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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Measuring Civic Engagement

A recent article on the National Journal looks at the changing nature of civic engagement and what that means for political scientists seeking to study engagement. The article concludes:

The world has changed a lot since Robert Putnam wrote his seminal 2000 work Bowling Alone,chronicling the dissolution of traditional American communities. While it is still true that only about half of Americans vote, it is also true that galvanizing issues, like this summer’s police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, are regularly trending on Twitter. As old institutions crumble, others will rise in their wake. It’s up to civic leaders to capitalize on those developments and recognize that communities are as active as ever.

You can read more here.

Piggybacking to Improve Local Election Turnout?

In its last round of local elections, Los Angeles had one of the worst participation in voting in the last century. Some Los Angeles lawmakers see an opportunity to help address this problem by asking citizens to move elections to even numbered years. That means city elections would be held during presidential or governor races. Therefore increased attention would be giving to voting for more high profile elections and it would help boost voter participation for local elections. The proposed bill will go to the entire city council next before it is proposed to the city for a vote:

Proponents say the change will bring more Angelenos to the polls, especially black and Latino voters. Less than a quarter of L.A.’s registered voters cast ballots in the mayoral race between Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel last year — the lowest in any two-candidate runoff in a century.

“Our turnout is embarrassing. It is dismal. We are in crisis. And something actually needs to be done,” City Council President Herb Wesson said Friday.

You can read more here.

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

Support Available for Public Engagement in Eastern Canada

The Davenport Institute’s public engagement grant application period may have passed, but if you happen to be an Atlantic Canadian City, there may still be time to pursue another grant opportunity. The Atlantic Council for International Cooperation (ACIC) is offering a number of small grants to support public engagement in Canadian communities in the Atlantic region:

Have an idea for a small public engagement project? Want to establish a relationship with a new partner in the Atlantic region? Wish to try a new idea or test a new approach to engaging Canadians? Why not consider ACIC’s Members’ Public Engagement Fund?

ACIC’s Members Public Engagement Fund provides funding of up to $1,500 to ACIC members and partners for small public engagement projects. The fund is intended to support good practice and innovative methods of engaging Atlantic Canadians in global development issues.

You can read more here.

Encouraging “Citizen”-ship

The cities of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are working with legal residents to help them become US citizens. Becoming a citizen is an arduous process, difficult to figure out on your own. Cities for Citizenship, with funding from Citi Bank, will provide free legal council, citizen workshops, micro-loans and more to aspiring citizens. This program looks to alleviate poverty for legal permanent residents by helping them take the important step to become full citizens:

Last week, the mayors of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago announced an initiative that aims to lift legal permanent residents out of poverty by helping them to secure citizenship.

On the same day as the Cities for Citizenship program was announced, the University of Southern California and the nonprofits The Center for Popular Democracy and the National Partnership for New Americans released a study that suggests why these cities believe it is important to push for immigrants to apply for citizenship (beyond the political benefits, that is). According to it, making the move from legal permanent residence to citizenship results in an 8 to 11 percent increase in income. Meaning that if just half of those eligible to apply for citizenship in these three cities do so, it will lead to a gain of $10 billion over 10 years. Lifting these people out of poverty would ease the strain on social services, bringing more money to local economies.

You can read more here.

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