What is Civic Engagement?

Jim Mowrer discusses what civic engagement is and why it's so important.

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Civic engagement is a phrase that comes and goes in our society, but even though it may not be commonly referred to by name, the practice persists. It’s a practice that has become integral to the advancement of our society throughout generations, and it will continue to be necessary as time goes on. This brief overview provides a better understanding of civic engagement.

What is Civic Engagement?

While you may have a basic understanding of the term, it’s important to define it more thoroughly. Many confuse civic engagement with a service-oriented philosophy, but these two concepts differ in subtle ways. While you can provide a service as you practice civic engagement, not all services are related to civics. As a general rule, civic engagement involves acting to promote the growth, welfare, or change of issues that affect the public at large. 

When is Civic Engagement Service Oriented?

There are many situations in which you can practice civic engagement by providing a community-based service. For example, delivering meals to the elderly or working in a soup kitchen are both activities that provide a much-needed service while improving the community as a whole. Volunteering with a literacy program, organizing a litter cleanup program, or participating in a neighborhood watch program are all examples of services that can be construed as civic engagement.

When Doesn’t Civic Engagement Involve Providing a Service?

There are many ways that you can get involved without providing a service directly to the public. One popular method is to get involved with local or national politics. You can write letters to your local leaders or volunteer to work on a politician’s election campaign. You can also work behind the scenes with environmental, wildlife, or other impactful organizations. For every volunteer who interacts with the public, each organization also needs people to update databases, send out emails, or perform other administrative functions. No matter what your personality type, there’s a civic engagement level that’s ideal for you.

If you’re new to civic engagement, you’ll find there are many more ways to get involved. In fact, getting involved with a few different organizations can help you meet people who share your concerns as you attempt to bring positive change to your community. Either on a local, regional, or international level, your civic engagement can have long-lasting positive effects.

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