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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.

New to Civic Engagement? Check out our foundational documents »

Policy By Jury?

The Citizen’s Jury is a tool initially developed by the Jefferson Center.  It takes a demographically represented sample of citizens and gives them access to ‘evidence’ and arguments by experts and advocates from various sides of a policy issue.  The idea is to discover what regular citizens think of particular policy issues when they are informed on the issues.

Now a similar project may be underway in Australia, but not as a gauge of public opinion on hot button issues so much as a sort of advisory council to local government:

Council will partner with new Democracy Foundation, a national research foundation made up of former leading politicians and academic experts in the field.

Several thousand randomly selected residents will receive invitations to take part. From those who accept, the jury will be selected, again randomly and independent of council, to assist council reach decisions on critical issues.

Mr Playford said the exercise was genuine. Depending on the issue the jury would be told in advance that if it reached 90% agreement, its recommendations would be adopted by council.

On other matters it would be asked to provide advice and a perspective on a particular issue. The nature of the input and the manner of its treatment by council would be known to jury members in advance.

You can read more here.

Better Public Engagement in National Policy?

In an era of professional lobbying, how can citizens have more of a voice in Washington? This is the question that Voice of the People (VOP) is hoping to address through its Citizen Cabinets, scientifically selected representative samples of citizens who would be “regularly consulted on policy issues using new online interactive tools.” VOP will be launching three statewide pilot programs this year in Maryland, Oklahoma and Virginia.

From an op-ed about the Oklahoma citizen’s cabinet:

Participants will take part in a policymaking simulation in which they’ll be briefed on issues, weigh the various arguments pro and con, and then make recommendations.  Information about each issue will have been reviewed by experts and congressional staffers from both parties. Participants will learn about policy options that are actually on the table and have to weigh those.

You can read more here.

Engaging in a Place for Engagement

The City of Campbell, CA is getting ready to build a new civic center – and officials want to know what the community wants this place to be:

“A place for community and civic engagement,” Anderson-Brulé said. “We’ve heard that over and over again. That became a theme at all of the meetings that we had.”

Other things Anderson-Brulé said she and the team heard about were programs, activities, shared use space, technology, safety and security.

The city council had identified seven buildings and services that would stay on site. City hall, police services, the library, museum, museum storage, parking and the Orchard City Green will all be located in the new civic center.

After the workshop, participants discussed what they had noticed was similar in most of the designs. They found that most of the designs had clustered buildings, were organized by purpose (public services, historical and greenscape), included underground parking, and focused on efficient use of space.

You can read more about the charette here.

NCoC Annual Conference

It’s almost that time of year again!  Join Davenport Institute Assistant Director Ashley Trim in Washington, DC on Friday, October 10 for the annual National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) annual conference.

This year, the  Davenport Institute is sponsoring The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) in their premier event to strengthen civic life in America. For 70 years, NCoC’s Annual Conference has been a must attend event for community builders searching for new ways to engage their neighbors and create positive change. Given the current social and political polarization, the need for this Conference couldn’t be greater.

Leaders from the nonprofit, private, open data, and technology sectors will converge at the Conference to share best practices and uncover innovative civic engagement strategies. There will be high-quality Learning Summits, panels, and networking time – all chances to strengthen civic life and take on the issues facing our field.

We hope to see you in DC on October 10 at the 2014 National Conference on Citizenship. Click here to register.

Colorado Citizen’s Initiative Review

We’ve highlighted the Citizen’s Initiative Review idea on this blog before.  Oregon is now being joined by Colorado in implementing this reform:

Ballot measures in Colorado drive some of the state’s largest policy decisions, yet 75% of voters say they often find measures too complicated or confusing to understand. Accurate and unbiased information is not only difficult to come by, it is often obscured by misleading statements and advertisements by both sides of an issue.

Independent research on the CIR here in Oregon found that over half of voters read the CIR’s findings and that two-thirds found the information useful when voting.

You can read more about the Colorado CIR here.