Civics 101

Review the basics of local governance

From managing growth in the face of climate change to regulating driverless vehicles, local governments and communities must address a breadth of STEM-related policy issues. Despite these challenges, city, county, and state governments often lack the technical resources and expertise needed to assess the science and technology dimensions of issues. You can help fill this gap. Get started by learning more about how local government structures and processes.
Special Districts

State governments play a critical role in STEM-related policymaking ranging from setting educational standards to implementing environmental regulations for new infrastructure development. For example, many decisions related to electricity generation, including shifting to renewable energy, are governed at the state level.

  • Governor’s office
  • State legislature
  • Departments & agencies
  • Advisory boards & commissions
  • Working groups
Learn more

County governments often have primary responsibility for implementation of many critical STEM-related policy areas such as public health and the oversight of elections. In addition, county governments often serve as the administrative arm for state governments.

  • Departments & agencies
  • County commissioners
  • Public health commission
  • Election commission
Learn more

Municipal governments serve as the “last mile” implementation arm for STEM-related policies as broad ranging as climate resilient development, public broadband access, road maintenance, and public safety. Much of day-to-day life is heavily impacted by decisions made at the city level.

  • Mayor’s office
  • City council
  • Departments & agencies
Learn more

Neighborhoods, which we define broadly to include universities and rural communities, often implement policy uniquely tailored to the needs of their residents. While neighborhood governance structures can vary widely, they often play a critical role in mobilizing residents to tackle issues such as emergency response.

  • Neighborhood commissions
  • Community response teams
  • Universities
Learn more

Special districts are decision making structures that often cover geographic regions that don’t match other government boundaries and address specific community needs. They include school districts, parks and recreation districts, utility districts, and transit authorities. The issues that these bodies address can be highly technical and benefit from engagement by scientists and engineers.

  • School districts
  • Parks & Recreation districts
  • Utility districts
  • Transit Authority
Learn more

Follow our digital roadmap to navigate your city government’s website and learn more about the STEM-related issues your city is working on.


Ready to dive deeper into local government? 
 Request a customized Civic Engagement Workshop from ESAL!

Workshop Inquiry
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram