The Deliberative Democracy Consortium

Mar 30th
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Citizen engagement is a social good

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We believe citizen engagement is a social good.

  • Some people believe civic engagement is political by definition
  • Some people believe the context determines whether or not a given civic engagement activity is political.

(Do you believe this is an important issue for the field to discuss?)

Comments (6) (sent to twitter)

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City manager
Civic engagement need not be partisan, but it is political in the broader sense of politics as the everyday processes of negotiating situations involving power relations and making public decisions, and very much a public good. Could an embedded culture of active civic engagement in a community be viewed as a common pool resource?
Mike Huggins , 28 Jul 2011 07:04 AM
Program Officer
Citizen to citizen engagement is the key social good, and builds a public capable of taking on the work of democracy. That work...deciding, making commitments to act... is inherently political, whereas "citizen engagement" (it's a big tent) done by institutions on citizens, erodes trust and increases cynicism. I think political/not political is an important topic for the field.
Connie Crockett , 26 Jul 2011 12:04 AM
Douglas North on social capital
Note also Nobel Prize winner North’s insight that all systems in society (government, business, and civil society) run better if there are deep reservoirs of trust (social capital). Civil society is the primary place in which truest is built. That’s what runs it. Government runs on votes, the market on money.
Harold McDougall , 25 Jul 2011 06:02 AM
Citizen Engagement as a check against government and business/market excesses
This goes beyond engagement akin to the power of the media (a role for probing and accountability for public officials). This relates to Bill Bradley’s’ notion of civil society as one leg of a three-legged stool, the other two being business and government. In the US, Bradley said, the civil society leg is much shorter than the other two, making the stool (American society) unstable.

Most civil society activists have an overly modest sense of the scope of their role and the scope of their responsibility.
Harold McDougall , 25 Jul 2011 05:56 AM
Conversations surrounding the semantics about whether civic engagement is political don't seem nearly as interesting as whether blind partisanship and opinion-forming by passive exposure constitute engagement. One of the risks to our form of government is being too busy for more than superficial fascination with political gossip and one-line zingers. Relative depth of engagement might make for an interesting discussion. Thank you for asking!
Nancy Chaney , 24 Jul 2011 11:34 AM
Different goals and directions of citizen engagement
I am unsure that "political/not political" gets us very far. It is about public life, decisions and values to some degree.
I'd rather see people's thoughts on what goals are important to this conference and "the movement"
a) Engagement as education as citizens. Better educated citizens make for better dialogue and decisions
b) Engagement as civic skills and leadership development. Learning about "how to do" democracy has a value for the vitality and richness of democracy in many settings, in developing good civic skills, and, for some, to encourage and support their becoming leaders at various levels, with our without being elected to a position
c) Engagement as a check against insider power. Akin to the power of the media (in the best circumstances), a role for probing and accountability for public officials (be they elected or as employed government administrators).

All these could be important - which seems most important/viable for conference attendees and others like me chiming in from afar?
JB Stephens , 24 Jul 2011 04:17 AM

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