Civic Leadership Academy

City of Hillsboro's Civic Leadership Academy

Developing future civic leaders

The National Policy Consensus Center (NPCC) is helping local governments foster new leaders, using an innovative civic leadership training model that is available to local governments across Oregon. In a time of changing demographics and complex public challenges, cities and counties need to build a strong and diverse pool of talented leaders for local committees and boards. Those leaders need the skills to work with others to get things done.

More than ten graduates [of the NPCC Civic Leadership Academy for Hillsboro] have gone on to take leadership roles on City of Hillsboro boards and commissions, including one recently elected city councilor. What a great testimony to the success of the program and how it has paid dividends to our community in such a short period of time. -  Robby Hammond, City of Hillsboro Acting City Manager

The Civic Leadership Academy enables local governments to build a stronger bond with residents, creates a knowledgeable pool of talent from which to recruit for committees and councils, and each cohort produces a well-researched report on an important local issue, which it presents to the local governing council or commission.

A focus on collaborative leadership skills

The training model NPCC developed emphasizes the collaborative skills needed in today’s world. The academy produces new civic leaders who understand the value of listening, how to make working groups more effective, how to frame problems in a way that encourages constructive engagement, and how to consider and engage the range and diversity of stakeholders who may be affected by future policies. 

Learn by doing

Each cohort of participants applies the concepts and skills of the academy to a real project selected by the local government. Throughout the six-week program, academy participants work together to research the issue and develop a written and oral report that is delivered to the city council or county commission.  

Build relationships

One major feature of the program is helping future leaders build important relationships with each other and with local government. The city recruits and selects participants, provides a presentation on how city government works, and each participant is assigned a city “buddy” who can help guide participants on governmental resources and processes. 

I learned about the city…and I learned about the perspectives of other people. - 2018 participant

Benefits for local government

  • Improved, more productive relationships with residents and emerging leaders
  • A more diverse and skilled pool of talent from which to recruit for committees, boards, and future council positions
  • Improved civic capacity to address problems and get things done
  • A valuable, high-quality report on an important issue

By making a small investment…Hillsboro has been able to build a bench of future leaders for the city. -  2017 participant and recently elected city councilor

Focused curriculum

  • How local government works
  • Leaders and civic capacity
  • The most important leadership skill:  Listening
  • Identifying and working with stakeholders
  • The advantages of diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Framing issues for constructive deliberation
  • How to make working groups more productive

I was looking at what I could do to get more involved in the city … and effect some change. [The NPCC Civic Leadership Academy] is the best thing I have done since moving to Oregon, and one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. - 2017 participant

How it works 

  • NPCC partners with a city or county to conduct an academy specifically for that local government.  
  • Each academy is conducted one night per week for six weeks. At the end of the academy, participants present the group’s report at a regularly scheduled county commission or city council meeting.  
  • The program can be customized for each local government, to make it financially accessible.  
  • Recruitment and selection of a diverse set of participants for each academy cohort is conducted by the local government, with support from NPCC. A cohort size of 10-14 participants is ideal.  

Learn more

Contact Kristen Wright (503) 725-9098
National Policy Consensus Center
Hatfield School of Government
Portland State University

Watch a video about one community's experience with NPCC's Civic Leadership Academy.