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Democracy in Action

Democracy in Action

Democracy in Action is modeled after the Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP) in the Sustainable Cities Initiative at University of Oregon and is part of a larger consortium of universities and colleges that participate in the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network (EPIC-N). Whereas the Sustainable City Year Program focuses primarily on sustainability, Democracy in Action emphasizes civic learning and democratic engagement. 

In this community engagement practice, the university contracts with the city in the capacity of consultant. CSUSM faculty and students partner with a local city government to conduct research, gathering qualitative and quantitative data to benefit city projects that are back-logged or need additional attention. 

Faculty and students work closely with city officials to hone their expertise on specific scopes of work; the students provide a polished, final report to the city.  In the process, students learn about city government, attend city council meetings, become more civically engaged, and ideally consider the prospects of working in local government.

The pilot program, profiled in the CSUSM NewsCenter, launched in Spring 2017.


Fall 2017

Our inaugural Democracy in Action project continues, in partnership with the City of San Marcos. In our second semester, CSUSM faculty work collaboratively with the City of San Marcos on two projects:   

Parking Study Project - Dr. Jill Weigt, SOC 361 Qualitative Methods in Sociology

The Parking Study Project will investigate parking issues identified by the community in the City of San Marcos. There is a high level of community concern regarding parking issues that include the heavy use of public street parking in quiet residential neighborhoods. The City would like to understand the nature and cause of the issues, as well as potential solutions to support multiple communities. The research completed as part of this project may serve as the basis for a follow-up study to further explore potential solutions, from cost and administration perspectives. 


Website and Social Media Analytics Project - Dr. Rebeca Perren, MKTG 484 Marketing Analytics

Community members of all ages and backgrounds increasingly use digital platforms as a way to connect to each other and the issues they care about. As the city's primary digital portal, the city's website serves as an information hub to residents and is often the first experience a resident or visitor has with the City of San Marcos. Similarly, social media is part of a foundation for a new type of democracy and community participation. In order to provide accessible public information, the City of San Marcos has been increasing the use of these communications channels and social media marketing tools to reach residents, businesses and visitors. The city's goal is to make it easy for residents to connect with services and programs, and provide visitors and businesses with an instant impression of what San Marcos is all about. As such, it is critical that the city develops a data-driven approach to understanding website visitors and the information desired; through analytics, this project will provide insight into how the city can best communicate information to visitors and residents. 

Spring 2017

Our inaugural Democracy in Action project is in partnership with the City of San Marcos. In our first semester CSUSM faculty worked collaboratively with the City of San Marcos on four projects; the final reports are linked through the project titles below:      

Emergency Medical Services Project - Dr. Matt Atherton, SSCI 495 Capstone in the Social Sciences

Habitual Emergency Medical Service users place a strain on the entire Emergency Medical System (EMS) operationally as well as financially. This impacts EMS resources, including the Fire Department, EMTs, Paramedics, Law Enforcement, Dispatch, emergency rooms, hospitals, PERT clinicians, as well as neighboring agency resources. Students are researching ways to decrease the frequency of repeat 911 callers by finding alternative options and community resources that are more appropriate to their needs rather than repeated use of EMS. Utilization of alternative options and resources for low acuity, non-emergent patients, will help increase the availability of EMS to higher acuity patients, decrease offload delays at the Emergency Room and decrease readmittance rates.

Sports Tournament Project - Dr. Vassilis Dalakas, MKTG 452 Sports Marketing and Sponsorship

Students created a sponsorship deck and a proposal along with providing marketing recommendations for the Double Peak Challenge, a 10K, 2K and trail run to be held in 2018. The Double Peak Challenge is organized by the Friends of San Marcos Parks & Recreation board, a volunteer-based non-profit arm of the City of San Marcos Community Services Department the sponsorship and marketing goals for the inaugural run held in 2016, were intentionally set low as it was a first-year event.  Students will review what was done and create a new or revised plan, incorporating everything from designing sponsorship packages to promotion, execution and evaluation. 

Storm Water Project - Dr. Robert Brown, ECON 421 The Public Economy

Trash discarded on land is a significant pollutant of California's waters that adversely affects beneficial uses, including but not limited to uses that support aquatic life, wildlife, and public health. Students will work to gather baseline data from various resources, establish and rank trash-generating areas throughout the City of San Marcos.  This task conceptually involves GIS/mapping analysis, review of street sweeping and storm drain cleaning data, fieldwork verification, and conducting potential interviews.  Based on this research, an appropriate scale will be developed to rank each trash generation area.  Information will be summarized in a report and/or tabular format. Students will evaluate existing and/or generate new creative outreach and education materials that can be utilized for different audiences throughout the City of San Marcos.

San Marcos Video Project - Jonathan Berman, VSAR 328-Video Art History and Theory

As part of a new identity initiative, the City of San Marcos would like to incorporate a video package that is capable of capturing the spirit of San Marcos while highlighting how the community is a place where people can live, work, play and do business. Students are creating a video that will cater to a wide audience, both current and prospective residents, visitors and businesses. 


Launch Event

launch event students

On February 28, 2017, the Democracy in Action Launch brought participating CSUSM students, faculty, and staff together with San Marcos City Council and staff at San Marcos City Hall to celebrate the inaugural semester of the program. The reception-style event featured remarks from the Honorable Jim Desmond, Mayor of San Marcos and Dr. Patricia Prado-Olmos, Vice President for Community Engagement at CSUSM.  Students also toured City Hall and learned about the functions of city government in small-group conversations with city representatives.

In Fall 2017, the Launch event will celebrate the second semester of Democracy in Action projects in partnership with the City of San Marcos.