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Departments/Divisions that specialize in engagement

Melissa Zibutis

We have a team researching Community/Civic/Public Engagement initiatives and we are curious to know if any of you are aware of 1. Cities who engage the public really well and 2. Which department or division is charged as the subject matter experts?


Rob Hines
Rob Hines said

Hey Melissa,
We collaborate with many client government agencies who are quite skilled at engaging with the public.

For example:
Virginia Beach VA on the East Coast,
Eau Claire WI in the Midwest,
Salt Lake City UT in the Mountains,
Walnut Creek CA on the West Coast, and
West Vancouver in Canada.

What they all have in common is their coordinated effort at publicizing their engagement activities and the communication back to citizens about the outcomes of the engagement exercises. The staff people at these jurisdictions come from many different departments. Each jurisdiction may be structured separately but the commonality among the staff who work on engagement projects is that they are people who have an interest in understanding and managing the relationship between the city administration and its residents. In many jurisdictions someone from the city manager's office is involved, as well as the PIO, along with representatives from departments likely to want to interact with residents.

We have many more clients who are highly competent at public engagement. Contact me if you want references in a specific region.

Robin Saywitz

Hi Melissa,

I would encourage you to check out the Citizen Engagement topic page. It has all of the documents, case studies, blog posts, questions, articles and on citizen engagement on the Knowledge Network. On this page you will easily be able to find many many great examples of citizen engagement and you will be able to see which division/department was in charge of the effort.

I hope you find these useful and if you have any further more specific questions related to citizen engagement feel free to ask them!

Robin Saywitz
ICMA Knowledge Network Intern

Matthew Lawless

I recently conducted a survey on this topic and have responses from 69 Virginia localities, with info on their engagement/education practices and how those activities are coordinated.

The short answer is that it usually comes right from the manager's office, and that bigger localities have better staff resources available for new media and involved activities like leadership academies. But even the smallest organizations can send leaders to engage citizens groups, neighborhoods, and school classes.

I'm still working on the full report and would love for you to get involved with it! Cindy Mester (Falls Church) and I are presenting the findings at the VLGMA conference in Virginia Beach. Will you be able to join us?

I'm at and on linkedin.

Paul Leistner

The City of Portland, Oregon this year is celebrating the 40-year anniversary of Portland's community and neighborhood involvement system. Portland has learned a lot about what works and doesn't work in community involvement. A few years ago, Portland adopted a new expanded strategy to: involve a greater diversity and number of Portlanders in civic life, to build capacity in community leaders and community organizations and help them link together, and to increase the impact of community members on local decision making. The City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement is leading these efforts to involve more people, strengthen community capacity, and to increase the willingness and ability of city staff and leaders to involve the community in a genuine governance partnership. I'd be happy to provide you with more information. Just let me know what would be most useful to you. Another great resource is the Institute for Local Government in California--see their website at:

Tim Bonnemann

The City of West Hollywood, Social Services Division won the 2013 IAP2 USA Core Values Award for their entry titled "City of West Hollywood 2013 Community Study: Engaging, Listening, Learning”. A webinar in March featured their project (see here for links and more info:

Other US cities that have done great work in this area can be found in IAP2's annual "State of the Practice" report:

The Core Values Awards program was established in order to recognize leading practitioners in public participation.

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14 May 14
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