Though many of the laws and policies that govern our lives are crafted in state capitals or in Washington, D.C., our local governments bear much of the responsibility for turning our laws into reality. Local government, too, is often the most easily influenced by citizens, but aging administrative, electoral, and participatory structures limit citizens from engaging fully in the political process. As our communities grow and evolve, we believe community members themselves should guide the process of reform.
That’s why the Jefferson Center, Professor David Schultz at Hamline University, and digital engagement firm ForgeWorks are leading the Minnesota Citizens Assembly Project (MNCAP). MNCAP will engage citizens to assess potential reforms to the administrative, electoral, and participatory structures of local government in three Minnesota communities in 2017.
A Citizens Assembly serves as a microcosm of the community, randomly selected to reflect the demographic and political breakdown of the community. Over the course of eight days, selected citizens will learn about their local government and others around the country, discuss their corresponding advantages and disadvantages, identify the values underpinning their view of a successful local government, and explore and recommend opportunities to ensure their local government reflects these values.
Each Assembly’s recommendations will inform best practices for local government and City Charter design for researchers and municipalities across the country. These recommendations will also serve as blueprints for the participating communities and others across Minnesota and the US to update government for the 21st century.
This initiative taps into the wisdom of local residents so that municipalities reflect their needs, values, and aspirations. We are delighted to begin this vital effort to give community members a clear voice in shaping the future of municipal governance and elections.
Support for this project comes from the Joyce Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.