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"Can our field present a united front to the new Administration? Let's start by seeing if we can develop a set of principles for public engagement we can all endorse..."

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    The following text was excerpted from the National League of Cities' 2005 publication, Building Democratic Governance: Tools and Structures for Engaging Citizens

    Across the country, cities are in the midst of a fundamental shift in the way that citizens and government work together. Frustrated with the flaws in community politics, many local leaders have put a new emphasis on mobilizing citizens in order to make decisions, overcome conflicts, and solve critical public problems. In the process, the concept of “democratic governance” has become clearer and more prominent.

    Democratic governance is the art of governing a community in participatory, inclusive, deliberative, collaborative ways. A number of successful principles have emerged from the new wave of democratic governance efforts:

    • Tapping into the energy and ideas of citizens and their organizations (including churches, associations, businesses, and nonprofit groups) is critical for addressing many of most pressing public problems.
    • Reaching out through a wide array of groups and organizations is critical for mobilizing large numbers of citizens, and many different people.
    • Convening face-to-face dialogues can help citizens learn about the issues, empathize with one another, change their own opinions, and build a stronger sense of community.
    • Providing opportunities for large-scale, open-minded deliberation allows citizens to consider a range of policy options, resulting in public decisions that are fairer, more informed, and more broadly supported.
    • Making progress on issues of race and cultural difference goes hand-in-hand with strengthening local democracy.
    • Providing multiple reasons for people to participate will encourage them to stay involved over the long term.

    These principles of democratic governance have been pioneered at the local level, led by elected officials and other leaders who are building on their past successes and frustrations with citizen involvement. They have moved beyond town meetings and public hearings, using the lessons they have learned to reach a new level of collaboration and trust between citizens and government.


    I also liked the following text, which was in two boxes, and thought it might be useful for us...

    Democratic Governance: What’s in it for citizens?

    Democratic governance efforts are helping citizens to:

    • Learn more about local issues and the decision-making process
    • Establish partnerships for solving neighborhood and community problems
    • Provide input on policy decisions
    • Gain the skills and connections they need to become community leaders
    • Meet with people who have different views and backgrounds from their own
    • Feel like they are part of a community

    Democratic Governance: What’s in it for local officials?

    Democratic governance efforts are helping local officials to:

    • Find out what citizens really think about issues and policy decisions
    • Mobilize citizens to take action on neighborhood and community problems
    • Defuse tensions between different groups of people
    • Talk with citizens in a less confrontational atmosphere
    • Show citizens that certain public decisions are difficult and complex
    • Help citizens understand the financial picture for local government
    • Reach out to people who have felt or been excluded in the past
    • Create a stronger sense of belonging and community
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