Portland Engagement Project

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The Portland Engagement Project is working toward a more equitable community engagement model to solve issues of today and into the future. A data-rich neighborhood map and facilitated community discussions will inform Portland's ability to pinpoint, prioritize and solve the root of civic issues.
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About the Portland Engagement Project

When you see an issue in your community do you know who to reach out to at the City of Portland and feel confident that it has a good process for engaging with your feedback? 

For some of us, the answer is a resounding “yes,” while for others, the City’s public engagement practice and trust between community and government is broken. 

Civic Life’s Portland Engagement Project (PEP) is a multi-year project designed to hear from all Portlanders, to learn how the City of Portland can build upon current successful engagement practices and improve our civic processes.

In Spring 2021, City Council approved Civic Life to use budget savings to lead the citywide Portland Engagement Project because: 

  • Portland’s engagement model is 50 years old, and the City plans to build upon the existing framework through a transparent, public process that integrates today’s technology and engagement concepts.     
  • The 2020 census shows Portland has grown by 12% since 2010 and 70% since 1970, and our growing pains are evidenced by the issues we see today. 
  • Portland is growing rapidly and requires a resilient engagement structure that enables ALL Portlanders to be meaningfully engaged in the decisions that most impact their lives.  
  • The 2008 Community Connect Report and the 2035 Comprehensive Plan need our collective energy to ensure their success.

We just completed the first phase of PEP, which included listening sessions with the community and the three-day PEP Talk forum for discussing new engagement concepts. Over the next year and a half, Civic Life will be working with our consultants to summarize the first phase findings in public reports. When Portland government changes in 2025, Civic Life and community will design the new model and get City Council approval to begin implementation.

The best way to keep up-to-date on PEP reports and opportunities is to sign up for the Civic Life Updates newsletter:

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

PEP Timeline

PEP is a multi-year process comprised of four components: 


Fall 2022 – Spring 2023

Civic Life worked with the independent consultant, Pregame, to host listening sessions with City employees and community members to gather input on how the City can build a better engagement structure to serve all Portlanders. All listening sessions are now complete. Pregame will compile the input gathered during the listening sessions into a public report. The report will be released in Fall 2023.


Fall 2022 – Fall 2023

Civic Life is working with Portland State University's Population Research Center to build  neighborhood profiles for each of Portland’s 94 neighborhoods that provide demographic data like food and housing security, population, income, and more.

This resource will help the City and community partners improve outreach, set programmatic priorities, help Portlanders in need and become more inclusive and equitable when making decisions about communications, programming, funding, and events. It will also help to sharpen our understanding of the unique changes and issues occurring within each neighborhood. Preliminary profiles have been completed and published here. In Fall 2023, PSU will release updated profiles and an interactive mapping tool that will allow users to look up and compare neighborhood data.


Spring 2023

On April 27-29, Civic Life, Portland State University's Center for Public Service and Oregon's Kitchen Table hosted PEP Talk. This three-day event brought together community leaders and engagement experts to discuss the possibilities for the future of Portland's engagement framework.  

In Fall 2023, Oregon’s Kitchen Table will release a report highlighting the themes and outcomes of the event.

Watch PEP Talk presenter Dr. Julia Carboni address important engagement practices:

Final Reflections from Dr. Julia Carboni, PEP Talk - April 29


Summer 2023-2025

Our consultants, Pregame and Oregon’s Kitchen Table, will summarize their findings in public reports. Pregame is also creating the design process for the new engagement model. When Portland government changes in 2025, Civic Life and community will use Pregame’s process to design the new model and get City Council approval to begin implementation.

What is the PEP result?

The intended result of PEP is to create an equitable community engagement model that will help the Portland community and Portland City government rebuild trust and strengthen our processes to solve issues today and into the future. 

A data-rich neighborhood map, the learnings from the summit, and facilitated community listening sessions will inform Portland's ability to build its engagement framework, so that we can come together to pinpoint, prioritize and solve the root of civic issues.

How did you engage City employees?

PEP began in Summer 2022 when Pregame launched the first listening sessions with City employees to learn how we are currently working with community. Pregame created interactive sessions where employees were asked to provide feedback on how we can improve community engagement structures, what practices are working and what processes need improvement.

Nearly 600 employees across 37 City of Portland bureaus provided ideas for engagement and bureau organization. In summary, seven reoccurring themes were identified for study and improvement. These themes are:  

  • Community Outreach 
  • Accessibility and Equity  
  • Process Improvement  
  • Engagement Tools  
  • Internal Roles and Structure 
  • Employee and Leadership Stability  
  • Community Responsiveness 

During the external listening sessions, Pregame asked Portlanders to provide feedback on their existing relationship with the City of Portland using these three questions:

  1. If you need to tell the City something or get information from the City, are you happy with your options?
  2. What is your idea for how the City could communicate better with you?
  3. How would you like to be involved in the City’s decisions and direction?

The internal listening sessions feedback were captured in the report below. The report for the external listening sessions will be released later this year.

Read the Internal Listening Report Here

Who are our Partners? 

Pregame designed and hosted listening sessions to objectively gather the best ideas from city employees as well as diverse groups and individuals throughout Portland. Pregame is currently compiling three reports which include: (1) Listening Recap, (2) Listening to All Portlanders: The Results (3) All Listening Projects: Synthesis.

Portland Insights Survey is organized by the City Budget Office and asks Portlanders to share their thoughts on City services, policy decisions, and budget decisions. This survey is one of many City engagement efforts already happening and rather than duplicating data presentation, we’ll incorporate their findings into PEP’s design and outcomes. 

PSU Population Research Center is leading the work on building data-rich neighborhood profiles to help the City and our community partners improve outreach and services. 

PSU Center for Public Service/Oregon's Kitchen Tableled the design for PEP Talk, a three-day event that brought together community leaders and engagement experts to share ideas on how to build equitable engagement for the City of Portland.

Citywide Equitable Engagement Cohort: Civic Life worked with The Centre for Public Impact (CPI), a nonprofit learning partner, to lead an equitable engagement practitioner cohort. Over the course of three months, 25 City of Portland practitioners from 13 bureaus learned best practices from each other, shared knowledge, and built relationships.

The Centre for Public Impact: worked with City of Portland community engagement practitioners across different bureaus to share tools to earn government legitimacy, create cross-bureau relationships, and share methods of equitable engagement to empower historically marginalized community members.

Most Importantly - You: Each one of these activities will rely upon your insight and participation to succeed!

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