Inclusive Governance: Keystone Bridges the Gap Between Communities and Policy Makers

In December, Keystone Policy Center embarked on a crucial endeavor as the facilitator for the State of Colorado’s Commission on Property Tax. The team faced a tight deadline but remained committed to fostering meaningful community engagement throughout the process.

“I think the thing [the commission] liked most about our proposal was that the number one thing is that we’ll go listen to Colorado taxpayers and get their feedback into these recommendations,” said Trace Faust, senior project director at Keystone.

Community engagement, while often touted, can sometimes fall short of its intended impact. However, Keystone’s experience with the Commission on Property Tax offers valuable insights into effective engagement strategies.

One of the cornerstones of Keystone’s approach is meeting communities where they are. By scheduling meetings across the state, the team gained valuable insight into the unique challenges faced by each community. While virtual options increase accessibility, nothing beats face-to-face interactions. The dedication to travel and immerse themselves in local contexts underscores Keystone’s commitment to inclusivity.

Property tax structure is also undeniably complex, but Keystone understands the importance of simplicity in facilitating conversations. By structuring discussions to invite everyone to the table, regardless of their level of expertise, Keystone disrupted traditional power dynamics. This inclusive approach fostered meaningful dialogue among diverse stakeholders, promoting understanding and collaboration.

“The regional meetings really fed into this process and, of course, the 19 members of this commission brought their own ideas after talking to their constituents and their constituencies,” said Sen. Chris Hansen (Denver), who chaired the Commission on Property Tax. “We had a really nice mix of… those who have a lot of skin in the game when it comes to property tax and making sure we hear directly from them when it comes to developing these recommendations.”

Transparency is paramount in effective community engagement and Keystone prioritizes honesty by setting clear expectations for each meeting. By outlining what the meeting aims to achieve and what it does not, participants can stay focused and contribute meaningfully. This straightforward approach respects participants’ time and ensures productive discussions.

Keystone developed 12 recommendations based primarily on the input gathered from this community engagement effort. On March 15, the commission discussed each recommendation and approved 10 of them to be considered by the Colorado General Assembly.

“Those recommendations will be formalized by Keystone and then sent over to the General Assembly and we’ll start working immediately on legislation that will come out of this work,” said Sen. Hansen.

In reflecting on these lessons, it becomes evident that effective community engagement is not about grand gestures but rather about genuine connection and inclusivity. Keystone’s work with the Colorado Commission on Property Tax serves as a reminder of the importance of creating spaces where communities have a direct line of sight into decisions that affect them. We are remain proud of our approach to facilitate inclusive dialogue and empower communities to shape their futures.