This past Saturday I had the chance to facilitate a really interesting meeting in Boston. The event, called the Boston Civic Summit, brought together a diverse group of about 400 activists, civic leaders and average citizens in order to address the concern of declining civic engagement. It was convened by a diverse group of civic leaders and led by the President of the City Council and Executive Director of the city’s convention center.
The day featured an interesting array of activities: remarks from political leaders, workshops on various kinds of leadership development like organizing, communications, fundraising, etc., a keynote address from Tom Sander of the Saguaro Seminar about social capital, and a two and a half hour town meeting that AmericaSpeaks facilitated.
What really stood out for me about the event was the simple fact that it was convened at all. Often people bemoan the state of civic engagement in our communities, but few actually mobilize around the issue as a critical problem. For city leaders, like the president of the city council, to believe it was an important enough issue to dedicate her own political capital to convening a large-scale event is really fantastic.
Despite a tight time schedule, I thought our town meeting went quite well. Together, we developed a vision for the future of civic engagement, identified short- and long-term priorities for reaching that vision, and created Civic Action Teams to follow up on the priority items (among the long-term priorities was to establish the civic summit as a regular event). I’m really interested to see where the process goes in the future. Given the Governor’s stated commitment to civic engagement, I think some really interesting things could be happening in Massachusetts.