Facebook pixel Roadmap for Public Engagement | Policy and Practice Guide | Pepperdine School of Public Policy Skip to main content
Pepperdine | School of Public Policy

Roadmap for Public Engagement


For over a decade, the Davenport Institute has been helping local government leaders improve the ways they involve residents in tough policy decisions. This work has taken us throughout California and across the country, learning about and teaching the latest techniques in effective participatory governance. We have taken that experience and created this "Roadmap for Public Engagement", a comprehensive tool engineered to help you (1) evaluate your municipality's public engagement preparedness, (2) determine your next steps with the guidance of our expert trainers and consultants, and (3) put your plan in action. 

 how are WE doing icon

There are 5 stops on our Roadmap:

  1. Check-In: Where is your municipality when it comes to public engagement? Use our diagnostic tool to determine your starting point on the roadmap, identify areas of strength and weakness, and determine your next stop. 

  2. Chart Your Course: After you complete the Check-In, we invite you to a 30-minute complementary consultation with one of our expert trainers to review your results.

  3. Get Equipped for the Journey: Host a Davenport Institute in-person or virtual training tailored to your municipalities needs.
  4. Set Out: Use our customized toolkit to create a culture of engagement in your organization.
  5. Celebrate: After hosting a custom training and implementing the action plan, celebrate your achievement and recognition from the Davenport Institute. 

For more information, we've answered some frequently asked questions below. You can also email the Davenport Institute or give us a call at 310.506.4494 for more information.

Why should my organization start the journey?

The Roadmap for Public Engagement is designed to give cities, counties, and special districts a starting place to meaningfully engage the full diversity of their residents in various policy decisions.

Local government leaders know that at the heart of local government is the community. But too often efforts to engage the community are either haphazard (at one extreme) or formulaic (at the other). How do you know whether you are investing your public engagement energy and resources wisely? We created this Roadmap to support your agency wherever your public engagement efforts are at. It can help you:

  1. Identify your agencies public engagement strengths and guide steps for improvement. 
  2. Become strategic about engagement - whether it be creating a public engagement plan, incorporating a training into your team building structure, or evaluating the effectiveness of your efforts.
  3. Discover best practices from local governments around the country and see how your government measures up.  


What if my organization has a long way to go?

At the Davenport Institute, we are fully aware that legitimate public engagement requires more than just a desire to engage.  We hope that as agencies, cities, counties, and special districts work through this checklist, they will begin to see areas where their engagement practices can improve.

As you explore this evaluation tool, we are also committed to helping you find the best resources to improve engagement with your residents.  Here are some places you can start: 

  • Training: The Davenport Institute offers both full-day and half-day trainings in the basics of public engagement, including aligning purpose and process. We also offer a shorter, executive seminar for upper level management and a variety of customized trainings. Or perhaps you are ready to tackle the world of online engagement. Our Gov 2.0 training is a great place to start. For more information on all of these options, visit our training page. Ready for something deeper, or looking to train engagement facilitators? We are happy to direct you to outside organizations offering facilitation and other trainings in the public engagement field. Email us to set up a call to discuss your particular needs.
  • Grant-making: Is a lack of resources to hire an outside consultant or facilitator holding you back from embarking on a project you would love to undertake in your community?  Each year the Institute offers a number of public engagement grants to help California cities, counties, special districts, and civic organizations engage residents across a variety of issues.
  • Resources: The Davenport Institute is committed to connecting cities to the public engagement resources that will help them succeed in legitimate public engagement. Check out the News & Resources pages on our website, and explore links to outside resources
  • Personalized strategizing and consulting: Looking for something more specific? We can help connect you to our broad rolodex of public engagement consultants, facilitators, and experts across the state. Email us to set up a call to discuss what support your organization needs to meet your public engagement goals. 

What does arriving at a destination look like?

The Roadmap for Public Engagement will recognize three levels of completion based on our public engagement assessment tool:

 Public Engagement Platinum Badge This agency, city, county, or special district is a leader in the engagement field. It has earned this designation by meeting at least 17 of the criteria listed.
 Public Engagement Gold Badge  This agency, city, county, or special district has successfully institutionalized resident engagement as part of its operational culture by successfully meeting at least 15 of the criteria listed.
 Public Engagement Silver Badge  This agency, city, county or special district is making genuine efforts to improve its engagement with residents, and successfully meets at least 12 of the criteria listed.


Sometimes an organization submits an application for recognition and are recognized as a silver- or gold-level engaged municipality, but then continue to press forward in their good engagement work. We absolutely encourage organizations to re-apply for recognition. Because good engagement takes time, and because new policies and practices take a while to become institutionalized,  you may apply for a higher-recognition after one-year.  We look forward to walking with you as you improve your engagement efforts until all of California's cities, counties, and special districts are at the platinum level of engagement. 

If you have any questions about re-applying or about how you can improve your engagement efforts, please email us to set up a time to meet or to talk over the phone about your specific needs.

Submitting an application for recognition.

Working through the Roadmap for Public Engagement evaluation platform will help you determine whether your organization is ready to apply to be recognized as a publicly engaged agency, city, county or special district.  When you are ready, you can apply by answering the questions in the boxes provided. As you work through these criteria, you will notice that many of them may seem open ended. Because the Davenport Institute recognizes that different communities face different challenges and bring different assets to the engagement process, we recognize that how your particular organization meets these criteria may look very different from the way that another organization accomplishes the same goal. 

Please provide whatever explanation or documentation you feel necessary to demonstrate how your organization meets each criteria. Written answers should be kept under 250 words. Please feel free to link to documents, policies, websites, news articles, etc that showcase how your organization is engaging your residents.  If you would like to provide documentation that is not available online, please feel free to email it to us separately, referencing your organization name and contact information in the email. If we require further clarification, we will contact you with specific requests. 

Ready to get started? 

About the Roadmap

This platform has been developed based on conversations and observations from our training, grant-making, and consultation, as well as on a survey of accepted best practices in the public engagement field. We have relied on input from dozens of public officials, and our advisory council. All of this has been directed by the following members of the Davenport Institute task force to develop the Roadmap for Public Engagement:

Artie Fields, City Manager, City of Inglewood
Rod Gould, City Manager, City of Santa Monica (retired)
Ken Hampian, City Manager City of San Luis Obispo (retired)
Dennis Donohue, former Mayor, City of Salinas
Together, this task force has developed a tool that will offer participants an accurate look at the quality and breadth of their own engagement efforts and allow municipalities to see how they rate and to apply for recognition as a publicly engaged organization. It will also help us gather data and stories about how we are all doing in our attempts to better involve our residents - information we look forward to making available to all participants.