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Democracy in Action

Democracy in Action

Democracy in Action is modeled after the Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP) in the Sustainable Cities Initiative at University of Oregon and is part of a larger consortium of universities and colleges that participate in the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network (EPIC-N). Whereas the Sustainable City Year Program focuses primarily on sustainability, Democracy in Action emphasizes civic learning and democratic engagement. 

In this community engagement practice, the university contracts with the city in the capacity of consultant. CSUSM faculty and students partner with a local city government to conduct research, gathering qualitative and quantitative data to benefit city projects that are back-logged or need additional attention. 

Faculty and students work closely with city officials to hone their expertise on specific scopes of work; the students provide a polished, final report to the city.  In the process, students learn about city government, attend city council meetings, become more civically engaged, and ideally consider the prospects of working in local government.

The pilot program, profiled in the CSUSM NewsCenter, launched in Spring 2017.


Fall 2017

Our inaugural Democracy in Action project continues, in partnership with the City of San Marcos. In our second semester, CSUSM faculty work collaboratively with the City of San Marcos on two projects:   

Parking Study Project - Dr. Jill Weigt, SOC 361 Qualitative Methods in Sociology

The Parking Study Project will investigate parking issues identified by the community in the City of San Marcos. There is a high level of community concern regarding parking issues that include the heavy use of public street parking in quiet residential neighborhoods. The City would like to understand the nature and cause of the issues, as well as potential solutions to support multiple communities. The research completed as part of this project may serve as the basis for a follow-up study to further explore potential solutions, from cost and administration perspectives. 

Website and Social Media Analytics Project - Dr. Rebeca Perren, MKTG 484 Marketing Analytics

Dr. Rebeca Perren's Marketing Analytics students present their website analytics findings to city staff.

Community members of all ages and backgrounds increasingly use digital platforms as a way to connect to each other and the issues they care about. As the city's primary digital portal, the city's website serves as an information hub to residents and is often the first experience a resident or visitor has with the City of San Marcos. Similarly, social media is part of a foundation for a new type of democracy and community participation. In order to provide accessible public information, the City of San Marcos has been increasing the use of these communications channels and social media marketing tools to reach residents, businesses and visitors. The city's goal is to make it easy for residents to connect with services and programs, and provide visitors and businesses with an instant impression of what San Marcos is all about. As such, it is critical that the city develops a data-driven approach to understanding website visitors and the information desired; through analytics, this project will provide insight into how the city can best communicate information to visitors and residents. 

Spring 2017

Our inaugural Democracy in Action project is in partnership with the City of San Marcos. In our first semester CSUSM faculty worked collaboratively with the City of San Marcos on four projects; the final reports are linked through the project titles below:      

Launch Event

launch event students

Each semester, the Democracy in Action Launch brings participating CSUSM students, faculty, and staff together with San Marcos City Council and staff at San Marcos City Hall to celebrate the start of the semester. The reception-style event features remarks from the Honorable Jim Desmond, Mayor of San Marcos and Dr. Patricia Prado-Olmos, Vice President of Community Engagement at CSUSM.  Students tour City Hall and learned about the functions of city government in small-group conversations with city representatives.

In Spring 2018, the Launch event celebrates the third semester of Democracy in Action projects in partnership with the City of San Marcos.