Community development research and outreach aimed at:
- Strengthening the leadership capacities of local citizens;
- Fortifying community self-governance; and
- Enhancing local and regional economies.
Democracy is the shared American ideal, and promise of democracy rests on the practice of active citizenship. Historically in the United States, the institutions and processes of local governance were seen as the hub of democratic decision-making and as incubators of civic-mindedness. Cooperative Extension, the outreach arm of land grant universities such as the University of California, originated in a desire to develop and deepen the practice of democratic citizenship. The ideals of local control and home rule retain currency today, though community fortunes have grown increasingly dependent on economic and policy decisions made elsewhere. Laments over the decline of civic virtue, the erosion of social capital, and the eclipse of representative democracy are now commonplace, but so are efforts to reverse these trends. The hunger for social connection and a sense of public achievement is a distinguishing feature in contemporary communities, though not always vividly felt or effectively channeled.
Three recent trends in American political life have heightened the renewed interest in the processes of community self-governance. The first is policy devolution - the idea that government programs are more effective and more engaging of citizen energy and allegiance if they are designed and managed at the local level. The second is the move to reinvent government - the attempt to turn isolated bureaucratic programs into results-oriented integrated services partnerships between government, business, nonprofit organizations, and other elements of local civil society. The third is a growing regional awareness - the realization that local governments must learn to plan and act cooperatively if they are to thrive in the new global economy and care for what is unique in their heritage and place. A wave of innovation and experimentation in community settings has accompanied these trends.
Our research and education is designed to deepen the quality of reflection and learning that accompanies these local efforts. Typically this involves conducting fieldwork in which we monitor, compare, and draw lessons from particular local initiatives. Our approach is to hold in creative tension the particularities of local situations and the "big picture" or structural factors facing all communities. Similarly, we try to be open to how local adaptations may result in new or revised theories or knowledge, while also putting local actors in touch with the best of received wisdom and expertise. We believe this iterative, two-way approach to learning is an important pathway to engaging the university with community concerns and to strengthening the practice of public scholarship in our time.
Major California Communities Program activities have included:
- Community research and education programs;
- Evaluations of community governance initiatives;
- Publications on California community issues;
- Workshops and training; and
- Graduate student internships with UC Cooperative Extension Advisors.
The program director is a Cooperative Extension specialist on the faculty of the Department of Human and Community Development at UC Davis, with statewide functions and responsibilities. He serves as the Associate Director of Family and Community Research for ANR’s Youth, Families, and Communities Program, which integrates UC research and extension programs in nutrition, youth, and community development in partnership with local Cooperative Extension offices throughout the state.
CCP conducts research, education, training, and other projects and programs with a wide range of:
- Local, state, and federal agencies;
- Private foundations;
- Nonprofit organizations:
- Citizen groups; and
- County Cooperative Extension Advisors.
For more information on specific CCP projects and programs, see Programs link.