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CSC Grants to Support Public Engagement Efforts in California

Here’s an important announcement for those of you in California, from NCDD member Pete Peterson. Common Sense California just announced the re-launch of its unique “citizen engagement grant program” for 2009, offering thousands of dollars to California municipalities, school districts and non-profits in support of their efforts to involve residents in local policy-making. Grants will range from $1,000 to $7,500.

Here’s the full press release:

Los Angeles and San Francisco, Calif. – June 24, 2009

Common Sense California (CSC) today announced the re-launching of its annual “Citizen Engagement Grant Program”, offering funding for public participation efforts around the state. It continues to be the only grant program of its kind in the nation, supporting governments and non-profits that want to legitimately engage the informed “public voice” on a variety of local policy issues.

For 2009, CSC is offering grants from $1,000.00 to $7,500.00 to municipalities (cities, counties, school districts, regional governments) and non-profit organizations. The 2009 Citizen Engagement Grant Program follows the 2008 program, which proved to be very popular and successful, providing more than a dozen grants around California to cities like Brea in Orange County up to school districts like Ripon in San Joaquin County and non-profits like the Ventura County Civic Alliance.  Most of the granted projects were budget or land use related, but others included a public engagement project around public safety in Morro Bay, and public input into school policy for a charter school in Los Angeles. The 2008 Grantees can be found here on the CSC website: www.commonsenseca.org/about/stories.php.

“Last year’s Citizen Engagement Grant Program taught us some important lessons about public participation at the local and regional levels,” said Pete Peterson, executive director of CSC.  “First, the large number of applications we received demonstrated that cities, counties, and schools really want to involve their publics in deeper ways than simple opinion-polling. Second, that these organizations can make a little bit of grant money go a long way.” Peterson believes that, while last year’s program was popular, this year’s will be more important: “Everyone has a sense as to the scope of the fiscal challenges confronting the State. What many are still learning is that in our counties, cities, and school districts the situation is more desperate. In this environment leaders are reaching out to their residents to help them work through extremely difficult decisions.”

What is “Legitimate” Citizen Engagement?

More about the criteria for the Common Sense Grants can be found on the website, but for a glimpse at how CSC defines this term, Ed Everett, the recent City Manager for Redwood City and current co-Chair of CSC’s City/Regional Task Force puts it this way: “Leaders are beginning to understand that on particular policy questions, the focus of control needs to move from the outcome to the citizen engagement process.”  In this, they can “take their hands off the wheel” of the outcome and truly concentrate on gaining the input of informed citizens. By creating these “spaces” where citizens from a variety of perspectives can deliberate over an important policy question, there is also the very real opportunity for building community as citizens discuss a localized policy concern that interests all.

How to Apply

All Common Sense Grant applications will be taken through the Common Sense California website: www.commonsenseca.org/about/apply.php.

Further information about grant criteria and the selection process will also be noted on the website.

About Common Sense California

Common Sense California (www.commonsenseca.org) is a mulit-partisan and non-profit organization that promotes citizen engagement throughout the state as a means of producing better policy decisions, and offering Californians meaningful opportunities to participate in their governance.  To this end we both support civic participation financially through our Common Sense Grant Program, but also work consultatively, sitting down with civic leaders to talk about ways in which they can more effectively engage their citizens.

CSC also conducts its “Leadership through Civic Engagement” seminar around the state for municipal and civic officials.

Contact:
Pete Peterson
Common Sense California
310.506.8054
p.peterson@commonsenseca.org

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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