Government is a broad topic, encompassing everything from schools to safety to public works. So it’s natural for people to have questions or concerns that can’t be easily answered. Fill in those knowledge gaps with the help of citizens’ academies and government promotional items.
If you’re not familiar with the term citizens’ academy, it truly is what it sounds like: a class or series of classes designed to teach citizens about government programs that affect them. If you’re looking for a way to provide educational opportunities to your constituents, this simple framework can help.
Understand citizens’ concerns
Some of the most common citizens’ academies include:
- Citizens’ police academies that address everything from local crime concerns to equipment
- Government 101 classes that connect citizens with government officials so they can learn about and discuss how government sectors function
- Leadership academies designed to train people how to serve on town boards, commissions and committees
To ensure you’re planning an academy your citizens will want to attend, ask with an in-person or online survey. Then thank people for participating by giving them government promotional items. A bookmark makes a nice thank-you giveaway.
Offer education and hands-on experience
Once you know which topics citizens are interested in, determine the time and materials necessary to give them a strong understanding of the subject. Timeline options include:
- A single half-day or full-day session
- Two to three one-hour sessions once per week for a set number of weeks
- Full-day sessions once per month for a set number of months
Most academy classes use a combination of lecture, discussion and “hands-on” participation (PDF). For example:
- Police training: Teach citizens the day-to-day operations of the police department, including traffic stops and criminal investigations. Allow citizens to role-play their way through common scenarios.
- Government works: Educate citizens on public policies currently under discussion. Then allow them to participate in a mock debate and vote.
Educational giveaways, like a notebook and pen, encourage your students to take notes. Lanyards are great for visits to government buildings—they offer easy identification and show employees that the students are authorized to be in the building.
Encourage graduates to advocate and participate
People who are motivated to learn about their government are usually interested in finding ways to improve and educate their community. Encourage graduates to share their knowledge and direct friends, family and other community members to participate in future citizens’ academies. Make graduates of your academy more visible in the community with educational giveaways. A lapel pin or a frame for their graduation certificate helps graduates stand out as community advocates.
Reaching through teaching
Citizens’ academies can create more knowledgeable, involved citizens. By offering these classes and government promotional items, you can create informed advocates for your hometown.