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Public Participation in Governance


The adoption of participatory governance practices can lead to more effective and equitable government. By creating opportunities for community residents to engage in public policy decision-making, governments can arrive at better policy solutions to complex problems, increase the accountability of elected officials, and meet the needs of the communities they serve with greater success.

Similar to voting, California has significant racial disparities in political participation beyond voting, which includes contacting public officials, contributing money to political campaigns, attending public meetings, protesting, engaging in consumer activism, and signing petitions in person or online. Our research shows that Latinos and Asian Americans are underrepresented and whites are overrepresented in most forms of political participation in California, while black participation is on par with that group’s share of the adult population. Like the disparities in voting, these disparities mean that whites are more likely to have a say in the outcome of policy decisions than people of color.

At least some of these disparities are explained by policies about the quality and quantity of government outreach to community residents on policy matters, the type of participatory opportunities available to residents, and the government infrastructure in place to facilitate public participation. Political Voice works to change public participation policies that intentionally or unintentionally marginalize low-income people of color.


Our initial research has identified two different models of municipal reform: the first is cities that have adopted participation policies, while the second is cities that have gone beyond participation policies to build participation infrastructure. Political Voice will now begin working with stakeholders and community partners to institute public participation reform at the municipal level.