Public Agenda
Public Agenda Alert -- May 2, 2013
This Week's Headlines
Expanding Civic Participation
Davenport's Pete Peterson
Independent Sector Conference
PA in the News
Quick Links

Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Find us on Pinterest
Click here to subscribe to this newsletter
Join Our Mailing List
Expanding Civic Participation In-Person and Online: The Growing Desire to Engage

The Internet has so far failed to tackle the challenge of broadening political and civic involvement to new and diverse populations, according to a Pew survey.  


More people say they have participated in some sort of political or civic activity online, such as promoting social issues, encouraging others to vote or sharing thoughts and comments on issues, than years past. But the survey found that these activities are most common among those who already show up in political life.


For a forthcoming report, we spent part of last year talking to public officials and community leaders about their views toward public participation in government. We asked them: What's working and what's not? Overwhelmingly, we heard that officials, community leaders and the public are interested in pursuing new ways to engage the public in community decision making. They want processes that are more inclusive, more thoughtful and that lead to better solutions.

There is a clear need and desire to expand civic participation. How, then, do we do it? This is a challenge we continuously work to address in our face-to-face engagement efforts. We've found that a few principles tend to encourage more robust participation. These principles include:
  • Local sponsors and organizers. When local community organizations take the lead in planning and organizing a public participation event, local residents are more likely to feel ownership.  
  • Personalized outreach. An email or phone call from a friend or acquaintance is much more effective for recruitment efforts than a general invite.   

  • Follow-up. When organizers and decision makers follow up on an engagement event, by explaining how the feedback was incorporated, for example, residents trust that their opinions really count and will be more likely to attend future events. 

Digital engagement, though, is clearly quite different from community engagement. Digital tools seem to provide vast potential for expanding civic engagement and participation, but doing it right will require thinking that's as innovative and unprecedented as the digital tools themselves.


Have you had successful experiences with online engagement? Do you have any ideas for bridging the gap to reach beyond usual suspects? Send your feedback to Allison Rizzolo at and join in the conversation with us on Twitter @PublicAgenda.


Watch our website for the aforementioned report on public officials and community leaders. If you are interested in receiving word when the research is released late this month, email Megan Donovan at  

An Opportunity for More Public Engagement

in California Politics   

Copyright Pepperdine University 2004-2009.
All Rights Reserved
We are happy to announce that our friend and partner Pete Peterson is running for the Secretary of State in California. While we're not in the business of endorsing political candidates, we do support leaders who embrace the meaningful participation of diverse members of the public in policymaking.


Pete, executive director of Pepperdine University's Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, is running on a platform of improving civic engagement state-wide. He explains one simple rule that serves as a backbone of that platform: "informed Californians, given the opportunity to participate in a good process (online and/or offline) can make more creative, and more sustainable decisions than government alone. This is especially true on tough issues."


Pete explains more about why he's running on the California political blog Fox and Hounds. You can also read the official announcement in the Sacramento Bee

Join Us: Independent Sector Conference 2013

Join us in our hometown for LeadON, Independent Sector's National Conference this September in NYC. The conference is a great opportunity for networking and is known for its thought-provoking (and thought-changing) content.  


Independent Sector is the leadership network for nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs committed to advancing the common good in America and around the world. Their nonpartisan coalition of approximately 600 organizations leads, strengthens, and mobilizes the nonprofit and philanthropic community in order to fulfill their vision of a just and inclusive society and a healthy democracy of active citizens, effective institutions, and vibrant communities.


We hope you can experience with us the largest gathering of nonprofit, foundation and corporate philanthropy leaders in Independent Sector history. Their exclusive sessions for organizational leadership are first-rate, as are the pre-conference sessions for young leaders. The conference also includes a policy institute that covers the tactics and strategies for communicating about the policy issues facing the sector.  

Learn more about Independent Sector and this year's conference at their website.

PA in the News   

Education Week examined our latest report, "Ready, Willing and Able?" on two of their blogs. The report details how different types of parents view parental involvement in schools. The K-12 Parents and the Public blog examines how the findings apply to parent groups looking to activate more parents in education reform.  Inside School Research emphasized why it's important for administrators to consider differentiating parent involvement programs to meet the differing needs of their parent community.

The report also received a couple of citations in Catalyst Chicago and New Orleans' Times-Picayune.

Senior Fellows Jean Johnson and Scott Bittle have been busy on their blogs as well. Here they examine the pitfalls of using GDP to judge economic growth on the Huffington Post and consider what a "Race to the Top" approach to modernizing a new energy grid could function like on The Energy Collective.

Last week, Carolin Hagelskamp, director of research, traveled to Lansing to speak with the Michigan Association of School Boards about our research on high-performing, high-poverty schools.
About Us
Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate complex, divisive issues. Through nonpartisan research and engagement, it provides people with the insights and support they need to arrive at workable solutions on critical issues, regardless of their differences. Since 1975, Public Agenda has helped foster progress on K-12 and higher education reform, health care, federal and local budgets, energy and immigration. Find Public Agenda online at

Help our nation make progress on its toughest challenges. Donate today.