The County Voice

County Partnerships with Community-Based Organizations Stimulate More Inclusive Public Engagement: Free Webinar Offers Tips and Strategies

Research issued this year showed that more than 75 percent of county leaders in California believe that their public meetings are dominated by people with narrow agendas. Most of those surveyed confirmed that they want to have broader participation in such meetings. Yet many indicated difficulties engaging people beyond “the usual participants” — especially when trying to reach immigrants and young people. (Find the survey at

A key strategy many counties use involves nurturing relationships with community-based organizations to engage a broader cross section of residents. More than 90 percent of county officials say that they use these kinds of partnerships to facilitate connections within their communities, although less than half claim to do it “a lot.” The Institute for Local Government (ILG) is hosting a free webinar on Thursday, November 14 from 10 am to 11 am to help counties develop the skills and insights to build more effective community partnerships. ILG is the nonprofit research affiliate of CSAC and the League of California Cities.

Oscar Chavez, newly appointed Assistant Director of Human Services for Sonoma County, is one of the webinar’s featured panelists and brings extensive experience in community engagement from multiple perspectives. Chavez was most recently Executive Director of Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, one of the largest nonprofits in the region serving more than 13,000 low-income individuals annually. He also serves on the board of the Windsor Unified School District and the Community Foundation Sonoma County. In addition, Chavez is a founding member of the Coalition for Latino Civic Engagement in Sonoma County (CLACE). County-community partnerships have been a core strategy in Sonoma County for many years and integral to the success of projects such as Health Action (, Upstream Investments (, Cradle-to-Career ( and the Innovation Action Council (

“Working with the community is essential to getting the work done,” says Chavez. “The time invested in building trust and relationships and continuous two-way communications more than pays off in shared decisions and better outcomes.” His presentation during the Nov. 14 webinar will include practical examples of well-managed local community partnerships, some cautionary tales about lessons learned, resources and an extended question and answer period.

The webinar is designed to provide insights for those who are starting new partnerships as well as those working to make their ongoing relationships vital and mutually beneficial.

Titled “Partnering With Community-Based Organizations for More Inclusive Public Engagement,” the free webinar will also feature Keith Bergthold with the City of Fresno’s Planning Department and Susan Stuart Clark, senior consultant to the Institute for Local Government’s Public Engagement program. To register, visit

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