Civic Engagement: Definition Civic engagement refers to activities by which people participate in civic, community and political life and by doing so express their commitment to community Such activities include volunteering, voting, community organizing, political advocacy
What is social capital? If physical capital is wholly tangible, being embodied in observable material form, and human capital is less tangible, being embodied in the skills and knowledge acquired by an individual, social capital is less tangible yet, for it exists in the relations among persons. Example, a park that is safe in a neighborhood vs. having to secure it with police
Civic engagement and Trust A society characterized by generalized reciprocity is more efficient than a distrustful society Frequent interaction among a diverse set of people tends to produce a norm of generalized reciprocity. Civic engagement and social capital entail mutual obligation and responsibility for action.
Character of Today’s Civic Participation the more that activities depend on the actions of others, the greater the drop-off in participation. in other words cooperative forms of behavior have declined more rapidly than expressive forms of behavior (e.g. letter writing) There is more single issue blare and declining civility.
AVERAGE MEMBERSHIP RATE IN 32 NATIONAL CHAPTER-BASED VOLUNTARY ASSOCIATIONS 1900-1997 Mean membership rate for the 20th century
ATTENDANCE AT PUBLIC MEETINGS ON LOCAL AFFAIRS COLLAPSES
ENTERTAINING AT HOME BECOMES RARER 1975-1999 Average times entertained at home last year
TRENDS IN CHURCH ATTENDANCE 1940-1999 Average weekly church attendance as fraction of adult population
FAMILY DINNERS BECOME LESS COMMON 1977-1999 “ Our whole family usually eats dinner together.” (married respondents only)
THE RISE AND FALL OF PHILANTHROPIC GENEROSITY 1929-1998 Total giving by living individuals as% of national income
FOUR DECADES OF DWINDLING TRUST-ADULTS AND TEENAGERS 1960-1999 Percent Who say “most people can be trusted” instead of you can’t be too careful in dealing with people.”
Social connectedness Declines decline in social visiting More entertaining at home Less eating dinner together Less vacationing together Less watching TV together Less just sitting and talking Less attending religious services Less Sending greeting cards Card playing down
Putnam’s Assessment of social capital and civic engagement decline
Photo courtesy of Portland Oregon Visitors Association
Depth of Citizen Participation in Portland and Oregon 1975, 1 out of 200 State-wide involved in designing state-wide land use system Albina Planning process, late 1980s, 140 meetings, 4,000 citizens (population 23,000) Bike path planning, early 1990s, 2000 involved Johnson Creek watershed over 10 years, 1 of 17 involved in restoring stream Current neighborhood system, 60 paid staff, 600+ volunteer positions with neighborhood associations
accolades Best Bicycling city (Bicycling magazine) Best Walking City (Prevention magazine) Most Sustainable Policies (SustainLane) Most Vegan Friendly (Vegetarian magazine) Most Enlightened (Utne Reader) Most woman-owned businesses (SBA) One of the most attractive for young creatives (Rise of Creative Class)
Research of Portland Civic Life Studied Portland’s Civic life for 5 years Best dissertation, American Political Science Association, 2001 Putnam’s steak dinner bet
Evaluating the health of a civic infrastructure and Lessons from Portland’s Civic History
Traditional Civic Life declined Because: Traditional civic groups in Portland died or became irrelevant Traditional civic organizations declined because they were not inclusive, adaptive, or innovative. Traditional civic organizations did not supply new forms of civic actions or processes, and no longer served as the sources of civic skills and knowledge for citizens to effectively participate in civic life.
Opportunity is not enough If you create opportunity but do not invest in educating citizens, which includes both practical skills and knowledge as well as value system that rests on the principles of the commons, not individual liberty, then you may create a crisis of policy gridlock and unenlightened self interest articulation opportunity without efficacy can create cynicism, mistrust, and policy gridlock.
The most effective leadership is facilitative, the relationship symbiotic between leaders and citizens Many of Portland’s civic innovations of came from citizens working with leaders who understood their role as facilitators
Engaged Schools and Universities The civic health of a community depends on an education system that nurtures good citizens as well as wage earners It is a public good that lowers the cost of governance Universities are incubators for innovative community problem solving
University as Incubator of Civic Ideas Students and artists precipitated development of Portland neighborhood system College Housing Northwest, in a class, now multi-million operation First Curbside recycling program Urban Greenspaces Program Alternative Transportation Program Food First and Diggable Cities Program
Elements of a Healthy Civic Infrastructure Opportunity Innovative and effective practices Maintenance and creation of public or civic space Democratic dialogue that enhances the commons over individualism Capacity to act locally while thinking global The ability for communities to create and control a civic story that is socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable That key audiences on the edges are involved:
Civic Engagement: Are these groups effectively involved? A healthy civic structure depends on continual renewal of the contract between citizens and government, and the innovative and effective involvement of several key populations that define the cutting edge or frontline Youth Immigrants Challenging groups Elders Disadvantaged Diverse population
Importance of Diversity Involvement of the diverse populations of a community is also critical, but not just because it is the just or right thing to do, but because when a community can create an inclusive democratic dialogue it is most likely to promote the most innovative solutions to community problems, and create ownership that will reduce government regulations and expenditures.
The Role of Story in Building Community Influence of story on the way we live our lives Dominate cultural stories, community, and individual Dominate cultural stories, community, and individual Assessing progress toward long term goals, e.g. sustainability (costs and benefits) Constructed social knowledge, made up of rational science and experiential knowledge Lowering the cost of governance and distributing costs of constructing/maintaining the commons and public sphere Goal is to maintain or create an inhabitation pattern that is sustainable
Telling Stories to Illustrate Community Narrative Approach Valuing the generalist knowledge about a place (Bob Benson) The knowledge to over come rather than learning to work with (Columbia River) White Wolf in the Amazon Sand Maps in the Australian outback Beavergate
Portland’s Civic Story Over 30 year period Portland created a civic story, in part myth, in part reality It dictates civic behavior Citizens expect to be involved Bureaucrats and elected officials expect citizens to be involved.
Example of Story Telling, Brisbane Australia What is the Story? Where did it come from? If it is a good story how do you maintain it? Is it sustainable (socially, economically, environmentally)
From Public Works to the Public that Works DeToqueville accurately predicted that America would face a criss. If people did not work together to solve problems then the government would need to create more and more rules, more and more bureacycy. The most expensive governance involves governing individuals who only look out for themselves The leaders in the next stage of democracy will need to be facilitators: helping to bring people together to solve community problems Many problems today are not solvable without citizen participation We need an education system that helps individuals know how to work together There are hardware and software solutions Software that processes information generated by “crowds”—example naming a candy bar
Community Problem Solving: hardware and software solutions
Wisdom of Crowd Software Wikipedia Del.icio.us --bookmark sharing Facebook Youtube Podcasts Bit torrent --data sharing/shared bandwidth Flickr --photo sharing Digg- -published stories voted on by members Friendster.com Meetup.com Flash of Brilliance.org (Johnson’s Domain)