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The New Laboratories of Democracy: How Local Government is Reinventing Civic Engagement

From the press release (May 2009):

PACE Releases Report Detailing Local Government Innovations in Civic Engagement

Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) released a major report today detailing the innovative methods local governments around the country are using to increase civic engagement by the public.

“Local governments are at the cutting edge of finding new tools and methods to increase civic engagement in this country. We hope this report will stimulate new thinking within the philanthropic community, as well as in local governments around the country, and help spread the word about these new and successful approaches,” said Chris Gates, Executive Director of PACE. Combining original research with an overview of the literature and history of civic engagement and local government reform, the report highlights fresh insights from foundation leaders, civic experts, scholars, local officials and public engagement advocates.

“The New Laboratories of Democracy: How Local Government is Reinventing Civic Engagement” traces the quest for deeper and more authentic forms of public engagement from the anti-poverty programs over the last 45 years through the 1990s when a variety of trends came together to foster a “second wave” of civic innovation. Those trends included a growing skepticism about government’s role in society, increasing concern for the need to re-knit the fabric of struggling communities and a desire for more authentic, civil and “deliberative” forms of public discourse and decision-making.

A concluding section explores the next phase of local government innovation, finding effective uses of the internet, new communications technologies and social networking tools to move from “place-based” meetings and organizing to the brave new world of “Democracy 2.0.”

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