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Pepperdine | School of Public Policy

Professional Certificate in Public Engagement For Local Government

professional certificate

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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.

We have two separate cohorts, capping at 24 participants each. 

The 6-week virtual offering will consist of a series of six two-and-a-half-hour modules held over the course of six afternoons.

The dates for our upcoming 2024 programs are as follows:

February 22- March 28, Thursdays 12:30 PM- 3:00 PM

(Note: The 5th session will be on Wednesday March 20th at 12:30 PM- 3:00 PM) 

October 15- November 19, Tuesdays 2:30 PM- 5:00 PM


The Davenport Institute periodically assesses the pricing of its certificates to ensure a reasonable alignment with the needs of participants, trainers, and the marketplace, and may make changes in response to that assessment and feedback.

The price of the Virtual Public Engagement Certificate Program is $1,195. A group discount is available for agencies that send multiple participants. 

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
  • Intergovernmental & Council Services Manager
  • Senior Management Analyst/ Management Analyst
  • Public Information Officer
  • Executive Director of CBO
  • Community Relations Coordinator
  • Public Engagement Consultant/Director
  • Public Works Department 
  • Program Manager 
  • Administrative Services Manager/ Town Administrator
  • Police Chief
  • Community Services Manager
  • Council Member/Elected Official 
  • Public Affairs, Marketing, & Communications Analyst/Director
  • Finance Director
  • City Clerk
  • Associate Planner/Environmental Planner

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
  Public Engagement Technology, Finding the Balance between Community Input and Data 

As data-driven decision-making continues to grow as an approach in local government, we must ensure that sensors and AI do not entirely replace community engagement. Technology can be a great asset to enhancing a local government's ability to be efficient and effective, but when it comes to public engagement, we must be careful about how technology is applied and how we derive conclusions from the data. As we incorporate more and more technology in our local government work, how are we seeking to strike a balance between community input and data?

Key Concepts:

  • How Governments Use Data & Technology
  • Can Data & Technology Improve Community Input/Engagement?
  • Barriers/Risks in Adopting These New Approaches
  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)
  • 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 via email or by phone at 310.506.6803.

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. The application can be found here.

 What is the cost of the program?

The cost of the virtual offering is $1,195. 

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 multiple times a year virtually. If you are unable to make our upcoming dates, we invite you to subscribe to our newsletter for the latest information on future programs.