REPORTS & SURVEYS | MAY 18TH, 2012
Citizen Engagement And Community Transformation In Bridgeport, CT
In 1996, the Bridgeport Public Education Fund (BPEF) joined a national demonstration project led by Public Agenda and the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) to explore possibilities for public dialogue about education reform among diverse stakeholders.
Our report, Transforming Public Life: A Decade Of Citizen Engagement In Bridgeport, Ct., tells the story of how this project led to a culture of engagement that has become embedded in the life of the community.
The demonstration project soon joined with a statewide engagement initiative called the Connecticut Community Conversations Project to significantly broaden and deepen the scope of that initial effort.
Formally launched in 1997, the Connecticut Community Conversations Project was a joint effort on the part of the Connecticut-based William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, Public Agenda, IEL and the Connecticut League of Women Voters. Adopting the engagement model originally designed and developed through the Public Agenda/IEL national project, the Connecticut Community Conversations Project has since spread to over eighty towns and cities across the state.
Thousands of parents, education professionals, students, local policy and business leaders, seniors and others have taken part in public dialogue on the purposes of education, closing achievement gaps, ensuring school safety, promoting school readiness, preventing bullying and many other youth-and-education topics.
While the Connecticut Community Conversations Project has been an important state-wide initiative, Bridgeport has distinguished itself in terms of both the quantity of Community Conversations (numbering roughly 40 so far) and in how the very fabric of public decision-making has evolved.
As a result of roughly a decade of hard work by organizations, "ordinary" citizens and various local leaders, public engagement has become embedded in the life of Bridgeport, CT.