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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Meeting Residents Where They Are

As communities look for ways to build capacity for community involvement, and to increase resident engagement both with local government and with one another, much of the focus is on innovation. But a recent article on the NextCity blog reminds us not to neglect the institutions that already exist.

The El Faro Swap-Meet in South Los Angeles is a place where people desiring community can come together and reconnect and purchase much needed items for their family. It is predominantly Hispanic and provides recent immigrants a place to come together in true community in the midst of the urban sprawl that is Los Angeles. It was almost shut down during the Rodney King Riots and had a history of violent crime, but crime in the area has been improving, and many argue the swap meet has a role to play in improving the safety and vitality of this community:

Swap meets like El Faro and Alameda were once thought to be, as the L.A. Times put it in 1992, “a cause of urban blight.” Though they may seem exotic to U.S.-born citizens, they closely resemble the informal markets that exist throughout Latin America. Those markets do more than just sell goods and provide jobs — they fuse neighborhoods and populations, filling in the gaps between communities in sprawling cities like Los Angeles. Indeed, L.A. is built much like the cities many of El Faro’s vendors and shoppers come from, a relatively low-density urban plan that cries out for communal spaces to create a sense of geographic integration. . .

You can read more here.

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

If You Missed It: NCoC Highlights

For those of you who were not able to make it to the National Conference on Citizenship annual conference in Washington, DC last month, you missed a great time!  One of the best parts of the NCoC meeting is getting to connect with people from all around the country who are promoting citizen engagement at all levels of government.  We can’t convey that through our blog, but we CAN connect you to some of the great sessions/speakers we heard from, thanks to the NCoC’s “Conference In Review” page!  Check it out here.


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.