Davenport Institute Report Indicates California Is Facing “Golden Opportunity” To Rethink Citizen Engagement In Local Government

Share Article

A report just issued by Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership finds that California’s tough economy is causing cities, towns and counties across the state to rethink how they tackle some of their toughest challenges. A new collaborative approach to governance, it notes, is key.

A report just issued by Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership finds that California’s tough economy is causing cities, towns and counties across the state to rethink how they tackle some of their toughest challenges. A new collaborative approach to governance, it notes, is key.

The report, “Golden Governance: Building Effective Public Engagement in California,” came about from collaboration among the Davenport Institute, the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), California Forward and the Center for Individual and Institutional Renewal. It is available for download at http://www.goldengovernance.org.

Seven California communities are cited in the report as having reacted to the current financial situation by rethinking the role of citizen engagement in governance. The report also pointed out that local leaders are learning that they need to fundamentally change their approach to governance to meet the expectations and demands of an increasingly informed citizenry. As a result, the state of California is becoming a hotbed for innovative approaches that establish productive relationships between government and citizens that, in turn, can provide solutions for meeting the financial and service needs of their community.

“This new kind of leadership produces better, more creative policy solutions and better, more engaged citizens committed to the hard work of self-governance,” said Pete Peterson, Executive Director of the Davenport Institute. “In an era of tight budgets, public engagement has moved beyond ‘good government’ to necessary governance,” Peterson added.

Among the six projects highlighted in the report is a $72 million water treatment project in Redwood City that met with citizen resistance. City Manager Ed Everett invited citizens to develop alternatives for meeting water conservation goals that stayed within the city’s timeframe and budget. Their solution – to replace public grass fields with artificial turf – was one that City Hall had never even considered. Yet, it accomplished the project goals with less controversy.

“Redwood City is just one example of how citizens and government officials can come together to identify innovate policy solutions,” said Peterson. “Local government officials simply need to be prepared to enter into collaborative governance with an open mind and not a predisposed outcome.”

In addition to specific examples of projects from around California, the report features a series of hard-learned lessons aimed at informing civic leaders, elected officials and citizens on how to best pursue collaborative governance. Ongoing engagement, it notes, is critical and often determines the success or failure of a collaborative approach to governance. To this end, the report includes a list of online resources to help foster increased and sustained community participation.

“Technology certainly plays a role in the trend toward collaborative governance,” noted David B. Smith, Executive Director of the National Conference on Citizenship. “Online engagement, social media and mobile applications all work to foster increased engagement, but there is a human element. as well. Public officials need to be prepared to meet the expectations of informed and engaged citizens and invest the time required to involve people in the process.”
In addition to the report, sponsoring organizations also unveiled a new Web site – http://www.goldengovernance.org – that will serve as an ongoing resource for communities and citizens to investigate new approaches to innovative governance. Elected officials, community members, and civic leaders are invited to join in the conversation and share their own stories of success on the GoldenGovernance.org blog.

About the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement at Pepperdine University

Since its founding as a multi-partisan and non-profit organization in 2005, The Davenport Institute (formerly Common Sense California) has worked to engage the citizens of California in the policy decisions that affect people’s everyday lives. The Institute believes that, in today's world of easy access to information and easy connectivity to others, California's municipal and civic leaders must seek ways to involve the residents of their communities in the important issues they confront. Done legitimately, this new kind of leadership produces better, more creative policy solutions and better, more engaged citizens committed to the hard work of self-governance.
http://publicpolicy.pepperdine.edu/davenport-institute/

About the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC)

The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) believes that everyone has the power to make a difference in how their community and country thrive. A dynamic, non-partisan nonprofit working at the forefront of the nation’s civic life, NCoC continuously explores what shapes today’s citizenry, defines the evolving role of the individual in our democracy, and uncovers ways to motivate greater participation. Through events, research and reports, NCoC expands the nation’s contemporary understanding of what it means to be a citizen. It seeks new ideas and approaches for creating greater civic health and vitality throughout the United States. More information can be found at http://www.NCoC.net.

About California Forward

California Forward, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, is working to bring government closer to the people. It believes that empowered local communities are best equipped to solve their own problems.

Committed to partnering with others across the state to develop Fiscal Reform, Operational Reform and Democracy Reform efforts, California Forward also engages in a statewide conversation on reform, Speak Up CA, in which citizens across the state will be given an opportunity to learn more and help shape reform proposals.

California Forward is supported or endorsed by an unprecedented diversity of more than 200 business, labor, faith and community organizations from across the state.

###

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Bill Krenn
Pepperdine University
(310) 506-6589
Email >

Molly Drobnick
Pepperdine University
(310) 506-6586
Email >
Visit website