Civic Governance Consulting and Coaching

Civic Governance & Civic Engagement


This training is divided into 12, 2.5- hour sessions. It is intended for those that wish to advance their civic leadership skills in their workplace, a congregation, community organization, or business. Civic Leadership training introduces participants to the Civic Organizing© framework, a key training document for civic leaders. Provides personal coaching for those leading change in their communities. For more information, see below.

What is it? 

  • Civic Organizing© is a framework/approach to governing people and projects that promotes democratic principles, active citizenship, governing for the common good, justice, fairness, and accountability within the context of any kind of organization or institution.
  • Civic Organizing is based on the idea that in a democracy, the common good is a negotiated position, not a given. Negotiation occurs in the tension between different understandings of goodness, and the process is called what it is-political competence. The ultimate authority for developing the political or civic competence to discern and act on the common good is grounded in our shared role as citizens.
  • Through the process, civic leaders develop the civic capacity and imagination around what it means to be a citizen, reawakening a sense of hope that we can learn how to negotiate the common good in our every-day lives and in the places where we have the responsibility and authority to act. This is a completely non-partisan approach to governing.
  • Traditional models of governance often see citizens as passive consumers of services, rather than as partners or problem-solvers.
  • The primary aim of Civic Organizing is to encourage oneself and others to see ourselves as active citizens – a role that requires us to be conscious of the obligation to be with others that may not agree with us, and to govern for the common good in the process of addressing a specific problem (like polluted water, a business challenge, poverty, etc.).
  • People using the Civic Organizing framework believe that it is important to first develop one’s own competence and skills as a civic leader. Civic leaders create the time and space where they can practice these skills inside their own organization, be it a government agency, nonprofit, congregation, business or community organization. By so doing, they can teach, model and lead their colleagues and neighbors using democratic practices, thereby renewing democracy while also getting the important work of their organization accomplished.
  • Civic Organizing invests in civic leadership development wherever people can be found because it typically results in improved outcomes, organizational performance. and a more engaged staff. 

What Problems Can it Solve?

We seek to make Civic Organizing relevant and applicable to all kinds of problems and projects. It has proven useful in addressing the following problems:

  • Inability to achieve institutional and initiative goals.
  • Distrust among organizations that need to work together to solve a problem.
  • Public cynicism and disengagement from civic life.
  • Lack of coordination and poor leveraging of existing resources.
  • Inability to recruit and keep volunteers and leadership burn-out.
  • Inability to inspire others/get participation from key stakeholders.
  • Unrealistic expectations regarding what government or one organization can achieve alone. These problems are often grounded in the way governance is now imagined, structured and practiced in existing approaches to problem-solving.

What Outcomes Can Be Achieved?

Civic Organizing challenges these governing assumptions. It sustains what is working, while integrating common civic principles and standards into existing approaches to guide the process of defining problems-implementing solutions-and governing the process.  The outcome not only develops and expands the governing capacity to address a specific problem, but also leaves a civic infrastructure in place that is a growing and sustainable foundation for addressing all challenges to the common good.

A civic infrastructure has the following characteristics:

  • Creates a renewed sense of what democracy, citizenship and community can mean.
  • All stakeholders in all institutions own the identity and obligation of active citizenship as it relates to whatever particular expertise or role they have.
  • Increased participation by citizens, stakeholders and staff.
  • A more civil discourse around defining problems and solving them.
  • Increased trust and improved relationships.
  • Better leveraging of existing resources – resulting in a better return on investments.
  • Inspires hope and a sense of community.
  • Provides structure, accountability, meaningful roles for those interested in participating.
  • Ensures sustainability in terms of leading an organization – moving beyond charismatic leadership.
  •  It creates a civic infrastructure that can be sustained and replicated in each generation, even though conditions change.

How do you learn it and what does it entail? 

  • Monthly training sessions taught by Lynne Kolze from Deliberate Democracy, LLC and Peg Michels of Civic Organizing, Inc., who authored the framework. Training sessions will lay out a sequence of steps to help you apply a civic lens to your specific project.
  • Civic Organizing uses Civic Principles as a kind of container that produces the civic imagination and civic capacity needed at the community scale to tackle complex public problems.
  • Civic Organizing has additional practical components, including:

Civic Standards –to guide us toward ensuring that civic principles are met.

Civic Disciplines and Political Skills-  that civic leaders use in the process of organizing key stakeholders to address an issue or problem.

Civic Leaders start learning by contributing their time (one hour per week), their knowledge (technical, cultural, civic) to define and advance solution strategies for the common good, and their constituencies who can be organized to be part of the solution. This is not a theoretical approach, nor a given; it is not abstract, nor ideal. It is negotiated within the real state of where things are and where you hope to go.

What is the difference between Civic Governance and Civic Engagement?


For over 30 years, I have been interested in good governance, transparency, justice, and inclusiveness in my work for federal, state and local government agencies. These principles have guided me in how I worked to design and conduct government projects and programs. I have always been attracted to work that required me to look outward to the communities I served and to offer meaningful opportunities for citizens to be a part of the solution to environmental problems.

However, over the years of my career, it became clear to me that the divide between the public and government agencies and between members of the public themselves was growing. I watched as the very fabric of our democracy became increasingly frayed and relationships became more and more acrimonious. This became especially concerning as the complexity and seriousness of public problems grew and the need for effective civic problem-solving became more acute.

It became increasingly evident that the only path to resolving these problems would require us to look beyond self-interest alone and explore the common good together. A common good perspective seemed to be the only way to address issues like water, where we all have a vested interest in how much and how clean it is and how to protect it for future generations.

Over my career, I have had the ability to focus my effort on creating meaningful opportunities for public engagement in watershed projects. I have worked closely with local governments, nonprofits and the public on creating safe, civic spaces where complex issues can be addressed, discussed and resolved. Our civic lives are important, and it is my belief that we each have a moral obligation to participate in civic life in some manner in order to sustain our democracy and solve collective, public problems. The truth is that we need each other if we are to sustain the quality of life we have come to expect.

I have experience planning and conducting civic processes. I can help local government, nonprofit staff and members of the public weed through the possibilities, get focused quickly on what they have the time, money and interest in doing and then create a trajectory of activities that moves them toward more meaningful, impactful, civic engagement in their community and/or constituencies.

Below, you will see the kinds of support I can offer. 

  1. Exploring a leader’s aspirational goals around creating a more inclusive, impactful, sustainable civic approach to their work (considers the mindset, processes and practices of the leader and their organization) in their specific area of expertise.
  2. Conducting key stakeholder interviews to help local leaders get a general picture of public concern and sentiment about an issue.
  3. Helping to develop specific engagement strategies to suit specific programmatic needs. This can include citizen participation planning for a specific project.
  4. Coaching local leaders in the use of day-to-day civic practices as they work through public projects.

Developing feedback loops to ensure that citizen input is considered and that there is public accountability to achieve and sustain public goals.

Civic Engagement and Civic Governance Projects and Experience

1990-1994: Coordinated the Minnesota River Citizens Advisory Committee for the MN Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). This 25-member Committee developed 10 key recommendations for reducing nonpoint sources of pollution in the Minnesota River.

1996-97:  Coordinated and co-developed a Citizen Jury process with the Jefferson Center for the MPCA. This engaged a group of 20 Minnesota citizens, chosen to demographically represent the views of Minnesotans on the topic of environmental priorities.

2008: Coordinated and supported the work of the State’s Clean Water Council Civic Engagement Workgroup.
2008: Provided civic engagement consulting to Vermillion River Joint Powers Board.

2009: AppointedMPCA Water Division lead in the area of civic engagement by helping watershed teams integrate civic engagement into day-to-day watershed management practices.

2010: Completed Civic Governance 101 Training with the Citizen’s League and the Midwest Active Citizenship Initiative.

2011: Entered into a pilot project with the Midwest Active Citizenship Initiative, to test whether Civic Governance had a role in Saint Croix River Basin watershed projects.
2011: Provided civic engagement consulting to the Lower Mississippi River Water Management Organization.
2011: Became the Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Interstate Saint Croix River Basin Team. Trained team members on the meaning of engagement and how to integrate the work into every day practices on the ground.
2011: Assisted in the development of a civic engagement module for the University of MN’s Watershed Specialist Training Program.

2012: Authored the Civic Engagement Chapter of the Total Maximum Daily Load Study for the Saint Croix River. Document was approved by US EPA in 2013.
2012: Consulted with Chisago County on civic engagement activities related to their revision of the County Water Plan.

2013: Initiated a pilot project in Kanabec and Mille Lacs Counties using the civic governance approach in their land and water programs.

2014: Initiated a pilot project in two Wisconsin counties using the civic governance approach in their land and water programs.
2014: Provided civic governance training to Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates’ Executive Director.

2015Consulted with the Pioneer – Sarah Watershed Management Organization to develop a series of community conversations about water quality restoration priorities in their watershed.
2015: Provided training on civic governance to Brown’s Creek Watershed District and Middle Saint Croix Watershed Management Organization staff.

2016: Provided training on civic governance to Le Sueur River Watershed and Watonwan River  Watershed project staff.
2016. Taught a Saint Croix River Master Watershed Program cohort about active citizenship and its relationship to addressing restoration and protection strategies for the river.

2018: Created a new private enterprise called, Deliberate Democracy, LLC.

Deliberate Democracy is here to help you on your personal quest to be a fair, just, and effective civic leader at a time when our democracy needs you most.

Contact Deliberate Democracy

I look forward to speaking with you.


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