"The Davenport Institute is a very unusual and exciting organization because it is helping civic innovators inspire, support, and learn from one another on a state-wide basis. This is an ambitious and much-needed role... By connecting local civic experiments, fostering new ones, and looking for new ways to connect citizen voices with state-level policymaking, the Davenport Institute has taken a leading role in the field of democratic governance." - Matt Leighninger, Executive Director, Deliberative Democracy Consortium (Washington, DC) and author of The Next Form of Democracy (2007), a national study of civic engagement.
Since our 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 this state in the policy decisions that affect our everyday lives. It is our firm belief that, in today's world of easy access to information, and easy connectivity to others, California's municipal and education leaders are seeking 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.
The Davenport Institute works with city governments, school districts, and civic organizations in the following three ways:
The Davenport Institute believes that citizen engagement produces better policy solutions and better citizens. To this end, we currently offer 3 seminars to help leaders improve their skills in public engagement: a half-day "101" seminar that provides a solid foundation in best practices in public processes and how leaders can assess their current efforts and evaluate the level at which to engage their residents; a full day program that goes deeper into process design and the essentials of meeting facilitation; and a full day training on what leaders should know about "Gov 2.0." All seminars are aimed toward mid- and uppser-level department management, city managers, elected officials, civic leaders, and other leaders in local and regional government organizations. In addition, the leadership of the Davenport Institute promotes the process of citizen engagement through speeches, op-eds, conference panels, and other opportunities throughout the year. If you would like our Executive Director or one of our Board Members to speak about citizen engagement in your community, just contact us.
The Davenport Institute works both directly and indirectly to support citizen engagement projects financially. First, the Davenport Institute devotes a significant portion of our annual budget to grant-making. Through our Public Engagement Grant Program, the Davenport Institute offers communities financial support up to $25,000 to carry out a legitimate engagement project. Through our relationships with community and statewide foundations, the Davenport Institute has also brought outside funding to bear when necessary.
The Davenport Institute has relationships with major practitioners in the field of citizen engagement around the country. Because we know the specific strengths of the various methodologies, we serve as a "matchmaker" between municipalities and these professional firms. Additionally, we know that creative leaders around the state develop some of the best citizen engagement campaigns at the grassroots level. The Davenport Institute can connect these people with others who might be looking for a more "home-grown" solution to their particular policy challenge.