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Case study: CASE STUDY: City of Pleasanton Budget Engagement

Nurturing a City’s culture of collaborative decision making

The City of Pleasanton sought to educate and source input from residents about the municipal budget to support the City in aligning public spending with community priorities. Through this community engagement endeavor, and in collaborating with us, they aimed to establish a benchmark for greater civic participation in Pleasanton’s budget-making process going forward.


To start the journey toward regular community engagement in the City budgeting process, we facilitated cross-departmental meetings to identify realistic goals, given limitations to budget and timing. We also stepped back to contextualize this effort among other City initiatives (e.g. strategic planning) to ensure the work was not duplicating efforts or creating engagement fatigue within the community.
Through online surveys and pop-up events at the Farmers’ Market, we invited residents to learn about the City’s budget, evaluate trade-offs, and prioritize their own preferences. Through activities and discussion, they could also see themselves as part of a larger community that has both different perspectives and shared priorities.


The community of Pleasanton weighed in on the City’s budget, while also sharing their top priorities for the strategic plan. The combination of an online survey and community pop-ups was a successful approach that achieved high engagement numbers with a large amount of both quantitative and qualitative data captured. In total, the City received feedback from nearly 2,000 people, including 1,709 online survey responses, 235 pop-up workshop participants, and 22 virtual meeting participants.

After analyzing the demographic information collected via the survey, we supported the City to identify which communities had not been reached and we advised on new methods to reach those communities for future iterations of this project. By setting upfront engagement goals, including priorities for reaching specific underserved groups, we suggested they could work with community partners who serve these groups to identify customized outreach and engagement approaches, such as translated flyers distributed at the food bank.

Through practical experience (right alongside us) and conversations with high-engagement departments like the Library Services and Parks & Recreation, the Finance Department also had the opportunity to learn more about approaches and tools for community engagement.


Through co-design with our partners, we built accessible education and participation tools to engage residents within City budget and time constraints. Public participation in this process helped ensure the City budget reflects the needs of the community.

We also helped the City start to build a human-centered practice of feedback, reflection and iteration to learn from this process and work toward larger goals like diversity, equity and inclusion for future engagements.

Pleasanton City leaders were encouraged by this first step towards greater democratic participation, and we’ve been invited to continue collaborating and building capacity around human-centered community engagement.