April 9, 2021
Hollie Russon Gilman and Elena Souris wrote for Next City about new models for bringing residents into the governing process.
For our cities to truly build back better, government must build with, not for, the community. Processes that build policy for constituents instead of with them will always have limited information and face unanticipated challenges. Rolling out solutions without having community buy-in will meet resistance.
To create meaningful improvements fully and equitably, we need new governing models that include everyday Americans, starting at the city level.
One such model, also called co-governance, seeks to create a new process that not just encourages public participation in governing, but empowers residents to be engaged, involved, and, often, act as decision-makers. As a result of this innovative, collaborative model, the process is more inclusive, and often yields better outcomes for the community. These efforts are not just about expanding diversity of representation, but ensuring equitable treatment in building real civic power in decision-making.
For cities overwhelmed by today’s crises, changing processes to be more collaborative can sound unrealistic, unimaginable, and unpredictable. In reality, it’s manageable, efficient — and absolutely necessary. There are models from all around the world that we can learn from: