Investing in Democracy

Investing in Democracy: Engaging Citizens in Collaborative Governance

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Investing in Democracy
    Book Description:

    The health of American democracy ultimately depends on our willingness and ability to work together as citizens and stakeholders in our republic. Government policies often fail to promote such collaboration. But if designed properly, they can do much to strengthen civic engagement. That is the central message of Carmen Sirianni's eloquent new book.

    Rather than encourage citizens to engage in civic activity, government often puts obstacles in their way. Many agencies treat citizens as passive clients rather than as community members, overlooking their ability to mobilize assets and networks to solve problems. Many citizen initiatives run up against rigid rules and bureaucratic silos, causing all but the most dedicated activists to lose heart. The unfortunate -and unnecessary -result is a palpable decline in the quality of civic life.

    Fortunately, growing numbers of policymakers across the country are figuring out how government can serve as a partner and catalyst for collaborative problem solving. Investing in Democracy details three such success stories: neighborhood planning in Seattle; youth civic engagement programs in Hampton, Virginia; and efforts to develop civic environmentalism at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The book explains what measures were taken and why they succeeded. It distills eight core design principles that characterize effective collaborative governance and concludes with concrete recommendations for federal policy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0361-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Government as Civic Enabler
    (pp. 1-38)

    A 2005 volume entitledDemocracy at Riskarrived at a conclusion that was as blunt as its title. Pulled together by a prestigious committee of the American Political Science Association under the guidance of Steven Macedo and his colleagues, the book notes that American democracy is at risk because of “an erosion of the activities and capacities of citizenship,” which in turn tends to undermine the quality of democratic governance, the legitimacy of self-rule, and the ennobling influence self-governance can have on citizens. Despite some deep and disturbing trends in our society, however, this risk can be substantially reduced by...

  6. 2 Collaborative Governance and Policy Design: Core Principles
    (pp. 39-65)

    “To consider a particular policy in civic terms,” argues Boston College political scientist Marc Landy in a formative 1993 Brookings Institution volume,Public Policy for Democracy,“it is useful to abandon a purely instrumental conception of it as a machine designed to spew out specific outputs and to think of it instead as a constitution.” Constitutions establish broad ends, define powers, and prescribe specific institutional arrangements. They determine who is to be included as a member and thereby define publics, the tools available to them, and the lessons they are likely to learn about the polity and their role in...

  7. 3 Neighborhood Empowerment and Planning: Seattle, Washington
    (pp. 66-116)

    The city of Seattle, with a population, according to the 2000 census, of five hundred and sixty-three thousand in a metropolitan area of 2.4 million, took its first steps in creating a system of formal neighborhood representation in 1987–88 when it established twelve district councils to represent independently organized “community councils,” the preferred term for neighborhood associations in the city. In addition, an Office of Neighborhoods was established to provide city staff support for the district councils. A city neighborhood council, consisting of elected members of the district councils, was also created, designed to provide an independent citizen voice...

  8. 4 Youth Civic Engagement: Systems Change and Culture Change in Hampton, Virginia
    (pp. 117-154)

    The city of Hampton lies in the Hampton Roads area of the Virginia coast that includes Norfolk, Newport News, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth. A mostly blue-collar city of one hundred and forty-six thousand with a modest income base, Hampton has a population that is approximately 50 percent white and 45 percent African American, with a school population that is 66 percent African American. In the early 1990s, political and civic leaders began collaborative planning to make youth a central part of their reinventing government and economic development efforts and, in the process, began to shift fundamentally the way they...

  9. 5 Can a Federal Regulator Become a Civic Enabler? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    (pp. 155-222)

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was set up by an executive order of President Nixon in 1970. Its structure was pieced together from more than a dozen units in several federal agencies, each operating under preexisting, media-specific statutes. These statutes, along with a spate of new laws soon to follow, established a relatively clear regulatory paradigm of command and control. Congress would outlaw certain activities, set definite deadlines for reducing specific pollutants, and mandate the use of specific technologies over others. The agency would bear responsibility for enforcing these mandates. Should polluters fail to meet requirements and deadlines, it could...

  10. 6 Design for Democracy: Federal Policy for Collaborative Governance
    (pp. 223-240)

    The preceding chapters have analyzed three relatively robust cases of government as civic enabler and investor, each with a distinct mix of core principles of collaborative governance. The City of Seattle developed a broad-ranging system to support local civic engagement and problem solving and a process of neighborhood planning and implementation as part of the comprehensive plan process. These innovations emerged in response to contentious politics between activists and city hall and still generate some strong disagreements over the best ways to sustain citizen-driven problem solving and planning while grappling with a variety of external constraints and internal shortfalls in...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 241-292)
  12. Index
    (pp. 293-306)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-307)