community Partnerships for Safety

Sequoia Station, a shopping center near a Caltrans station in Redwood City, California, had become a place where public intoxication, panhandling and theft were the norm. However, the Redwood City Police Department partnered with both businesses in the shopping center and mental health facilities to combat the rising crime in the area. Project SAFE was designed to reduce crime in the shopping center while at the same time training businesses on safety issues, reporting crime ,and other issues. The project is bringing an increase in business, and a decrease in truancy at the adjacent Sequoia High School:

Building collaborative relationships with mental health agencies, homeless advocacy services, business owners and other stakeholders has had a positive impact on the area’s patrons. Many homeless individuals and others in need of treatment for alcohol and substance abuse have been paired with the appropriate support services. Expectations and agreements that were established between local mental health agencies and the police department have resulted in greater accountability associated with practices affecting mental health clients at Sequoia Station.

You can read more here.

Contributor: Elliott Parisi, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candiate ’15

A Grocer Trying to Save the 9th Ward

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, especially the 9th Ward. Before the hurricane more than 14,000 people lived in this district, now only 3,000 people currently live in the 9th Ward. Enter Burnell Cotlon. He has bought a two-story building within the district and has set up a barbershop and a convenience store. In November he opened a grocery store in this building. Before, people in the district had to travel 3 miles to go to the closest grocery store. Now, they have one in their neighborhood.

New Orleans native Burnell Cotlon has spent the last five years on a mission. He’s turning a two-story building that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (along with most of his Lower 9th Ward neighborhood), into a shopping plaza. Already, he’s opened a barber shop and a convenience store, and as of last November, is providing the neighborhood — identified as a food desert — with its first full-service grocery store in almost a decade.

You can read more here.

Contributor: Elliott Parisi, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’15.

New Grant Projects Underway

Earlier this year we announced a new grant project undertaken in partnership with The Village Square to build better capacity for conversations between residents in California Cities.  Last month we announced that our first grants would go to two very different cities: City of Palmdale and City of Palo Alto.  As we head into the new year we’re gearing up to get those projects underway.  You can read about the Palmdale project in the Antelope Valley Times:

Along with Palo Alto, Palmdale will receive services and expenses valued at $15,000 through the Village Square’s “Dinner at the Square” program, which is designed to improve the way residents in diverse communities engage with one another. . .

(Liz) Joyner explained that the Village Square is founded on the notion that getting involved in the civic life of your community shouldn’t be dull. “We’re all busy with the responsibilities of our lives, so for people to bother to come out in their free time to participate, we think it better be worth it,” said Joyner. “We chose Palmdale for this grant because we think their ideas are highly deserving of their citizens’ valuable time.”

read more.