Civic engagement

The question is age-old. How does one inspire the community at large to engage? It seems like such an overwhelming challenge to engage people. It is encouraging to see familiar faces, but it is also concerning when we don’t see the faces of strangers, or hear their voices. We miss the opportunity to be blessed with their ideas and insights. To have a more diverse approach to the wicked problems that face us.

I set out researching this topic, mostly because I’m a huge nerd. Also because I’m a huge fan of community building and we have a desperate need in this community for more voices, more faces, more ideas. Current strategies for building community strengths are not working well. I’ll try to keep this short. I know that most people are not that into reading. 🙂

civic engagement wesleyan institute

Is it only that people are busy? Is it that they are apathetic? Are they overwhelmed by the information that is published? Is it the stifling nature of the interactions that City Council engages in? i think it may be a combination of several things.

In my research, I came across a document written by the Kirwan Institute  titled “The Principles for Equitable and Inclusive Civic Engagement” and the ideas and thoughts proposed there may help inspire ideas and actions to build a strong community.

“People need relationships to see how they can do something….bring them into communities where people can see themselves as a bunch of Davids, working on a small scale to make change. It’s only found through community, a space where they can share their story, trust being developed and can feel confident that we can take this on.”

Currently, it’s very difficult to build relationships in the community, but each of us is responsible to bring our neighbors to the table, to make space for them and whatever gift they may bring.

“The decline in civic life is occurring alongside a widening wealth gap and a shrinking middle class, where more and more Americans are struggling to make ends meet.”

“{The} relationship shift needs to be done in a way that creates reciprocal accountability – so that residents and government and business all see mutual respect as essential {for healthy communities} as it is.”

I don’t believe, at this point in time, that local government is at all interested in encouraging conversations which foster mutual respect. This makes it more critical for those of us who yearn for a stronger community representation to recognize the ways that we are divided and foster the environment for mutual respect and a way to have reciprocal accountability.

“In order to truly transform the civic engagement environment in communities, we must shift from a civic engagement environment led by techniques to an engagement environment based on inclusive principles, allowing communities to create relevant practices that manifest those principles in the engagement environment.”

“The ability to effectively ground civic engagement activities in a set of shared, local community principles, and THEN finding techniques and practices to fig them, requires a big shift in the language, structure, and intent of civic engagement.”

At the risk of sounding jaded, it is my belief that the city has no interest in allowing for a broad civic coalition. It is better for them if we remain divided and it is much better for industry as well. They also have shown, on multiple occasions that they do not care to hear the voices of the community who do not walk in lock step with their vision for the future of this city.

I ask for all of us to come together to find a way to strengthen our community, to bring more voices in to help solve the wicked problems we are facing.

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