Catawba County, NC
USING THE CITIZENS ACADEMY AS A VEHICLE FOR TARGETED CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AND CAPACITY BUILDING
- Catawba County, NC: Catawba County University
- Population: 154,358
- Years Offered: 2 (in current format) (1994-1996, 2009-present)
- Signature Innovation: Program targets citizen participant groups to build community; permits class-designed final session
- Web Resources: Program information
Catawba County began offering a “Government for Citizens” program in 1994. The program ran for two weeks (on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7-9pm), but it never gained traction in the community and was discontinued after a few years. After a number of years, the County targeted a group of citizens in a certain part of the county and offered a program solely for them. The idea was to use the program as a way to engage this particular group of citizens.
The new program has been offered directly to these citizens and a group of retirees on a Tuesday and Thursday over the course of a single week. The course has been offered in the fall and runs from 10am-3pm (sometimes 3-6pm). The Public Information Officer, who coordinates the program, organizes regular sessions on the council-manager form of government and the county budget, public safety, and social services and public health. Finally, because that office receives the class roster about a month in advance and queries participants on what they would like to learn about, the PIO designs a fourth and final session based on that class’ choice (i.e. economic development, green/environmental initiatives, etc.).
The County has received feedback that hosting a program on nights and over the course of several weeks prevents ordinary citizens from participating. Therefore, the targeted participation model has been the modus operandi of the county ever since. Catawba County holds its academy for an estimated $300 per program.