Public Engagement in California
New research on the state of our democracy
What is the state of public participation in local government decision making in California? Two new Public Agenda reports present the shared — and divergent — perspectives of public officials and the leaders of civic organizations on the issue.
The research indicates:
- Public meetings often do not meet the needs of residents or local officials.
- Large segments of the public are often missing from the decision-making process — especially low-income populations, immigrants and young people.
- Local officials and civic leaders in California share concern for a disconnect between the public and local decision makers.
- Both also desire greater public participation and stronger collaboration.
These and related findings, as well as recommendations for improving public engagement, can help local public officials, leaders of civic and community-based organizations, and funders investing in civic engagement or community development. The research and recommendations can inform the efforts of these and other parties involved with public engagement in or beyond California.
The reports document and analyze the results of research with more than 1,400 individuals conducted by Public Agenda in partnership with the Institute for Local Government and Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University. This study was funded by The James Irvine Foundation.
Find Out More
Download research highlights in a highly visual, printable infographic, as well as the two full reports:
- "Testing the Waters" - perspectives from local officials
- "Beyond Business as Usual" - civic leader points of view
Executive summaries are also available for both reports.
One model for better public engagement that we've seen work in scores of communities across the country is the Community Conversation.
Community Conversations are carefully constructed dialogues that bring diverse members of the public together to work through an important and pressing public issue and explore possible solutions. Community Conversations are rooted in collaboration between government officials and civic leaders. These Conversations provide local officials and civic leaders an opportunity to engage a broad cross section of a community in productive, action-oriented deliberation.
Add Your Voice
Download the Report on Civic Leaders
Media Type: PDF
This study suggests that California's civic and community-based organizations are looking for newer and better ways to engage the public and may be ready for stronger collaborations with local government.