By CML Executive Director Sam Mamet and CML Research Analyst Interns Isabelle Boes and Cassidy Francies
In the CML’s latest Knowledge Now, a publication that explores increasingly relevant municipal trends, CML Research Analyst Interns Isabelle Boes and Cassidy Francies examine the qualities of successful citizens’ academies.
Citizens’ academies are local education programs that teach residents about the issues faced by their community and how the government and various public safety departments approach these issues. Some academies are about the general mechanisms of local government while others are specific to police or fire department, and there are often youth versions of each type of course.
While some programs are more than 20 years old, many municipalities in Colorado have recently enacted a citizens’ academy or two and have already seen success in educating residents their communities and improving relationships between citizens and public departments.
To determine what factors of these citizens’ academies make them so popular, CML surveyed seven in-state cities and towns and two out-of-state municipalities to create a guide for other municipalities looking to enact a program. Survey questions related to funding sources, promotion techniques, accessibility of classes, hands on experiences offered, and challenges that each academy faced and overcame.
Although each program was unique, CML found that most citizens’ academies built funding into the municipal or departmental budget so that the program was free for residents, with classes offered in the evenings to fit the schedules of working adults with hands-on experience such as a police car or fire truck ride along to spark interest. Many accredit promotional success to social media and its broad range of platforms.
These approaches can be tailored depending on the size, budget, and type of program and most of the cities and towns surveyed expressed the importance of constantly reevaluating and modernizing the course.
For more information on the goals and themes of each type of academy, details on how exactly the successful programs became so accessible and popular, and advice on overcoming some of biggest challenges to this project, check out the newest issue of CML’s Knowledge Now. You can also contact me with your thoughts and questions – I would love to hear from you!