Overall, I think the lack of political involvement may have to do with people perceiving it as threatening. They see people being vilified for expressing an opinion. County government department heads wanted to do a workshop on civic engagement, and we got into a discussion about civility. We wondered how we could get the public to be more civil in its discourse.
I think television is an evil. Many of the really engaged people I know don’t watch it, and the folks who are home watching “Dancing with the Stars” are less engaged with our community. If people didn’t watch TV, we’d have our community back. I have this vision of the TVs going off and everyone walking outside to meet their neighbors.
Becoming “Chief Evangelists”
One emerging sage observes that the APPLE Center promotes young leaders to become “chief evangelists” for civic involvement. Others suggest the need for a two minute “elevator speech” as a way to recruit mid-life persons to civic activities about which potential emerging leaders feel most passionate. They say it does no good to be quiet, that there is need to let people know there are opportunities in the community for them to get involved. They suggest it is also a matter of framing issues in a way that make them manageable: “Identify concrete steps that can be taken right now to make a difference.” “Everything can’t be solved at once, but we can create demonstration projects that provide evidence that something can be done.”
Even more basic in addressing the challenge of civic recruitment is the need to ask. People simply need to be invited. For example, non-engaged mid-life adults can be cultivated to participate in one-time activities that involve their entire family. Or they can be asked to attend an event where the accomplishments of a community group are celebrated. Until they are invited, reticent members of the community might not know the value of what they have to contribute. They assume that their commitment must be large—consuming substantial time, energy, and even money. These men and women need to know that contributions at any level are valued, especially at the entry stage.Download Article 1K Club