Table of Contents:   


Community Education


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Portlanders value community education that nurtures personal development,
fosters dialogue and increases civic participation.

Section Summary

Many Portlanders call for education programs that serve the entire community, regardless of age, background or experience level. Respondents advocate for the creation of more community-based classes and opportunities, with the ultimate goal of encouraging and empowering everyone to learn. They want Portlanders to adopt and enjoy the practice of “lifelong learning”—furthering their education, gaining vocational skills, exploring areas of personal interest and enriching their lives.

Existing community education programs are seen as very effective and people want more of them, as well as better advertising of these opportunities to boost participation. Not only do respondents desire more courses open to the public on a wide variety of issues, many called for ways to educate the entire population on pressing issues through far-reaching public awareness campaigns and open seminars. They want community leaders and elected officials to “get the word out” about local affairs and policy decisions that affect people’s lives. By openly sharing information and encouraging conversations between community members and government, people believe Portland will make better public policy decisions.

Note: The idea of community education shows up repeatedly in all sections of this report, and was often listed as a strategy to overcome challenges or to preserve what we hold most dear.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. Portlanders value lifelong learning and recognize that education exists outside formal institutions.
  2. Many of the challenges we face can be addressed through community education.
  3. Educational institutions should offer a wide array of courses open the public that meet community interests.
  4. Portlanders need job skills and professional development classes in order to adapt to the changing economy.
  5. Community education brings people together and builds civic capacity.


  1. Portlanders value lifelong learning and recognize that education exists outside formal institutions.
  • Respondents appreciate the many community-based opportunities for education and learning available in Portland.
  • Portlanders want residents of all ages and backgrounds to have equal and open access to high-quality learning experiences that promote personal and career development.
  • People would like to see Portland commit to, and nurture, all forms of learning.
  • Service learning—the integration of meaningful community service with instruction and reflection—is highly prized in Portland.
  • Many think that public schools should provide educational lessons that incorporate community service and hands-on, experiential learning into the curriculum.
“I value the people and the organizations that help the community because I have met people that have helped me with the language in this country.”

“[I would like to see]… a strong public educational system that links classroom and community …”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Create and support informal educational programs and nonprofits, such as the Village Free School.

  1. Many of the challenges we face can be addressed through community education.
  • Portlanders often tout community education as a component necessary to solving issues of concern.
  • Portlanders would like to see greater efforts made to build broad community awareness around issues such as:
    • The importance of natural areas and conservation;
    • Sustainable practices;
    • Land-use and environmental policy (see Urban Livability: Land Use);
    • Recycling;
    • Personal health and education;
    • Home ownership;
    • Cultural differences;
    • The City budgeting processes; and
    • Rules about sharing the road, particularly between cyclists and motorists.
  • Respondents want to strengthen the capacity of community members to participate in civic affairs through raising awareness of community issues, needs and assets.
  • Through increased information sharing and cooperative problem-solving, Portlanders believe that we will make better decisions.
  • Education is frequently viewed as the only way to achieve large-scale behavioral change for the entire community (e.g., recycling).
  • Increase the accessibility of public policy conversations so that they are more open and inclusive. As one Portlander put it, “People should be able to participate without having to pass the acronym test.”
“Education seems key. We need to give people the skills/tools they need in order to tackle issues and implement intelligent/reasonable solutions.”

“Keep community dialogue happening. Educate the voting public. Not just sound bites, but solid information about what it takes to seriously support and infrastructure and systems which are healthy and thriving.”

“[I would like to see] regular community summits—a la Portland’s budgeting process—that invite the community to come and share and help problem solve around specific issues. Invite not just the usual suspects but anyone who has an interest and a perspective to share.”

“[Hold] public education workshops and open houses to teach people about important issues. These should be free and well advertised.”

  1. Educational institutions should offer a wide array of courses open the public that meet community interests.
  • Respondents want major educational institutions such as community colleges and universities to offer a wide range of community education opportunities that meet the diverse interests of Portlanders, including courses on gardening, technology, history and more.
  • Portlanders often mention appreciating Portland State University and Portland Community College for their contributions to individual and community education, and for the variety of programs offered.
“I value Portland Community College, PSU and the opportunities for education and self-improvement for adults of all ages.”

“I love PCC, with its diverse non-credit course offerings at reasonably affordable rates and the chance to take classes all over town.”

  1. Portlanders need job skills and professional development classes in order to adapt to the changing economy.
  • Portlanders link community education and opportunities for career advancement to their own economic prosperity and to the prosperity of the entire city.
  • Many respondents want to see greater availability of employment and career-related education options, such as professional development workshops, job training programs, computer classes and English language courses for new immigrants (see Economy: Employment).
  • Portlanders want to have access to the knowledge and skills they need to excel in their professional lives, particularly as the economy shifts and technology advances.
“[In the future, there are] more job opportunities and training for low skills workers that did not have the opportunity to go to school.”

“I would like more opportunities for career development and more apprentice programs for youth.”

  1. Community education brings people together and builds social capital.
  • Portlanders need more quality opportunities to share experiences, learn from each and build community trust.
  • Respondents call for programs that connect youth with elders as well as programs that promote interaction between diverse members of the community.
  • They believe that engaging people across differences builds social capital and increases civic engagement (see Social Issues: Civic Engagement).
  • People assert that community conversations and healthy debate bring deeper issues to the surface, enabling the community to address "root causes" of problems.
“Get the general public informed … Get people actively engaged in benefiting their own as well as the general community at large.”

“[I would like to see] public education about the city’s needs and how they are important to all of us.”

“We cannot go forward unless people are educated in where we are going, and what each of us as individuals can do to get there … Have neighborhood gatherings so they can talk about what their concerns are and get involved in how to best fix it.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Hold neighborhood gatherings to surface common concerns and initiate problem solving and action.
  2. Create a “college of elders,” so that older community members have the opportunity to share their wisdom with others.

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