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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Local Engagement in A Global Age

We live in an increasingly global age, and the scale of global challenges can be overwhelming . But sometimes tackling global challenges begins at home. Active civic engagement can amass ideas towards positive global change. Take for example, The CityLab, a three days project designed for “constructive dialogue” and the creation of “scalable solutions for city leaders to share with their constituencies across the world.”  That’s happening right now in Los Angeles:

This Monday and Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles, The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and Bloomberg Philanthropies are bringing together an incredible group of more than 300 global mayors, urban experts, city planners, writers, technologists, economists, and designers for the second annual “CityLab: Urban Solutions to Global Challenges.” The CityLab is, “Hosted by The Atlantic in partnership with The Aspen Institute and Bloomberg Philanthropies, CityLab is one of our most innovative programs of the year, bringing together 300+ of the world’s top mayors, urban experts, city planners, writers, technologists, economists, and designers.

You can read more here.

Contributor: Sarah Mirembe, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16. 


When You Build It and They Don’t Come

Is there anything worse than a public engagement effort that devolves into a shouting match?  If there is, it might just be a public engagement effort with no public in attendance at all.  A recent public engagement event in the UK focused on crime and police response and drew exactly one attendant:

Only one person turned up to a public engagement event held by Devon and Cornwall’s police and crime commissioner. Tony Hogg and senior officers had organised the meeting in Exeter, billing it as a way of holding those at the top to account.

The only person there was Gail Hickman from Bideford, who wanted to complain about anti-social behaviour. . .

While this outcome may be exactly what many public officials fear for their own engagement efforts, it highlights the importance of preparing for engagement before hand.  Do you know who the stakeholders in your community are who can help frame questions and drive attendance?  Do you have relationships with local media (traditional and new) to help promote efforts?  Are you ready to engage – is there sufficient public trust?  Are there ways of taking the conversation out to the people rather than asking them to come to City Hall?

It is never enough just to assume that if you plan it, they will come.

You can read more here.  And a piece on how a lack of trust may be at the core of the problem in this particular instance here.

Service as a tool for engagement

“Leading by example” can be a powerful way for governments to encourage residents to engage in policy.  If leaders take charge in directly connecting with the people and servicing the prevailing needs at the grass root level, there is a higher probability for communities to emulate these endeavors. A ripple effect is created which extends beyond neighborhoods to states, thus broadening the leadership platform and increasing “participatory governance,” as leaders connect to the voice of the people. This is the model for “State Pathways to Prosperity,” a project initiated in the state of Tennessee, but also implemented in the Alaskan city of Anchorage, where “nearly 200 state leaders, guests and Alaska legislative staff helped pack more than 30,000 meals for the Alaska Food Bank”:

“Hunger is all too pervasive in every state and not only is it an obvious concern, but it also adversely affects so many opportunities in life,” Norris said. “It is a huge interference with children’s ability to learn and their parents’ ability to earn. We have not only a humanitarian need, but also a practical need to address the problem.”

You can read more here.

Contributor: Sarah Mirembe, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’15.

Place: Online and Offline

Zocalo Public Square is collaborating with Getty “Open Art” on an event on public space in the digital age.  Time recently published an interesting series of responses from experts about how the traditional role of public space is changing in an increasingly “wired” world:

We can catch up on the news, buy goods, listen to music, watch webcams, and sign petitions – all without meeting in person. What is to become of these storied public spaces? In advance of the Zócalo/Getty “Open Art” event, “Is the Digital Age Killing Public Space?”, Zócalo asked experts: How has the rise of digital technology changed the way we use public space?

You can read responses from Yi-Fu Tuan, Setha Low, and Steve Hymon here.