July 01, 2015

Podcast: Getting Everyone Involved in Government’s Decision Making

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 15: A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) passenger boards a train on October 15, 2013 in San Francisco, California.

In this episode of "What’s the Big Idea?" Jill Blair, a consultant to nonprofits and foundations, explores how to ensure that everyone participates in actions and decisions governments make.

Along with Malka Kopell, co-founder of the Civity Initiative, an effort to strengthen the ways residents of a place come together to solve problems, Ms. Blair is co-author of a new report for the Aspen Institute called "21st Century Civic Infrastructure: Under Construction."

Ms. Blair says too many of today’s systems for getting citizens involved in policy making were designed haphazardly and need to be rethought to be sure nonprofits, businesses, and others work with governments to solve problems. Just as important, she says, society should do more to ensure marginalized people not only share their views but also design and set policies that affect their lives and communities.

"It’s important to not default to the idea that only the public sector is responsible for addressing public problems," she said. "We need to enlist all voices."

Allison Fine, a nonprofit leader, author, and expert on technology and communications, discusses research in other fields that apply to nonprofit work. Ms. Fine incorporates suggestions and questions from readers into her podcasts and invites you to e-mail her at Look for new installments once a month.