Student Fellowship

Supporting and Further Strengthening Civic Engagement Efforts in Riverside

Project Area:

Civic Engagement

City:

Riverside, California

Reporting to:

Chief of Staff

The Challenge

With a population of almost 320,000, Riverside is the 12th largest city in California but has a small-town community feel where residents are highly engaged with their city government. According to the 2022 city-commissioned Quality of Life Survey, more than 85 percent of respondents said they had participated in at least one of the following city-sponsored events: an in-person meeting; an online meeting; a local election; or visited the city’s website or other online service. Obtaining resident input on key issues facing the community and engaging them in collaborative problem-solving is a key mayoral priority. 

In July 2021, the mayor launched a 14-stop Big Tent “listening, sharing, and learning” tour with Riverside neighborhoods with the goal of listening to and gathering information from residents while also sharing some of her own ideas. Key learnings from the tour in terms of what was working well for residents included neighborliness and community spirit, 311 services, police and public safety, parks and walkability, among others. In terms of ongoing challenges, residents prioritized homelessness, trash, traffic, quality of life issues, etc. Some ideas for potential solutions included increased neighborhood partnerships, improved lighting, food truck ordinances. In mid-2022, in response to the learnings from the tour and to continue to engage residents, the Office of the Mayor launched a community-engaged Beautify Riverside initiative aimed to improve the quality of life in Riverside by enhancing the appearance of main gathering points and neighborhoods. The initiative focuses on landscape improvements, litter removal, and public art and murals that reflect each neighborhood’s unique identity. The city’s leadership would like to continue to identify additional opportunities for resident engagement, assess new needs for data collection, craft compelling narratives, and conduct further research to inform ongoing improvements to the city’s civic engagement efforts.

Working closely with the Chief of Staff to the mayor and the city’s Communications team, and informed by the findings from the Big Tent tour and the Quality of Life Survey, and utilizing the Bloomberg Harvard City Leader Guide for Civic Engagement, the fellow will seek to answer the following key questions:

  1. What might the city of Riverside (and other cities) learn from a research and data-informed case study about the city’s civic engagement efforts that evaluates its current approach and efforts, successes, and opportunities for improvement and expansion?
  2. How might the city work to enhance its communication and outreach efforts to engage community members?
  3. How might the city utilize the data collected via the Big Tent tour and the Quality of Life Survey to craft compelling narratives about the city? How might residents participate in the creation of and sharing of these narratives?
  4. How might the Quality of Life Survey be amended for the next round so it captures key resident concerns heard in the Big Tent tour and collects useful data to inform the city’s engagement efforts?
  5. Informed by the learnings from the two data sources and the City Leader Guide diagnostic and design work, what are the next steps related to civic engagement? How might the city plan for successfully implementing and measuring the success of its initiatives?

What You’ll Do

To address these questions, the fellow will perform data analysis, conduct research and deploy select diagnostics from the City Leader Guide, and engage key internal and external stakeholders, including the Mayor’s Bipartisan Forum, to inform recommendations. Key deliverables include:

  1. Inventory and analysis of effectiveness of current methods of resident communications. 
  2. A case study on Riverside’s civic engagement efforts, successes, and opportunities for improvement and expansion.
  3. Recommendations for amendments to the next Quality of Life Survey, crafting collective narratives, and planning for successful design, implementation, and evaluation of future civic engagement efforts.
  4. Presentation to Mayor, City Manager, and City Council.

What You’ll Bring

The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills:

  • Data analysis
  • Qualitative interviewing and analysis
  • Research 
  • Communications
  • Design thinking
  • Stakeholder engagement and management
  • Spanish fluency desired but not required


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