Latino Civic Participation Project

“The Latino Civic Participation Project empowers low-income marginalized Latinos by creating opportunities for their meaningful public engagement in planning, community development, and public policy processes.”
— Dr. Gerardo Sandoval, LCPP Coordinator

See the LCPP outreach done in these cities:

Shaping Planning, Community Development, and Public Policy for Oregon’s Latino Community

The rapid growth of the Oregon Latino community — now 14 percent of the overall state population and more than 20 percent of the K-12 student population — is not reflected by a corresponding increase in Latinos occupying leadership positions across the state. In addition, many local governments are not well-informed about the major issues faced by their local Latino community. Latinos are often simply ignored or assumed to face the same issues as the rest of the population. Fortunately, some local governments are now realizing that they cannot ignore Latinos and must take their ideas and needs into account through meaningful public participation strategies. University of Oregon students and researchers from the University’s Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS) developed the Latino Civic Participation Project (LCPP) to address this lack of representation and empower Oregon Latinos to participate in planning and public policy decision making.

Medford, OR – A Medford Latino family interacting with the “participation by play” model during Memorial Day Weekend 2014.
Medford, OR – A Medford Latino family interacting with the “participation by play” model during Memorial Day Weekend 2014.

Traditional public participation strategies such as town hall meetings or mail surveys have largely failed to meaningfully engage Oregon Latinos. Why? Many Latinos see town hall meetings as unwelcoming and difficult to attend. Mail surveys are often solely in English and have low Latino response rates. Additionally, there is much mistrust of traditional public engagement tools among Latinos. This limits their effectiveness and results in much of the Latino population being left out of planning and public policy processes. As a result, policy makers lack the in-depth evidence of Latino community issues needed for effective public policy. However, the Latino Civic Participation Project’s research suggests that this does not have to be the case.

The Latino Civic Participation Project (LCPP) is a novel type of needs assessment and community empowerment strategy.LCPP is a literally “hands on” research tool that enables Latino community members to directly articulate their local knowledge about community issues and propose solutions. LCPP researchers synthesize and present this local knowledge directly to local planning, policy and community organizations who can use this evidence of community needs when defining future policy priorities, giving many Oregon Latinos a voice in defining the policy priorities that are important to them for the first time. LCPP projects bring together community leaders, University of Oregon students and CLLAS researchers to empower Latino communities to get involved in planning and public policy decisions while demonstrating effective Latino engagement strategies to local governments and other organizations.

For example, during LCPP’s 2011 outreach in Eugene/Springfield, a woman from Oaxaca, Mexico with four children stated that while she wants to use existing public parks, she feels uncomfortable using them because of her documentation status which makes her afraid to be in public. She feels that she is not a legitimate member of the Eugene/Springfield community with the right to use public parks. The woman’s concerns were echoed by numerous workshop participants. LCPP researchers presented these concerns at a gathering with leaders from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), City of Eugene and City of Springfield leaders, including the Mayors and City Managers of Eugene and Springfield along with several City Council members. Following this meeting, LCPP researchers have been collaborating with community members and the City of Eugene on a project to update the Eugene Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Comprehensive Plan to create more inclusive public spaces in which Latinos, such as the woman from Oaxaca, can feel safe and welcomed regardless of their ethnicity or documentation status.

How the Latino Civic Participation Project (LCPP) works

 Medford, OR – 2013 Multicultural Festival attendees during a “participation by play.”
Medford, OR – 2013 Multicultural Festival attendees during a “participation by play.”

Traditional public participation strategies such as mail surveys are generally passive information gathering techniques to inform decisions on policy priorities already defined by planning and policy “experts.” In contrast, LCPP does not rely on external “experts” to identify community issues but empowers Latino communities to define their own planning, community development, and public policy priorities. LCPP achieves this by developing evidence of community issues through a “bottom-up” community outreach approach that engages Latinos in their own communities rather than expecting Latinos to volunteer information through traditional public participation channels.

Outreach projects start when LCPP is engaged by a government body, advocacy organization or university to civically engage and empower the Latino community in a particular area. LCPP researchers conduct interviews, focus groups and background research to develop an initial understanding of the particular issues faced by local Latinos. In collaboration with University of Oregon students and Urban Planner/Artist James Rojas, founder of Place It and the Latino Urban Forum,LCPP researchers then directly engage local Latinos through “participation by play” sessions at locations inside their communities. The locations are identified during the initial research stage and represent “community hubs” or other locations that are considered “safe” spaces for Latinos, such as public schools. During spring 2014 in Medford for example, LCPP outreach was conducted outside La Placita and El Gallo, two popular Latino businesses.


Latino Civic Participation Project Components

  • “Participation by play” sessions
  • Historical and demographic research
  • Focus groups with key community stakeholders
  • In-depth interviews with Latino leaders
  • Development of tailored community indicators
  • Neighborhood specific needs assessment
  • Presentation of findings to city leaders, community leaders, and the Latino community.


“Participation by play” sessions use hundreds of recycled dioramas representing buildings, parks and other community landmarks to create a fun and engaging atmosphere in which participants can share stories and ideas about how to improve their neighborhood, town or city. LCPP researchers set up a scale model of the local area and asked participants to move the dioramas around the map and redesign their own neighborhood. In contrast to traditional public participation methods which can be overly formal, “participation by play” is a fun and welcoming situation that allows participants to relax and express their views in conversation with University of Oregon students and LCPP researchers. Participants identify important issues facing their community ranging from youth activities, to transportation, to support for Latino businesses.

During LCPP’s 2011 outreach in Eugene/Springfield, for example, a young Latino participant redesigned a diorama into a soccer field to express his desire for more outdoor spaces and activities. In conversation, he stated that many Latino youths in the community would like to participate in soccer activities but find it difficult to do so. “Participation by play” sessions empower Latinos, many of whom have never had the opportunity to give input into public policy decisions, to take the lead in creating local change by identifying problems and solutions to issues facing their own community.

Medford, OR – Dr. Sandoval (left) and University of Oregon graduate students at the 2014 Multicultural Fair.
Medford, OR – Dr. Sandoval (left) and University of Oregon graduate students at the 2014 Multicultural Fair.

LCPP researchers and University of Oregon students synthesize ideas heard during “participation by play” sessions and other project research into an overview of issues important to the local Latino community which can be used as evidence by policy makers and community members to define policy priorities. When appropriate, LCPP researchers also develop a set of community specific social and economic indicators measuring progress on key issues emerging from LCPP’s outreach. Policy makers regularly use indicators to measure change and define policy priorities, such as economic activity and population growth. These standard indicators, however, often do not correspond to the needs of marginalized communities. LCPP’s community specific indicators empower Latinos to define their own policy priorities by transforming their community knowledge into useable evidence for planners and public policy makers. By selecting a mix of standard and community specific indicators, community members and policy makers can then co-define neighborhood policy priorities based on LCPP’s rigorously researched evidence of community issues, giving legitimacy to the voice of the community while building a shared understanding of community issues.


“Defining problems is power. To have a voice in the future of their communities, marginalized residents must be included in the definition of which problems and indicators are prioritized in the planning and policy process.” — Dr. Gerardo Sandoval, LCPP Coordinator


For example, during LCPP’s 2009-2011 project in Eugene/Springfield numerous Latino participants felt that they were being discriminated against when trying to secure housing. LCPP researchers substantiated these concerns by developing community specific indicators measuring local housing discrimination which can be used to set concrete goals which policy makers and community members can work with in formulating antidiscrimination policy initiatives and measures of their success. The indicators developed during LCPP’s Eugene/Springfield outreach have already been incorporated as evidence-based measurement tools in long term community development planning by regional planning agencies in the area. LCPP’s community specific indicators are a lasting tool that can be used by community members, planning agencies, and policy-makers to ensure that policy initiatives correspond to the needs of local marginalized Latino communities.

LCPP researchers and students present the project findings and indicators developed to city and community leaders to better represent the particular issues important to the Latino community when planning and public policy priorities are defined. Community members and policy makers can then use these tools in crafting future public policy initiatives affecting the Latino community. LCPP projects serve both as innovative public engagement opportunities to inform planning and policy decision makers but also as empowering opportunities for participants to have their voices heard, often for the first time.

LCPP also partners with the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS) “Latino Roots” project during outreach projects. Latino Roots exhibits historical and ethnographic stories of Oregon Latinos in civic and educational institutions to promote awareness of the rich history of Latinos in Oregon.

Support LCPP Empower Oregon Latinos

LCPP projects are a collaborative effort by students, community members and researchers to spur better representation of Latinos in Oregon and create positive changes in local public policy for the Latino community.

Supporting LCPP projects through donations, sponsorship or organizing a LCPP project in your community helps create positive change for the Oregon Latino community.

Contact Dr. Gerardo Sandoval (, 541-346-8432) if you would like to support LCPP projects.

See also:  LCCP: Re-Thinking Open Spaces in Eugene  (Reprinted from the Winter 2016 edition of  CLLAS Notes)

Want to Find Out More About LCPP?

LCPP Coordinator Dr. Gerardo Sandoval


Phone: 541-346-8432

University of Oregon Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS)

Email:     Phone: 541-346-5286     Web:

The Latino Civic Participation Project (LCPP) project is a University of Oregon collaboration between the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS), the Sustainable Cities Initiative (SCI), Urban Planner/Artist James Rojas, and University of Oregon students.