Democracy Weeks 3: Regional Planning and Civic Engagement

‘Vision’ project attracts 30,000 to plan future.

This is the headline for an emergent and on-going process sponsored by the San Diego Foundation, which seeks to craft a 50 to 100 year vision for the region. Through a multi-pronged effort, the Foundation has collected citizen and stakeholder input on a range of issues and challenges facing this Southern California region, including education, housing, cost of living, arts and culture, recreation, employment, planning, and growth. With an expected swelling of the region, already home to the eighth largest city in the country, and some significant governance and growth challenges, this seems a perfect time for this kind of action. Take a look at for more information.

This kind of regional planning effort is not unique to San Diego. In Central Florida, for instance, was developed to pursue a similar regional planning initiaitve. In Central Florida as well, approximately 20,000 residents provided input through public forums, surveys, and media-sponsored outreach.

Here’s something unique about San Diego: once the data are crunched and the vision is officially crafted, a newly established Malin Burnham Center for Civic Engagement at the San Diego Foundation will be charged with keeping this vision updated and to continuously engage citizens, nonprofit leaders, business leaders, philanthropic leaders, political leaders, and other stakeholders in the process of vision enactment. The need for this kind of multi-sector engagement seems apparent given the challenges faced by residents and leaders in the region for the past 100 years, as nicely documented in the book Paradise Plundered: Fiscal Crisis and Governance Failures in San Diego.

As I suggested in my lecture on democracy and philanthropy (see Democracy Weeks 1) a community foundation such as the San Diego Foundation might be one of the better options to serve as convener of this kind of dialogue, given the baggage and distrust of other sectors. Keep an eye on the websites linked above; we should learn some powerful lessons from San Diego…

Published by Prof. dr. Thomas Bryer

Dr. Thomas Bryer is professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Central Florida, Fulbright Scholar and Specialist, Professor at Kaunas University of Technology (Lithuania) and Visiting Professor Edge Hill University (United Kingdom).

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