Definitions and Meaning
Civic engagement today has several meanings. One is “Working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make a difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community through both political and nonpolitical processes” (Endnote 4). Another meaning is: “Individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern. It…can take many forms, from individual voluntarism to organizational involvement to electoral participation. It can include efforts to directly address an issue, work with others in a community to solve a problem, or interact with the institutions of representative democracy” (Endnote 5). Given these meanings, there is good reason for having civic engagement include the rise of the encore career, where baby boomers and others are securing second, social purpose–driven careers that provide them with both means and meaning (Endnote 6).
Both of the definitions play-out in a wide array of civic organizations. Usually included as vehicles for civic engagement are nonprofit organizations, government and political organizations, educational organizations, social services organizations, media organizations, faith-based organizations, arts organizations, fraternal and service clubs, and environmental organizations.
Civic engagement can be better understood by eleven key indicators of civic health that have been identified. They include connecting to civic and religious groups; trusting other people; joining with family and friends for public purpose; engaging in citizen-centered activities to discuss issues and work voluntarily to address them; charitable giving and volunteering; staying informed; understanding civics and politics; participating in politics; being connected to major institutions; stating political views; and sharing opinions about political, social, or community issues. These indicators are in flux today because most Americans are found to be reducing their civic engagement and turning inward under the stress of the current economic crisis. (Endnote 7) But this has happened before in US history and is likely to change again as the economy recovers. (Endnote 8)Download Article 1K Club