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Village Square Partnership

Is your community impacted by a contentious decision? Has your community been split along ideological lines? Are there factions in your community that have had problems finding common ground?

The Village Square is a nationally-recognized organization that has worked in such environments, and the Davenport Institute is excited to announce a Village Square Grant Program that will bring their consulting services to your city.

The Opportunity

The Davenport Institute has teamed up with The Village Square to bring customized Village Square programs to cities in California. The Village Square offers a variety of programs from their Dinner at the Square series to Speed Date Your Local Leaders events, and their staff will help you determine what is best for your community. For a limited number of interested and qualified cities, the Davenport Institute will help cover incidental program expenses.

The Village Square logo - Pepperdine University

Unlike other public engagement programs offered through the Davenport Institute, The Village Square opportunity isn't focused on producing a recommendation or result on a particular local issue, rather it is a capacity-building grant to improve the local civic dialogue and support an ongoing constructive relationship between government and citizens around various issues for years to come.

Participating municipalities will receive training and ongoing support from The Village Square to launch their program, including development of a local Village Square website and the organizational infrastructure to build community support for future programming. You will also receive training and consultation from the Davenport Institute to build understanding and support for public engagement. Davenport and Village Square staff will work with you to design this unique public engagement series tailored to your community. 

Frequently Asked Questions

 Who is The Village Square?

The Village Square is a nonprofit organization devoted to building vibrant civil dialogue across partisan and ideological divides on matters of local, state, and national importance in communities across America. 

Founded in Tallahassee, Florida eight years ago after a contentious debate on a local issue, the Village Square builds social civic community in a 21st century revival of the old-fashioned American town hall by offering a menu of cutting-edge civic engagement programming, many in partnership with local government. Named by U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe as one of eight organizations to support if you're concerned about building common ground, the Village Square launched its first California location in Sacramento. Former US Secretary of State George Shultz (Reagan administration) described the work of the Village Square in a recent interview. You can read more about the Village Square in this piece in The Christian Science Monitor.

 How Do I Apply?

The Davenport/ Village Square partnership opportunity is open to municipalities and civic organizations in the State of California interested in building capacity in their community to sustain ongoing citizen engagement across division and difference of opinion.

Interested organizations must submit an online application. Applicants will be contacted to confirm receipt. Senior staff at the Davenport Institute and Village Square will review submissions. 

 What are the Selection Criteria?

The following factors will be considered in awarding the Village Square Civic Engagement Support:

  • Preference will be given to applicants who wish to see their Village Square project continue in future years (ongoing funding may be available).
  • Commitment to the Village Square principle that engagement between diverse citizens with differences of opinion strengthens the democratic process.
  • Demonstrated level of interest in the range of ideas and strategy behind the Village Square; concern about citizen disengagement and worsening divisiveness.
  • Level of commitment of staff resources to the project.
  • Capacity to draw 100 – 200 people to these large social civic events
  • Interest in - and ability to – engage citizens, deepen connections and broaden community interest.
  • Demonstration of specific interest of elected officials in support of your local Village Square series.
  • Broad partnerships/potential partnerships beyond the expected organizations, representing divergent interests and tensions in the community.
  • Willingness to produce a brief performance review of the engagement process after its completion summarizing lessons learned and successes.

 Additional Information for Government Applicants

Leadership in the first Village Square location in Tallahassee, FL included a Democratic city commissioner and a Republican county commissioner with an enduring across-the-aisle friendship. This grant is ideal for that kind of partnership.

A governmental body can be a highly effective incubator for a local Village Square, but is best suited to launch it with a plan to ultimately transition it into either a freestanding organization supported by the community and/or sponsored by a local nonprofit organization with a complementary mission. This is because the best public engagement results will be achieved over the long-term if the Village Square is independent from– albeit in close relationship with - official governing bodies. A government-launched Village Square would make a highly impactful demonstration project under this grant.