CitizenDetroit, a civic engagement program, is growing with the help of a $1.5 million funding boost from the Knight Foundation. This funding will enable the organization, an independent nonprofit, to scale its efforts, promoting regular online and in-person dialogues about important civic issues, and producing research to help residents better understand local government and their role in shaping it.
Citizen Detroit started as a project incubated at Wayne State University. Over the past five years, it has engaged roughly 2,000 Detroiters on multiple topics crucial to civic life. The nonpartisan organization educates residents on candidates and policy issues, and encourages them to think critically about elected officials and emerging political topics.
On Jan. 27, 2018, CitizenDetroit held its first Citizen Assembly with more than 300 participants, including City Hall leaders. At the Assembly, residents developed an action agenda to hold elected and appointed leadership accountable for supporting equity and opportunity for all Detroiters. The agenda will drive CitizenDetroit’s interactions with residents and public officials over the coming year.
The ten recommendations focus broadly on community inclusion and call for fairer housing, education and greater economic inclusion. CitizenDetroit is working on a scoreboard to track how well the city does at following the recommendations over the next year. A three-year grant from the Knight Foundation will help users track city performance through CitizenDetroit’s engagement program – EngageD.
In addition, Knight Foundation funding will help propel two of the organization’s program areas: PolicyLab and Civic Exchange. PolicyLab is the research arm of CitizenDetroit; it works to produce information that helps residents make informed decisions and educate them about local issues. Civic Exchange delivers community education experiences to residents, including town halls with candidates and elected officials, dinner and dialogues about local issues, and interactive exercises designed to promote learning and participation. In addition, the organization will use Knight support to build an online platform that will highlight civic information, activities and programs, as a way to reach many more residents.