Bus Stop Sign

Partnership for Inclusive,
Cost-Effective Public Participation

The Partnership for Inclusive, Cost-Effective Public Participation is a collaboration with community colleges and transportation planning agencies. Students learn to be facilitators of public engagement. As part of their academic community service learning, they conduct public engagement discussions in communities traditionally under-served in planning processes, collect valuable data and share it with relevant planners and industry professionals.

The project is a demonstration of effective and meaningful collaboration among community colleges and other public agencies in service of the public good and the missions of both the community colleges and the other agencies. Members of the various publics in a region share their ideas and opinions with trusted facilitators who bring those views to the planners. Students gain valuable skills, increase civic engagement, and strengthen communities. Community Colleges reinforce their already strong connection with their service area. Planners obtain much-needed data from people traditionally under-heard in existing planning processes. Industries learn how to better serve customers.

International Association of Public Participation 2011 Core Values Award Winner, First Runner-Up Place in the Project Category


Communication, with roots in the practical art of rhetoric, provides the academic basis for the knowledge, expression, and application of democratic principles taught in this course. Our curricular model (including assessment) was based on an 18-month project involving the Federal Transit Administration's Public Transportation Participation Pilot Program, a regional planning agency, community organizations, and students at a community college.

This is an example of how liberal arts education and deliberative practice address a problem in community life: transportation planning. Planners need to hear from residents about their needs. Residents who are young, have low incomes, or are members of minority groups are underrepresented in non-interactive public meetings, resulting in plans that are inadequate to the needs of the most transit-dependent of populations.

For more information on the pedagogy for the project, demonstration of assignments and tools, and audio and visual representation of student work, please contact the researcher.

Class Project

Classes involved a service learning requirement that students fulfilled by organizing and facilitating discussion groups on public transportation issues in community organizations which serve low-income and minority individuals.

Faculty teaching other courses with similar requirements and focus were encouraged and helped to integrate similar public involvement activities into their ongoing course curricula.

Important features of the work included:

  • Collaboration with the regional transportation planning agency
  • Use of deliberative processes
  • Embedding the project in the community where minority/low-income groups abide

Community college students provide an effective means to reach out to the hard to reach populations.
— a comment from an anonymous evaluation form

Students Gain:

  • Experience with innovative assignments and activities that meaningfully involve them in democratic and deliberative communication
  • Experience working in groups on a civic project
  • Opportunity to engage underrepresented and harder-to-reach populations in public planning
  • Skills and knowledge to participate in community organizing, civic leadership and democratic decision-making

Transcript Excerpts

Moderator: "Were any of you aware that you could contact someone about transportation needs? To give your voice?"()

Response: "I think I have to be someone important for them to listen."

Moderator: "You are important." ()

Response: "No, I mean, like, important to them."

Moderator: "Do you think (the system is) fair to everyone in your community?"

Response: "Some people. Some people have the money for it."

Local Context

Manchester Community College is situated in Manchester, Connecticut and serves 15 towns and cities east of the Connecticut River. A large proportion of its 7500 students live in Manchester, East Hartford, and Vernon. Over 80% are low-income and a third are minorities. One-quarter are first generation college students and 85% remain in Connecticut after graduation.

Manchester students have deep roots and close contacts with target populations in the project's geographic area of focus.

Last Update: August 01 2013
For Additional Information Contact: Rebecca Townsend