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Pepperdine | School of Public Policy

Professional Certificate in Public Engagement For Local Government

Davenport Institute Professional Certificate cohort sitting outside

Fall Program Application Now Closed

Through this program, mid-career professionals are prepared to lead a publicly-engaged organization by gaining a deep understanding of the context, purpose, and best practices for engaging residents in the decisions that affect their lives and communities.

Due to the current situation surrounding COVID-19, we have adapted our traditional program to offer a Virtual Professional Certificate in Public Engagement for Local Government via Zoom. The application period is now CLOSED. To be placed on our email list to be notified of our next offering please email davenport.institute@pepperdine.edu  We will have two separate cohorts, capping at 20 participants each. This virtual offering will consist of a series of five, two-and-a-half-hour modules held over the course of five afternoons. Following the fifth session, we will offer an optional but highly recommended Public Engagement Summit to help you apply lessons from the program directly to your work.

The cost of the Virtual Professional Certificate is $750. Many participants secure funds for training from their employer to support their participation in this program. 

Who Should Attend? 

The Professional Certificate in Public Engagement benefits all local government practitioners including: professionals from cities, counties, and special districts, private sector employees who serve local governments, and graduate students focused on local government. 

Job titles of past attendees have included: 

  • City Manager
  • Assistant City Manager
  • Senior Management Analyst/ Management Analyst
  • Executive Director of CBO
  • Public Engagement Consultant
  • Associate Planner
  • Intergovernmental & Council Services Manager
  • Public Information Officer
  • Community Relations Coordinator
  • Council Member

What is Covered in the Program

Prior to the start of the program, participants identify a public engagement project they are currently working on, or one they are thinking about undertaking. In addition to the sessions below, participants have the opportunity for one-on-one work developing a personal public engagement strategy. The program will be highly interactive with participants attending each session live to facilitate open dialogue, peer-learning, and networking, and concluding with a Personal Public Engagement Summit that allows each participant to workshop an applicable engagement action plan. Participants will leave the program better informed and prepared to implement substantive public engagement.

  Public Engagement? What? When? Why? And How?

This introductory session sets the context for a deep dive into public engagement by offering an overview of the current state of public engagement factoring in the pandemic and providing a shared vocabulary and framework. It also invites participants to consider what level of engagement is appropriate to the issue at hand and consider pitfalls to effective engagement.

Key concepts:

  • Why Civic Engagement? Why Now?
  • Roles (customer v. citizen)
  • Shared definitions & matching process to purpose
  • Distinction between stakeholder & broad public engagement
  • Government as Decider v. Convener
  • How to determine appropriate levels of engagement

  Technology and Public Engagement - Lessons from the Pandemic for Future Engagement

With a move to virtual operations nationwide during COVID 19, online engagement shifted decisively from an optional add-on to in-person processes to the primary method for engaging residents. We have learned a lot about how to design virtual meetings and workshops using livestreaming and virtual conferencing tools, lessons that will serve us well even when we are able to re-introduce face-to-face engagement. This session helps participants think through how the purpose of engagement determines an appropriate online platform and process and offers some practical tips and tools for using popular platforms. Participants also learn to think strategically about incorporating online and offline engagement as we look beyond the pandemic.

Key Concepts:

  • Allowing Purpose to Determine Online Process
  • Best practices for live-conferencing
  • Creative online processes and platforms
  • What about the digital divide?
  • Incorporating Online and Offline Engagement

  Engaging Marginalized Communities

This workshop invites participants to explore public engagement beyond the usual suspects or "STP"s (Same Twenty People) and develop strategies for engaging communities that are currently marginalized based on factors such as race, wealth, immigration status, orientation, etc. In addition to the role perspective plays in perception, Participants will explore how traditional processes tend to reinforce racial inequity factors, and will receive practical tips for both outreach and process design that can help to build equity and inclusion within their community. The session will also look at the challenges in facilitating constructive engagement on sensitive issues, including appropriate responses to disruption and emotion. Participants will leave with a foundation in how to think about the impact that differences in culture have on public engagement and how to look for ways to better understand demographics other than our own.

Key Concepts:

  • Best Practices in effective outreach to marginalized communities
  • Creating inclusive space for diversity and identifying reasons some groups are marginalized.
  • Understand who is in your community, identify who you may not be hearing from and issues that matter to communities facing equity issues of access, service, treatment, voice, influence
  • Having conversations about police and race
  • Recognize the need for cultural competency across a variety of factors (race, country of origin, socio-economic, political, gender, age) and learn how to develop these.

  How to Have Difficult Conversations

This session takes a deep dive into having difficult conversations between communities and local governments. Drawing on techniques from the field of dispute resolution and collaborative government, participants learn strategies for engagement, tips for managing emotions (of both themselves and participants) and practical tips on facilitating when things are tough or uncertain both online and in person.

Key Concepts:

  • Large group v. stakeholder engagement
  • Managing emotion
  • Consensus finding techniques
  • What about online?

  Innovation and Leadership

This session introduces innovative ways that governments across the country have engaged residents face-to-face as well as how they engaging their residents when meeting in-person is no longer an option. From yard signs to takeout nights to social media campaigns, participants have an opportunity to consider what techniques and tools may be useful in their own work during and after the pandemic. Participants also learn tips and techniques for becoming public engagement champions in their communities whatever their job title.

Key Concepts:

  • Creative/ leading edge practices
  • Engagement examples from around the country
  • Generational differences (and the importance of not overstating these)
  • Outreach
  • Leading from where you are

  Follow Up: Personal Public Engagement Summit

Participants will be placed in small groups and matched with a Davenport Institute Advisory Council Member or Certificate Alumni to talk through the engagement action plan they have developed. This will be informal and scheduled at the group's convenience.


Looking for More Information?

Contact Davenport Institute Assistant Director Pooja DiGiovanna via email or by phone at 310.506.6878.

Frequently Asked Questions

 How do I apply?

The application process is very straightforward.  Applicants provide a brief bio and headshot, and a brief description of a) their experiences with public engagement in the past and b) an issue or project they have identified that could benefit from public engagement and that they hope to workshop throughout the certificate offering. 

 What is the cost of the program?

The cost of the Professional Certificate is $750, which includes instruction and materials. 

Many participants secure funds for training from their employer to support their participation in this program. Limited financial aid may be available.

 I can't make these dates - when will the certificate be offered again?

The certificate program is typically offered twice a year on the Malibu Campus - once at the beginning of the year, and once in the summer. Due to COVID-19, we have adapted to a virtual offering for the time being until it is safe to meet again in person. 

We will be monitoring the situation surrounding the pandemic to determine when, and in what format, we will give our next offering. If you would like to be notified when future dates are set, please email us.

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