Spring 2024 Urban Governance Workshop Series

With Part 1 of the series (State of the City Viewing and Discussion) behind us, this page will walk you through Parts 2 and 3, both of which are self-guided and asynchronous, allowing you to go at your own pace and timeline.

Part 2: Democracy in Action

Assignment: Complete the reflection prompts below and then observe – live or archived, in-person or remotely – one civic meeting (e.g., city council hearing, state-level legislative hearing, community meeting, etc.) in February or March. We recommend attending a meeting for our local region (i.e., Greater Boston if municipal, Massachusetts if state-level), though you are welcome to attend any civic meeting with relevance to your study system.

Observing a civic meeting will help you to become familiar with the mechanics of urban governance, by observing politics in real life, and learn more about your region of interest. You may wish to attend a meeting that elevates an issue you care about – although you may also use this to learn about a subject about which you know very little. Both can be useful! 

Please complete the reflection prompts below as you begin planning your civic meeting observation. They are designed to help you narrow down your options and plan your observation!

  • This might be as general as "climate change in New England" or as specific as "chemical pollution in the Boston Harbor."
  • For example, if you're interested in "climate change in New England" you might consider state legislatures or regional partnerships. If you're interested in "chemical pollution in the Boston Harbor" you might consider the Boston City Council.
  • Note that you may not find a civic meeting that perfectly aligns with your interests. At the very least, deciding on the level of government, type of meeting, and geography of interest, will help with next steps.



Part 3: Stakeholder Meetings

After you attend your civic meeting, complete the reflection prompts below to help you prepare for your stakeholder meeting.

  • Please share the meeting name/type and date.
  • 1. Issues: What issues were discussed?
    2. Stakeholders: Who were the identifiable actors and what interests were they representing?
    3. Goals: What are the various parties trying to accomplish?
  • If you have a specific person in mind, please share their name below. You are also welcome to share a type of person or role and we can help identify someone in the URBAN network.

Once you’ve been matched with a stakeholder, decision-maker, or expert of interest, please review the Discussion Guide (download here). Next, find a 45-minute window for a phone or zoom conversation and suggest a few topics you’d like to discuss, for example, to hear more about their leadership role tackling an urban environmental challenge, their career pathway, or their perspectives on your research and where the field is heading.

At the start of your conversation, we suggest taking the lead by proposing where to start (“I thought I’d start by telling you a bit about my program and my research”) and where the conversation might go (“and then I’d love to ask you some questions about your job and your field, and any advice you have for me”). It is also always a good practice to double-check their availability (“But first, are you still available until X time?”).

Here are some additional questions you might consider asking during the conversation:

  • How did you get where you are?
  • How have you been able to use your role to make a difference?
  • What do you love most about your job?
  • When you think about the future of your field, what do you think will change in the next five years?
  • What advice do you have for me, as I think about [how to get the most about of my program, how to plan for diverse career paths, including in <<insert whatever sector they are in>>, how best to support decision-makers from inside a university?]
  • When you think about my research skills and interests – what are some questions you wish I would help answer?
  • As a final question, what recommendations do you have for other people I should speak with, or resources to look into?

After the conversation, be sure to follow-up with a thank you email. It helps to mention at least one specific thing you appreciated about the interaction and/or what you plan to do for next steps. Most importantly, have fun!

When you’ve completed your conversation, please return to this page to complete the final reflection prompts.