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Reimagining Equitable Services: The Citywide Equitable Engagement Cohort

News Article
A loose line drawing of five people sitting on the ground talking
Civic Life partnered with the Centre for Public Impact to create the Citywide Equitable Engagement Cohort and reimagine equitable government structures.

As the City of Portland works to implement the voter-approved changes to our form of government and our voting system, Civic Life is taking this historic opportunity to build better ways for Portlanders to connect and engage with local government.

Recently, Civic Life partnered with the Centre for Public Impact (CPI) to create the Citywide Equitable Engagement Cohort (CEEC). The cohort, made up of 25 dedicated employees, worked together to reimagining equitable government structures. Over three months, CPI lead discussions and shared tools to earn government legitimacy, create cross-bureau relationships, and share methods of equitable engagement to empower historically marginalized Portlanders.

The cohort addressed questions such as: How do we center principles of equity and anti-racism in community engagement and how can we scale equitable engagement practices across a city government? 

Participants worked with community learning partners to understand the current local context, reflect on Portland’s history, and analyze power dynamics through systems mapping. Four key themes for better community engagement became the focus of work for the rest of the program:

  • Building and/or repairing community trust to ensure inclusive decision-making;
  • Making knowledge, information, and resources more available to communities;
  • Implementing community feedback and communicating changes; and
  • Addressing historical and recent traumas.

“We are thrilled by the progress Portland’s Office of Community & Civic Life has made to establish equitable community engagement practices across the various city bureaus,” said Jorge Fanjul, North American Director for Government Legitimacy at the Centre for Public Impact, “We believe that public servants across the globe can learn from their efforts and applaud Portland’s willingness to transparently share their journey for the benefit of other governments and communities.”

As a launching point for improved, streamlined engagement and connection between City employees, CEEC will share key recommendations from this work with the Transition Management team and the new Office of the City Administrator to help build Portland’s new form of government.  City practitioners will continue to work together across bureaus to share, learn, and implement best practices to engage with all Portlanders.

For more information about the CEEC, check out CPI’s report: