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Center on Civility and Democratic Engagement

The Class of '68 Celebrates 45 Years and Its Lasting Legacy

The Goldman School’s Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement (CCDE), founded by the Cal Class of 1968 on their 40th reunion, seeks to promote civility in public discourse and prepare future leaders to successfully engage people of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints in the resolution of public policy issues. CCDE Advisory Board and members of the Class of ’68 who have been gathering quarterly over the past 10 years, along with a multitude of UC Berkeley alums from various reunion years, have embarked on a campaign to endow the program in perpetuity.

“The next five years leading up to our 50th reunion signal the beginning of our dream come true,” says Advisory Board Co-Chair D.D. van Löben Sels. “Now as an integral part of the Goldman School, the Center’s core academic, research and teaching will focus on how to best solve local public policy issues by incorporating public participation.”

“Our goal is to work with local governments to carry out participatory budgeting, citizen summits, and deliberative democracy projects that will combine substantial civic engagement with actual decision-making,” says Henry Brady, dean and co-director of the Center. “These projects will draw upon research by GSPP faculty members and graduate students, and build upon approaches used by the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy. Collaborating with the Davenport Institute, we will also develop a training program on these methods for GSPP’s executive training and Masters of Public Policy programs, alumni, and local government officials. The curriculum will include components examining the best place in the policy-making process for civic engagement and using social media as a means of enhancing civic participation.”

“Student education and involvement are key to our mission,” says CCDE advisory board member Selma Meyerowitz. “During the past three years, the Center has provided financial assistance to 17 undergraduates enrolled in Cal’s UC in Washington, DC (UCDC) program and we are sponsoring three more this spring. Through their affiliation with the Center and their experiences during their internships in DC, these students observe and then report back on the political, ideological and cultural factors that generate conflict and what enables productive problem solving locally, nationally and globally.”

CCDE is also sponsoring Goldman School Masters Candidate Orville Thomas who is doing his Advanced Policy Analysis (APA) with Councilwoman Marti Brown of the City of Vallejo, working on the nation’s first city-wide participatory budgeting project dubbed “PB Vallejo.”

Center Advisory Board members from Cal's Class of 1968 meet with Dean Henry E. Brady and MPP Candidate Orville Thomas.

“The City of Vallejo is taking a proactive approach in trying to get its people to believe in it again,” says Orville. “Vallejo needs more projects which push for increased interaction between its residents and their government. The more they know about government and spending, the more likely they’ll be to avoid legislation and policies that will take them back towards bankruptcy.”

“The Participatory Budgeting Project, operating out of Brooklyn, New York, approached GSPP last summer to discuss the Vallejo process and the potential for research collaboration,” says Adjunct Professor Larry Rosenthal, who serves on PB Vallejo’s research board. “There are numerous questions concerning representativeness, process design, roles of the existing administrative structure, sustainability across annual budget cycles, and the quality of decision-making compared to municipal politics-as-usual. The leadership of the Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement is making a real difference as we proceed. Orville’s APA endeavors to evaluate what is working well — as Vallejo strives for the first time to involve its citizens meaningfully in budget choice — and what might be improved to make the process even better in future years, in Vallejo and elsewhere.” Since 2010, CCDE has sponsored three other graduate students working on topics related to civility and democratic engagement. Their research has informed the work of the Center and GSPP faculty and students as a whole, and proved invaluable academically and personally. Jessie Oettinger (MPP ’11) had this to say about her experience: “I’m a project manager now, working on a team of folks across the country monitoring the grantee sites that received stimulus money from the Department of Labor. Both my summer internship and my APA experience were directly relevant to getting me to where I am and I am so grateful. When I applied for my position at Collaborative Economics, all the partners actually read my APA and wanted to talk about it!”

“We look to Berkeley for ground-breaking solutions to the world’s challenges,” says Robert Wong, Advisory Board Co- Chair. “Success will require a commitment to leadership and effective problem solving. Through the Center, our alumni group aims to inform public policy, engage citizens and position Cal as a leader in these critical areas.”

CCDE is also known for its hallmark public events on Homecoming (see box), and Cal Day (view webcasts on the School’s homepage), along with the Class of ’68 and Friends Quarterly Gatherings that bring alumni back to Berkeley to reconnect through stimulating academic, social and cultural activities in an informal setting.