Strengthening Democratic Engagement with Valerie Lemmie

December 07, 2017

The 2017 Bruce and Lis Welch Community Dialogue featured Valerie Lemmie, Director of Exploratory Research of the Kettering Foundation to explore ways to strengthen democratic engagement in solving community problems.

About Valerie Lemmie

An adept strategic thinker with more than 35 years of experience in solving public problems and controversial issues in governmental organizations and local communities, Lemmie joined the foundation in 2014 after a distinguished career in public service. She served as city manager for the cities of Petersburg, Virginia, and Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio; commissioner on the Public Utility Commission of Ohio; and district director and acting chief of staff for Congressman Turner (Ohio’s 10th District). Lemmie has also served as adjunct professor at Howard University and the University of Dayton and as a fellow at the Center for Municipal Management at George Washington University.

Lemmie currently serves as chair of the board of the National Civic League and Dayton History; board trustee and treasurer of Initiatives of Change, USA; executive committee member of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium; and board member, Ohio Matriots. She is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and has served on numerous local, federal, and international boards and commissions. A published author, Lemmie is a noted speaker on democratic civic engagement and the complementary production of public work nationally and internationally.

Lemmie received her BA in political science and urban sociology from the University of Missouri and an MA in urban affairs/public policy planning from Washington University.


December 7, 2017

Public Dialogue with Valerie Lemmie: 
Making space for citizens to act on the issues that matter most

Community members have an important role to play in naming the issues that affect them and in co-creating solutions. Yet civic engagement processes can all too easily force residents to look at problems from the perspective of government policies and structures in ways that create barriers to participation. How can governments create more intentional space to surface issues and enable local problem solving? And how can they place citizens at the centre of this conversation in ways that harness the energy and knowledge that community members offer? This public dialogue examined the complementary roles that citizens and governments can play in co-producing solutions to the problems that matter most.

December 8, 2017

Invitational Workshop
Citizens and Public Officials: Strategies for Working Together in Democratic and Complementary Ways to Fix Wicked Community Problems

Governments today suffer from a tremendous loss of public confidence, a distrust that is often mutual. The distance that has grown between citizens and governmental institutions robs those institutions of the support they need from the production of public goods that only citizens can make. In this session we will discuss ways to name, frame, deliberate and work as a community to fix community problems and create useful and actionable public engagement outcomes.

This workshop engaged more than 80 practitioners from government and community institutions at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. Drawing upon regional and North America-wide examples, this event explored the Kettering Foundation’s latest insights into methods for better linking community voices with government decision-making, as well as opportunities to co-produce solutions directly with citizens.

Specific learning outcomes included:

  • An introduction to foundational democratic processes such as naming, framing and deliberation
  • Clarity about the potential roles for citizens, community organizations and government in solving “wicked” problems
  • Strategies for governments to more effectively hear from, internalize and act on citizen voices.
  • Methods to build better citizen capacity for democratic engagement and to enable citizens to co-produce solutions to the challenges they face.

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Exploring critical community issues through dialogue, this annual programming engages the community at large with the academic community to explore innovative approaches to local issues through cross-sectoral dialogue.