Civic engagement is at the heart of representative democracy.
Transparent, responsive, and effective local government requires civic engagement.
On its simplest level, civic engagement is bringing people together around a shared interest, such as education, health care, or housing.
Bringing residents together with business owners, landowners, developers, nonprofits, and local government can be messy and time-consuming, but it creates understanding and builds trust.
Professional local government managers are key to this process of community building.
- listen to the concerns and desires of residents
- bring interested parties together in public forums to start conversations.
- know the community’s power structure and its players so they can influence resource allocation decisions and keep projects moving
- bring projects to completion and evaluate the results, frequently spanning several economic cycles.
Opening the process
Working in coordination with their elected officials, professional managers make sure all groups are brought into the process of developing policies and programs.
- By opening government processes to the public, Davenport, Iowa’s city administrator, Craig Malin, reinvigorated a city that had stagnated for years.
- When Hampton, VA, was faced with tough choices in a budget crisis, City Manager Mary Bunting engaged residents in the decision making process.
- In Sugar Land, TX, where the Asian-American community makes up 30 percent of the population, City Manager Allen Bogard created a multi-cultural advisory team to enhance the city’s ability to meet their needs and promote understanding of their culture.
- When the population of Westlake, TX, grew 380 percent over the course of a decade, Town Manager Thomas Brymer launched new multi-channel communications with residents to maintain its small town feel.
- Bayside, WI, Village Manager Andy Pederson involved the entire town in an effort to make a heavily traveled road safer for pedestrians.
- In Needham, MA, Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick called on students to help stop speeding.