Well, I’d be an ideal communicator, of course.  But am I really afraid of that? Not really, but it turns out it takes a lot of hard work, and some people (not MURP students mind you) are a bit daunted by that. 😉

Yesterday I went to City Hall and to meet with Jeri Williams at the Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) to learn more about the Diversity and Civic Leadership (DCL) programs that ONI funds. Incredible stuff that Portland (and Jeri) is doing and has done.  As a bit of a background I am writing a paper for my community development class on IRCO‘s Diversity and Civic Leadership program.  IRCO is one of the community based organizations that receives money from Portland’s General Funds to run their DCL program.  There are a handful of non-governmental organizations that receive funding for the DCL programs, and each NGO talks to one another and coordinates their programs so that they reach appropriate undeserved/disenfranchised/minority residents of the city while also complementing one another.  Did you hear that? The organizations talk to each other.  So well in fact that in some cases the programs of the different NGO’s actually tier into one another.  So a client will go through one program and when they’re finished with that one they’re ready for the next organization’s program to take their leadership and engagement training to the next level.  How cool is that? It think it’s Brilliant, yes, capital B.

The paper I’m writing for class is specifically on the DCL program run by IRCO, since my interest is immigrants (and also refugees) and civic engagement.  My research question is simple – How does the DCL program engage immigrants and refugees with the City?  But I’m finding as I go along that there is so much more information out there.

After my meeting at ONI with Jeri I came back to the Portland Building later that evening for the ONI Budget Advisory Committee meeting.  A presentation was given on each program (they are fighting for their funding) and it was terrific to hear about the innovative programming happening in public involvement.  Specifically the ground-breaking work in the Public Involvement Best Practices program.  You need to look into the work that they’ve done.  Look here for more research.  On that page the last item is especially interesting, it’s the document that has the language which creates new measures for the City on accountability on equitable public involvement.

I can’t ramble on about it too much because I won’t do it justice, but I’ll encourage you to check it out.

We’re all planners, wannabe planners, or at least somewhat already involved in these processes, I’m excited about the new roads of public participation that are opening with these developing best practices, and am looking forward to learning more specifically on the DCL programs.  There you have it, even in bureaucracy, I have hope!

-Ellen

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