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A conversation with Alissa Black on the California Civic Innovation Project

On Tuesday (May 15th), NCDD hosted a call open to dues-paying NCDD members who live or work in California. My colleague Alissa Black, who recently left Code for America to head up the New America Foundation‘s new project, the California Civic Innovation Project (CCIP), was interested in discussing the project with NCDD members.  Alissa was also very interested in learning about the public engagement work NCDDers are doing in California — especially in the realm of local governance.

We had a great call, with close to 30 participants [all of whom are doing really impressive work in California, I might add!].  Alissa told me she got a lot out of the call, and was kind enough to write up the following summary and reflections for the blog.  We recorded the call and welcome all NCDDers to listen to the audio.  — Sandy


On May 15th I had the pleasure of collaborating with almost 30 Californian NCDD members to discuss the New America Foundation‘s latest project, the California Civic Innovation Project (CCIP).  The discussion began with an introduction from Sandy Heierbacher, acknowledging the work of the community and inviting the members to share their community engagement projects with me.

Following Sandy, I introduced myself and the path that took me from public service to the non-profit sector, always looking for ways to infuse innovation in local governments. I had the opportunity to talk about my new project, the California Civic Innovation Project that promotes innovations in technology, policy and practice to deepen engagement between government and communities throughout California. Through research and information-sharing, CCIP builds communities of practice within California’s local governments and identifies best practices to improving service delivery, opening new channels for public voices, and bridging the state’s digital divides.

Healthy knowledge sharing networks, both formal and informal, are essential to the diffusion of innovation in local governments. CCIP’s research in the area will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of how local governments can better share technology, policies, and practices. Additionally, CCIP will engage with local governments to develop an innovation process grounded in public-private collaboration and community engagement.

Speaking with NCDD members was important because I am particularly interested in learning about community engagement projects where local governments are partners in the process. I was amazed by some of the projects the members discussed. Their work is so relevant to my research and will better inform the innovation processes that I hope to develop within local governments.

Additionally, I was struck by the number of members that do not rely on technology to engage the community, mostly focusing on face-to-face and larger gatherings. I will definitely need to learn more about the dialog and deliberation processes to identify when, why and how technology is used (and not used) in the process and the impact it has on the outcomes.

I am extremely impressed with the work of the California NCDD members. Sixty minutes was definitely not enough time to explore all the projects and organizations so I welcome all follow-up calls and emails. I hope this community continues to share their experiences with me and others because we can benefit tremendously from learning more about your work.

  – Alissa Black, director of the New America Foundation’s California Civic Innovation Project


 Click here to listen to the audio recording of the call, which is a 27Mb mp3 file, 1 hour long.

Sandy Heierbacher is the director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). She co-founded NCDD in 2002 with her husband Andy Fluke. Sandy has an M.A. in International Management from SIT Graduate Institute. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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