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Testing the Waters: California’s Local Officials Experiment with New Ways to Engage the Public
Executive Summary


What opportunities do Californians have to engage with public issues and influence decisions that affect their lives? What are ways to strengthen relations between communities and their local governments?

This report explores the attitudes of California’s local officials toward public participation in local governance. These officials believe that the current models for including the public in local decision making fail to meet the needs of both residents and local officials. Most local officials seek broad-based participation from the public and want to hear more about approaches that have worked elsewhere. Many are already experimenting with more inclusive and deliberative forms of engagement. Overall, this study suggests California’s local officials may be ready for newer and more effective ways to engage the public and for stronger collaborations with community-based organizations.

The report also includes concrete recommendations for local officials and their institutions, civic leaders and their organizations, and foundations and other funders. The recommendations can help improve public engagement in local governance throughout California and, we hope, beyond.

See highlights of the research findings and recommendations at right. See the report below.

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