Last Updated: December 15, 2021
On this page you have the opportunity ask us any civic engagement question you like. You could have a wide variety of concerns, ranging from how to build interest in community issues to how best to reach and involve some under-represented group in community decision making.
Those of us who are city planners sometimes think there is nothing new to say or do about this topic, except to respond to the latest available online tools. But we were betting that our wonderful visitors can come up with a different approach, and that has proven true.
The challenges are becoming more difficult all the time, at least in the U.S. Especially certain demographic groups seem to be spending all their spare time, and some of the time they are supposed to be working for an employer, on their phones and online. Harnessing the power of social media and the internet in general for social good still isn't a fully developed art. As we have seen, topics that build fear, alienation, and anger currently are favored by many social media algorithms, and that is eroding our confidence in our ability to act for the common good in the civic arena.
Slowly but surely, the illusion of social interaction through online activity seems to be replacing skill in face-to-face communication, dialogue, empathy, and problem-solving.
Many neighborhood associations and other community organizations are feeling the urgency of having to adapt their styles to appeal to younger people. Many folks, regardless of age and experience, also are tired of endless legally required meetings that seem to result in no real community change. Finding new and engaging activities and strategies to build interest in public sector decisions seems to be an ongoing challenge for many neighborhood associations, who only understand that their tried and true processes and methods from 30 or 40 years ago no longer seem as effective or exciting.
Since learning basic civics doesn't seem to be very popular in many countries, especially where the government boundaries and system have been stable for many years, we thought we would make a plug for getting people involved through greater exposure to the complexities of their community or nation.
Have you ever seen a student return from a spring trip to Washington DC, or your particular national capital, as completely bored with government as he or she was before? Generally that doesn't happen. We think that like most things in life, involvement precedes interest.
At the local level, maybe you have experience with replacing meetings about pedestrian safety with an actual walk audit in which community members get out and experience for themselves the hazards of crossing certain streets and intersections, or the discomfort of walking on a narrow, broken, or non-existent sidewalk.
Maybe your neighborhood became frustrated with your city government's lack of focus on housing issues in your community, and you decided to undertake a housing condition survey on your own to shame the government into action.
You might represent an ethnic, religious, age, ability, or lifestyle group that is frequently overlooked when choices about your community area are made. We would love to hear about your experience and your questions as you try to increase your influence in your neighborhood or city.
Perhaps you don't really have your own creative ideas of how to make your neighborhood or community issues more interesting and truly learn what the community thinks. If that description fits you, use the form below to describe what you would like to achieve and ask us for some suggestions.
Whatever the civic engagement question, we suggest that you spell it out below as best you can, and let's turn the online community into your personal think tank for a better process of inspiring people to become really interested in their local community development issues or other important public topics.
We keep wondering how to pose the civic engagement question to those who previously have not taken an interest, or even had a say in public policy, in a way that makes it compelling.
What are the subtle style changes in our approach that would make discussion of societal or local issues more exciting? How can the young people who have the most to gain by sound democratic decision making feel that their input is effective and efficient?
Oh, but we're supposed to be allowing you to ask your own civic engagement question. You can do that on the form below. Or you can talk back to us about our perception that eyes lively with interest are "fewer and further between" in the public arena than they have been in the last 50 years. We review the questions, edit if necessary, and then answer, providing we can understand the question. The result is a separate web page that lives on this site.
Below the form you will see what others asked. You can comment on their questions or our answers as well.
Would you like to ask the other visitors and/or the editors a question? Here you can ask anything about motivating citizens, youth, or other parties to get involved. Then watch for the answer and any comments.
Click below to see questions from other visitors, and answers.
Federal funding equity for communities of color
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Engaging Communities for Development
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Business District Events Favor Restaurants
Visitor Question: I live in Winchester VA. I'm a merchant in the Historic District. The City hired an Events Manager who for three years puts on events …
Rallying the youth besides elders to help publish a small town historical book & how?
Should we rally the youth to get involved with helping to publish a historical book for a small rural town? How? Mayor Julia M. Meacham of Weldon NC …
Community dinners as community engagement
What about having some community dinners as a way of having community engagement? We are a small community of mostly farm families with a couple of small …
Motivate Youths in Rural Communities
How can we motivate youths? Editors' Reply: Usually when adults ask how to motivate rural youth, or urban youth for that matter,they mean "how can …