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Portland, Oregon: Portland Example of Immigrant Civic Engagement – Diversity and Civic Leadership Program

Case Story

Portland, Oregon’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement has developed several programs intended to expand opportunities for civic involvement among underrepresented communities.

These programs include:

  • The Diversity and Civic Leadership Organizing Project is a capacity building program for underrepresented community-based organizations designed to increase constituent participation in the civic governance of the City.
  • The goals of the project are to develop culturally appropriate means to build community identity, understanding of existing City governance structures, and skills to analyze City power dynamics. Goals continued at… click here for more info.
  • The Diversity and Civic Leadership Academy is a training program for emerging leaders in communities of color, immigrant, and refugee communities to expand civic involvement in the City of Portland. The training program began in the summer of 2007, with eight trainings and two celebration events.
  • The goal of the academy is to expand the range of community leaders of color who engage in the civic life of the City for the advancement of policies to achieve economic and social equity based on the wisdom, voice, and experience of their constituencies. For more information click here.
  • The Neighborhood and Community Engagement Initiative is a capacity building project for neighborhood District Coalitions providing opportunities for Neighborhood Association leaders to engage and build relationships with under-represented communities and organizations. Council provided $45,000 beginning with fiscal year 2006-07 to fund several collaborations between District Coalitions and other community-based organizations. Currently three grants have been awarded. For more info click here.
  • The Neighborhood Accessibility Fund will help build capacity for Portland Neighborhood Associations to make their activities and meetings more accessible for those for whom child care, language, transportation or accessibility are a barrier to participation. It will provide limited funding to neighborhood associations for language translation and interpretation, child care, accessibility and transportation services.
  • The Diversity and Civic Leadership Advisory Committee evolved from the original community-based Diversity and Civic Leadership Committee that developed and advocated for several of these program ideas. In an advisory role this group will review and advise the Office of Neighborhood Involvement on programs related to diversity outreach and engagement to underrepresented communities. For more information click here.

These new initiatives were largely developed and advocated for by the Diversity and Civic Leadership Committee (DCLC) , a grass-roots community-based effort that included representatives from under-represented organizations, neighborhood District Coalitions, and Neighborhood Associations. In addition the Office of Neighborhood Involvement Bureau Advisory Committee initiated several of these ideas and advocated for all of them in the City budget process. City Council, with the leadership of Mayor Tom Potter, has approved funding for these new programs in the past two fiscal years.

DCLC Principles and Objectives

The Diversity and Civic Leadership Committee (DCLC) developed these commonly-held principles to help guide the implementation of these initiatives:

  • We can improve the neighborhood system by fully engaging residents of Portland from all cultural, social and economic walks of life.
  • “Community” in Portland is rapidly changing, reflecting a more diverse population. We benefit by working together to:
    • Identify and reach out to constituencies that have been traditionally under-represented in Portland’s civic life,
    • Build our organizational capacity by involving and training new leaders that reflect the full range of individuals in Portland’s diverse communities,
    • Learn from each other about new methodologies and strategies shown to engage a diverse range of individuals into local public participation efforts.
  • The quality of community participation is enhanced with the full, equitable participation of underrepresented communities leadership and constituents.

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