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Building Community Power: Democracy at the Local Level

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 -
10:00am to 11:30am PDT
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At a time when many are looking for bright spots when it comes to democracy, this session will introduce funders to new efforts in California to reimagine democracy at the local level. These new tools for community power and democracy are broadening political participation for traditionally disenfranchised groups, expanding civic engagement beyond elections, and creating new platforms for making government more responsive, accountable, and equitable.

Organizations like the Participatory Budgeting Project, Political Voice (a project of the Advancement Project), and Healthy Democracy are confronting chaos at the national scale head-on. They’re creating sessions to reframe how local communities can positively impact our democracy beyond elections; increasing community voice and accountability; increasing transparency and accessibility in the California initiative system; and advancing an equity agenda.

Join Us To:

  • Learn about new tools for building community power
  • Hear success stories of democracy at a local level
  • Hear from a statewide funder about how these tools support their mission of a healthier California
  • Reimagine democracy at the local level


Shari Davis, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Participatory Budgeting Project

Shari is responsible for the strategic development and management of PBP’s network-building work and for launching new high impact participatory budgeting processes. She joined PBP staff after nearly 15 years of service and leadership in local government. As Director of Youth Engagement and Employment for the City of Boston she launched Youth Lead the Change, the first youth participatory budgeting process in the US, which won the US Conference of Mayors’ City Livability Award. Shari first got involved in city government in high school, serving as the Citywide Neighborhood Safety Coordinator on the Boston Mayor’s Youth Council and working at the Mayor’s Youthline. Shari is a graduate of Boston University’s Sargent College for Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and holds a master’s degree in anatomy and physiology.

Dr. John DobardManager of the Political Voice Program, Advancement Project  

As Manager of Political Voice, Dr. John Dobard leads advocacy efforts to make governments more participatory and representative of the communities they serve. Previously, Dr. Dobard served as Advancement Project California’s Manager of Strategic Initiatives. In that capacity, he co-created the Political Voice program and worked with coalitions across the state to use the California Voting Rights Act to secure equitable electoral systems. He also oversaw several key organization-wide initiatives, including an initiative to urge the Los Angeles Unified School District to adopt a student need index to guide allocation of Local Control Funding Formula dollars. Dr. Dobard earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. He also earned a master’s degree and doctorate in political science from the University of Chicago.

Robin Teater, Executive Director, Healthy Democracy

Robin Teater is executive director of Healthy Democracy, a non-partisan non-profit organization whose mission is to elevate the voice of citizens and improve political discourse for the benefit of all voters. Healthy Democracy's flagship program, the Citizens' Initiative Review, brings randomly selected, demographically balanced panels of citizens together to review ballot measures and produce a non-biased, fact-based Citizen's Statement regarding the reviewed ballot measure for the benefit of their fellow voters. Robin’s previous experience spans over three decades in nonprofit administration, including serving as executive director of WorldTeach, an international NGO based at the Kennedy School of Government’s Center for International Development at Harvard University, and seven years with the New York based American Field Service (AFS) where she last served as National Director of Volunteer Development for what was then the largest international student exchange program in the country. Robin has a degree in social science education from Oregon State University. She has taught high school in such far-flung places as Crane, Oregon, and Lobatse, Botswana, the latter as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer. 

Moderator-Alexandra DeSautels, Program Manager for Strategy Development, The California Endowment

Alexandra Desautels joined The California Endowment in January 2014 as Program Manager for Strategy Development and Dissemination. In that role, Desautels is responsible for working with key senior-level Building Healthy Communities (BHC) staff to sharpen the core elements of the BHC strategy and disseminate this strategy to key audiences and venues. Desautels also leads strategic initiatives that span multiple BHC sites, including initiatives related to displacement and gentrification, criminal justice reform, and governing for racial equity. Prior to joining The Endowment, Desautels served as the Local Policy Manager for the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD). While there, she oversaw the implementation of Place Matters, ACPHD’s first local policy initiative for advancing health equity through social and environmental policy change in criminal justice, economics, education, housing, land use, and transportation. She held numerous other positions at ACPHD as well. She is the recipient of the Mabel Goode Management and Planning Award and the Davenport Research Award for Public Policy. Desautels earned her B.A. in American Studies, with honors, from Wesleyan University in Middleton, CT, and her Master of Social Welfare (MSW) with a Management, Planning and Policy focus from the University of California, Berkeley.


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