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Davenport Institute Writes on Engaging Marginalized Communities for ICMA

Davenport Institute and ICMA

In September, the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership was featured in International City/County Management Association's (ICMA) award-winning PM Magazine with a piece on engaging marginalized communities written by assistant director Pooja Bachani Di Giovanna.

Many cities are unsure of where to begin when it comes to reconciling with disadvantaged individuals and groups, as embracing new strategies can be intimidating in places where some communities feel alienated. However, with the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest over the past two years, cities have been more invested than ever in finding ways to include all community members in the democratic process—particularly those who have been historically excluded.

With the topic and our engagement-centered perspective resonating with local leaders across the country, the Davenport Institute was invited to give a presentation at ICMA’s most recent conference in Portland, Oregon. Di Giovanna and Advisory Council member Dr. Kurt Wilson hosted an hour-long roundtable discussion on the importance of identifying marginalized groups, recognizing past failures to connect with them, and finding ways to achieve comprehensive public engagement.

Portland serves as a fitting location for this presentation with the city’s ongoing attempts to establish positive relationships with those who have long been excluded, but the importance of engaging marginalized communities is applicable for all cities. The Davenport Institute approach is cognizant of the fact that the specific groups that are disadvantaged will vary from one place to another. As such, it is essential that local leaders thoroughly understand the landscape of their particular community so that they can respond effectively.

The Davenport Institute also offers an Engaging Marginalized Communities training, which has been designed to equip cities with the knowledge, tools, and resources needed to reach underserved groups and strengthen the community as a whole. This training was developed by Di Giovanna in ​​collaboration with Wilson and independent consultant Mahvash Hassan.