The Colorado’s Future Civic Engagement process was developed applying the latest research and best practices in collaborative political organizing. Using these proven processes – including lessons learned from past Colorado efforts and the best of community and political organizing techniques – we believe we can create the necessary constitutional and political transformation that will be required for sustainable policy reform in the State of Colorado.
Our Work conforms to the Core Principles for Public Engagement used by the most inspiring leaders in the field. Click to read more...
- Careful planning and preparation through adequate and inclusive planning; and ensuring that the design, organization, and process serve a clearly defined purpose and the needs of participants.
- Inclusion and demographic diversity to equitably incorporate diverse people, voices, ideas and information to lay the groundwork for quality outcomes and democratic legitimacy.
- Collaboration and shared purpose to support and encourage participants, government and community institutions to work together to advance the common good.
- Openness and learning to help all involved listen to each other, explore new ideas unconstrained by predetermined outcomes, learn and apply information in ways that generate new options, and rigorously evaluate public engagement activities for effectiveness.
- Transparency and trust: We must be clear and open about the process, and provide a public record of the organizers, sponsors, outcomes, and range of views and ideas expressed.
- Impact and action: To ensure each participatory effort has real potential to make a difference, and that participants are aware of that potential.
- Sustained engagement and participatory culture to promote participation with existing programs and institutions that support ongoing quality public engagement.
These seven recommendations reflect the common beliefs and understandings of those working in the fields of public engagement, conflict resolution, and collaboration. For more information please go to the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation.
- Modern Front-Porch Campaigning
Our process follows the best of current theory and uses modern techniques in collaborative political advocacy. Think of it as combining the best of old-fashioned front-porch campaigning and the highest standards of Western ethics – where one's word is one's bond – combined with modern technology and campaign skills.
Follow-up is critical to the success of this project, going well beyond the crafting of a consensus solution. Participants often say they leave most public forums more educated, but without a guiding direction as there is nothing specific asked of them. In the Colorado's Future model, at the conclusion of each event the committee asks for the support and commitment for solutions via an already-established citizen-to-citizen advocacy network. It is our hope that that participants will continue to stay engaged as the issue winds its way through the political process.
Colorado’s Future Civic Engagement process – Phase I (2009-2010)
The first phase of the “Building a Better Colorado Through Civic Engagement” identified and engaged civic leaders throughout Colorado in discussions over public policy with the goal of developing a common sense consensus solution. Meeting in groups, these leaders reviewed and discussed recommendations for reforming the state's constitutional ballot system. It is our hope that this model will be successful and can be used for other future important statewide issues.
- How Were Participants Chosen?
The Civic Engagement model employed a four-step process to identify civic leaders across Colorado. The leaders were selected by their peers to participate in Civic Engagement meetings based on their demonstrated commitment to their communities and their demonstration of the following characteristics:
- Being trusted and respected
- Commitment to working with others to solve problems
- A track record of giving back to their communities
- Being well-known in their community
- A willingness to roll up their sleeves and affect positive change
- Collectively, the group should represent diversity in age, gender, ethnicity and profession
- The Three-Part Agenda
During the three-hour event, participants engaged in small group discussions and contributed to the large group discussion with the aid of individual polling devices. The agenda consisted of three main parts: 1) Review of the arguments both FOR and AGAINST ballot and Colorado constitutional reform 2) Review, discuss, create and vote on more than 40 options for improving Colorado's initiative and constitutional processes; and 3) Discuss strategies for securing passage of any consensus recommendation. More than 1,000 civic leaders considered 40-plus options.
Participants controlled the direction of the discussion, based on their opinions of ballot reform and the options they most supported for addressing the issue. Participants were also invited to suggest their own options for consideration; these were presented to the broader group for a vote. While the basic presentation of options was the same, there were adjustments and additions made to reflect lessons learned from each preceding Civic Engagement meeting.
- Shared Sense of Needed Reform
There was a shared sense that, while it is important for Colorado to retain its citizen initiative process, the ballot process should be reformed to make it more difficult to amend Colorado's constitution. Participants developed strong agreement on a series of meaningful reforms to improve the ballot process.
The following recommendations secured at least 75 percent support at the Civic Engagement meetings:
- Ballot language should be clear and concise (readable at an 8th grade level).
- Financial disclosure requirements for ballot initiative campaigns should be as strict as current requirements for candidate campaigns.
- Petitioners should be required to collect signatures from various locations around the state.
- More signatures should be required to place constitutional amendments on the ballot than statutory amendments.
- Constitutional amendments should secure a super-majority of votes, while statutory amendments should be allowed to be adopted with a simple majority. Anything that’s ALREADY in the constitution could be amended OUT with a simple majority vote.
- A Constitutional Review Commission should be established, to meet periodically, review the constitution and recommend changes to correct conflicting provisions.
After identifying these shared recommendations, the assembled groups of civic leaders were asked whether or not they would support this group of recommendations if the ideas were presented as one measure at the ballot box. More than 90 percent of the participants indicated they WOULD vote in support of these recommendations.
- Building a Better Colorado – Phase II
Phase II of the “Building a Better Colorado through Civic Engagement” will be implemented in 2011, and will continue to identify and engage civic leaders within their communities in an interactive discussion of public policy challenges to develop a consensus solution for the long-term betterment of our state. This year the conversation about ballot reform and constitutional review will continue, but related meetings will address the broader issue of how Colorado is governed and how that choice impacts services that state and local government provide.
The following issues will be on the agenda:
- Trust in government (reforms or limitations)
- Balance between representative government and direct democracy
- The relative roles of state and local government in providing services
- Assess the collective will for implementing change