2015 Top 10
City of Portland, OR
Innovations in American Government Awards

The Diversity and Civic Leadership (DCL) Program provides funding and technical support to nongovernmental organizations serving communities of color, as well as immigrant and refugee communities. Its purpose is to build community volunteer capacity to identify issues that impact them, organize strategically, and effectively engage with the city to ensure better outcomes. The DCL Program approach addresses substantial barriers to engagement created by the history of racism in Oregon — and the resulting fear and mistrust of government — by putting resources into the hands of community-led organizations. These organizations build capacity and support civic self-determination in historically under-engaged communities, bringing forth important voices previously missing from the public process. The DCL Program is the culmination of policy discussions starting in the 1990s about Portland’s geographically-based system of neighborhood associations. Participation in these associations, once considered the cornerstone of civic engagement in Portland, was largely static, even as Portland demographics changed and Portland became one of the top 10 refugee resettlement cities in the US.