Most programs have been developed and coordinated by a staff member in the public information, communications, or manager’s office. In Buffalo, NY, and Fresno, CA, however, the Mayor’s office initiated and ended up coordinating the program.
Regardless of the initial champion, it is important to maintain community-wide support and designate an office or group as program coordinator. In Two Rivers, WI, a committee of representatives from the presenting departments meets regularly to coordinate logistics.
Some communities have sustained buy-in and logistical support from external stakeholders (e.g. non-profits). Examples include:
- Chatham County, NC: There are no out-of-pocket costs for the county since the Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities, Inc. (CCEC), sponsors and runs the program.
- Harnett County, NC: The program is completely coordinated by Leadership Harnett, a 501(c)3 non-profit. This partnership between county government and several chambers of commerce has been successful. The county provides no direct funding but does offer staff support and presents at sessions.
- Mecklenburg County, NC: Civics 101 is sponsored and coordinated by the League of Women Voters but is co-taught by county officials.
Some programs require unique activities or homework to promote learning from different experiences. In Winston-Salem, NC, for instance, participants must ride a city bus before graduating. In Buffalo, NY, participants must do a police ride-along or take a complaint call in the Mayor’s Call and Resolution Center. In Kannapolis, NC, participants must take photos of their community before the planning session.
Some programs ask participants to attend a meeting of the community’s elected board (Buffalo, NY, Lauderdale Lakes, FL, Raleigh, NC, and Hickory, NC). Very few programs have traditional homework assignments, although, in Cary, NC, participants must do some reading in advance. Concord, NC, on the other hand, explicitly advertises its program as not having homework but makes a scavenger hunt an added, optional activity for participants.
The citizens academy model provides cities and counties with a growing base of residents with which they can consult and gauge citizen opinion. Some communities convene program alumni to act as a sounding board for new taxes or program cuts. Chula Vista, CA, holds a reunion night for academy graduates every few years. Clearwater, FL, regularly consults small groups of alumni on current issues.