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Wed 22

June 22 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm EDT

Promising Practices Webinar: The ABCs of Inclusive and Equitable Engagement

National Civic League

The process of civic engagement ensures that the many parts of a community— residents, government, business, nonprofit agencies, faith-based organizations and others—work together to address public needs and desires. Whether it’s economic development, safety, health, environmental quality or other matters, civic engagement can lead to lasting solutions that best represent the values and desires of communities. However, if inclusivity and equity are not prioritized as a part of engagement efforts from the very beginning, then resulting information, solutions, and decisions will fail to benefit from or serve the entire community.

During this webinar we will discuss the myriad of considerations–convener, time, location, language, etc.–that need to be addressed to ensure engagement efforts are inclusive and equitable. Registrants will also learn about strategies and best practices for equitable and inclusive engagement, with a few examples from communities successfully doing this work.


Rowena Alegría, Chief Storyteller, City and County of Denver

Rowena Alegría is Denver’s Chief Storyteller, founder and director of the city’s first Office of Storytelling and the citywide storytelling and cultural preservation project #IAmDenver. She leads an award-winning team that has recorded nearly 400 video stories since 2019, including documentaries about Denver’s drag community; women of the Chicano Movement; the role Denver activists played in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act; how the internment of Japanese Americans in Southeast Colorado resulted in a robust Denver community; and so much more.

Alegría is an award-winning writer, editor, filmmaker, career journalist and communications executive. She was born and raised in Denver and is a graduate of DPS’ Lincoln High School. She received her BA magna cum laude with Honors from MSU Denver and an MFA in Fiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts. She served as Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s Chief Communications Officer and was an editor at The Denver Post and publisher/editor of their Latino multimedia news outlet Viva Colorado. She is writing a novel that plays with form and the history of the Southwest.

Melanie Hammett, Mayor, Pine Lake, GA

As a professional musician and elected official, Mayor Melanie Hammet’s biography is as eclectic as her music. From working on a shrimp boat to sharing the stage with southern musical luminaries; providing grief counseling support for teachers and youth; and serving 15 years as public servant, Hammet’s rich personal history informs both her leadership and her love for her home City.

Mayor Hammet has fostered innovative policy, programming, and leadership in Pine Lake. During her tenure on council, Hammet helped rewrite local zoning, resulting in greater protection for the City’s environment. In these same years, Melanie was awarded residency in Seaside Florida, composing an album of songs about zoning entitled “Edifice Complex.”

As Mayor, Hammet founded the Municipal Arts Panel (MAP) and created the MAPMakers Grant, a locally funded grant for resident artists. Hammet established the Stewards of Environmental Education and Design (SEED) panel as the eco-partner to MAP. These twin panels define Pine Lake as “Arts’ Natural Habitat.” Mayor Hammet partnered with local educators to establish Kids Town Hall, an event inspiring young residents to participate in their city. Mayor Hammet is currently working with the Pine Lake business district to assemble Poplar Park, a pocket greenspace designed to bring arts activity to the city’s Rockbridge corridor.

As Mayor of Dekalb’s smallest city, Melanie Hammet understands the power of community identity. In a state where more than half of its municipalities have fewer than 2500 residents, small cities are the lifeblood for a resilient future.

Nicole Hewitt-Cabral, Director of Public Engagement, Public Agenda

Nicole manages the Public Engagement team in the development and execution of projects on a variety of local and national issues.

Nicole’s over twenty years of experience and passion for community development and civic engagement began while interning with the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality and the United Nations Development Programme. She oversaw the Equal Rights Center’s civil rights advocacy program and coordinated investigations exposing systemic housing discrimination. In 2011, she co-directed AfroBrazilFest, a week-long cultural festival in the Washington, D.C. area for the United Nations’ International Year for People of African Descent.

Nicole launched the Institute of Sustainable Communities’ Gulf Coast Sustainable Communities Network, which engaged civil society organizations to build resilience after Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster. With the Millennium Challenge Corporation, she provided social and environmental technical and analytical assistance to development projects in Mozambique and Sri Lanka. Nicole was also a researcher for NYU School of Medicine’s Center for Immigrant Health. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, she provided technical support to communities using participatory and culturally appropriate techniques to address their complex challenges.

Nicole has a Master of Public Administration degree in Public and Nonprofit Policy and Management from New York University and holds an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science and Policy from Hood College. She is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese and Quechua.

Derek Okubo, Executive Director, Agency for Human Rights & Community Partnerships, City and County of Denver

Derek Okubo is a Colorado native and was raised in Littleton, Colorado graduating from Arapahoe High School. Derek then attended the University of Northern Colorado and graduated with a degree in Psychology and double minors in Communications and Sociology.

Derek was hired by Big Brothers of Metropolitan Denver as the services coordinator for Denver County. Three years later, Derek started the Big Brothers High School Program where he utilized high school students as mentors and tutors to the children on the waiting list. Derek was appointed to Governor Roy Romer’s staff as a community liaison to northeast Colorado. A few years later, Derek was hired by the National Civic League as the Assistant Director of Community Services. Through July 2011, Derek rose through the ranks, becoming the Senior Vice President where he oversaw projects and programs. After his tenure at the League, he served on the board of directors for three terms.

In July 2011, Derek was appointed Executive Director of the Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships by Mayor Michael B. Hancock. In this role, Derek oversees eight offices and 10 mayoral appointed commissions. The agency acts as a conduit of communication and convener of problem solving among local government, non-profits, businesses and residents.