National Civic League Publishes New Edition of Civic Index

One of the nation’s oldest civic engagement organizations, The National Civic League – also an NCDD member org, recently released the fourth edition of The Civic Index, a set of guidelines developed over the last 30 years to measure the civic capital of a community. Civic capital measures, “the formal and informal relationships, networks and capacities that communities use to make decisions collaboratively and solve problems” and The Civic Index offers the framework for assessing these factors and relationships to determine a community’s civic strength. You can download a free version of the NCL Civic Index by clicking here. Read more in the announcement below and find the original version on the NCL site here.


The League’s Civic Index: Measuring Your Community’s Capacity to Solve Problems and Thrive

What makes some communities better able than others to solve the tough social, political, economic or physical challenges they face? This was a question the National Civic League set out to answer over 30 years ago. On-the-ground research revealed a set of factors that we call civic capital — the formal and informal relationships, networks and capacities that communities use to make decisions collaboratively and solve problems.

Somewhat like social capital, but not to be confused with financial capital, civic capital can be found in all sorts of communities, not just the most affluent, educated or advantaged. While myriad other factors contribute to community progress, civic capital is the core factor identified by the National Civic League as the primary explanation for long-term community success.

At the National Civic League, we know of many communities with an abundant supply of civic capital. The All-America City program has recognized over 500 of these communities during the past 69 years. All have varying degrees of civic engagement, collaboration and leadership, and have been able to tackle tough issues in a sustainable manner–by bringing everyone to the table and creating equity.

Earlier this year the National Civic League released the fourth edition of the Civic Index, a self-assessment tool consisting of a set of questions that provide a framework for discussing and measuring a community’s civic capital. Since it was first developed in 1986, many communities have used the Civic Index to better understand their civic strengths and to identify gaps or areas in need of further attention, soliciting community input to create a baseline measure of their civic capital and monitor progress over time as they work to enhance their internal capacity.

The Seven Components of Civic Capital

The Civic Index describes the seven components of civic capital, provides examples of each, lists the 32 questions that are used to gauge each component and provides ideas on how to use the index. Here’s a synopsis of these seven components.

  1. Engaged Residents: Residents play an active role in making decisions and civic affairs.
  2. Inclusive Community Leadership: The community actively cultivates and supports leaders from diverse backgrounds and with diverse perspectives
  3. Collaborative Institutions: Communities with good civic capital have regular collaboration among the government, business, nonprofit and other sectors, as well as structures in place that facilitate such collaboration.
  4. Embracing Diversity and Equity: Communities with healthy civic capital recognize and celebrate their diversity. They strive for equity in services, support and engagement.
  5. Authentic Communication: Healthy communities need credible, civic-minded sources of information presented in a way that residents can use.
  6. Culture of Engagement: Involvement by residents, businesses, nonprofits and other stakeholders in every aspect of civic affairs should be part of local culture—an expectation, not an afterthought.
  7. Shared Vision and Values: Communities with shared values and civic pride have a common foundation for addressing public matters.

Summary 

Nearly a hundred years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis, a one-time member of the League’s executive committee, called states “laboratories of democracy.” That mantle has now been passed to the local level, as cities, counties, towns and other local communities create innovations and regional or national networks to tackle such issues as climate change, health, education and economic prosperity.

At the same time, local governments cannot solve problems on their own. As Bruce Katz points out in The New Localism, community problem-solving depends on “multi-sectoral relationships,” with government often serving as a convener or catalyst. What happens next depends on the civic capacity of the particular locality. It is the communities with civic capital — the full engagement and collaboration of its residents, businesses, nonprofits and other stakeholders–that have the resources and persistence to successfully address difficult issues and build a sustainable future.

For a free copy of the National Civic League’s Civic Index, please visit www.nationalcivicleague.org/resource-center.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the National Civic League site at www.nationalcivicleague.org/the-leagues-civic-index-measuring-your-communitys-capacity-to-solve-problems-and-thrive/.

NCL Offers Free National Civic Review to NCDD Members!

As part of our new partnership with NCDD member org, The National Civic League, we are thrilled to announce that NCDD members will now have free access to the digital version of NCL’s National Civic Review! NCL is one of the longest running organizations in the dialogue, deliberation, and engagement world – celebrating their 125th year! This esteemed quarterly journal offers insights and examples on civic engagement and deliberative governance from around the country. We strongly encourage our members to check out this great resource and there is an open invite for NCDD members to contribute to the NCR! You can read about NCR in the post below and find it on NCL’s site here.


National Civic Review: Winter 2019 – 125th Anniversary Edition — Access Code: NCDD19

The focus of this edition is the capacity of communities to address difficult challenges by tapping the potential of an engaged public. Whether it is a “wicked problem” such as gentrification or an effort to improve local health outcomes, towns, cities and regions with ample “civic capital” find ways of bringing together diverse groups of associations and individuals in collaborative, community improvement initiatives.

To access this edition, go to the table of contents where you will be prompted to enter your unique access code: NCDD19

One of the Nation’s Oldest and Most Respected Journals of Civic Affairs
Its cases studies, reports, interviews and essays help communities learn about the latest developments in collaborative problem-solving, civic engagement, local government innovation and democratic governance. Some of the country’s leading doers and thinkers have contributed articles to this invaluable resource for elected officials, public managers, nonprofit leaders, grassroots activists, and public administration scholars seeking to make America’s communities more inclusive, participatory, innovative and successful.

Local Civic Challenge #3: Getting Ready for Election Season

In the third part of the Local Civic Challenge from by NCDD member, The Jefferson Center, they encourage folks to get ready for election season and offer some great resources to prepare. In June, JC had a mini-challenge every week for folks to be more engaged with their local democracy. This round connected folks about registering to vote and volunteering for elections. You can read the post below and find the original on the JC site here.


Local Civic Challenge #3: Getting Ready for Election Season

Maintaining the integrity of our elections is vital to democracy, so this week we’re challenging you to get more involved with the process. Below, find out where you vote, how to register yourself and help others, volunteer at the polls, and more.

1. Get Registered

First off, make sure you’re registered to vote. A great place to start is vote.gov, where you can find out how to register online, or download a hard copy of the National Mail Voter Registration Form to send in. For information about registering in person, registering in other languages, registration deadlines, voter requirements, and more, check out this voting guide.

2. Find out where you vote

You can find your local election office here. This website will direct you to your state’s voting guide, where you should be able to see your polling place (including maps and directions), districts for your precinct, and candidates and questions that will be on the ballot at the next election. Your state may also have a primary election coming up soon, which determines the candidates that will be on the ballot in the general November election.

3. Know the issues and positions

What issues do you care about? Do you know where candidates stand? Here are a few resources that will help you match your views with your vote:

iCitizen or Vote411: provide voter guides by location

Project Vote Smart: helps you explore not only issues and stances, but voting records and campaign contributions

BallotReady: research every name and issue on the upcoming ballot

iSideWith: working backwards, this matches you with the “perfect” candidate based on your stances on issues

After you find your favorite candidates, see if they could use any help on the campaign trail. Joining a volunteer team is usually as simple as making a quick phone call or sending an email.

4. Help others

Help another person register to vote. Download and share voter outreach materials like these online and at your office, college, or neighborhood centers, and see if your community has a local get-out-the-vote campaign. For teachers, programs like Your Vote Matters can help students learn more about the voting process.

5. Work at the polls

Election judges are temporary, paid employees of local election offices who handle all the aspects of voting day! Your duties would include setting up the polling place, ensuring elections are fair, impartial, and secure, and tabulating the votes for the precinct. Contact your local election office to find out the requirements, like if you have to be a registered voter in that state, of a certain age, or officially affiliated with a political party.

How are you preparing for the upcoming elections? Was it difficult to find information about voting in your community?

Next week, we’ll take a look at the power of supporting local journalism and community storytelling.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at www.jefferson-center.org/getting-ready-for-election-season/.

Local Civic Challenge #2: Explore Local Leadership Roles

Democracy is all about community members being engaged in their government, and learning more ways on how to deeper connect with your local politics. A great way to do this is to join the Local Civic Challenge started by NCDD member,The Jefferson Center, where during the month of June they offer a mini-challenge every week for folks to learn more about and engage with, their local government. This second installment of the Challenge offers ways to explore local leadership roles (you can read the first installment about getting familiar with your local government here.) We encourage you to learn more about how you can become a more engaged citizen in the post below and you can find the original on the JC site here,


Local Civic Challenge #2: Joining Local Offices, Committees, and Boards

This post is part of our Local Civic Challenge, a chance to complete a few easy tasks each week that will help you become a more engaged citizen! To get the series delivered directly to your inbox, sign up here.

Learning more about the day-to-day work of your local gov, and how community members are thinking about issues, can often segue into taking on a leadership position yourself. We’ve seen this happen a few times throughout our work at the Jefferson Center. Just last week, Erin Buss, a participant in the Minnesota Community Assemblyfiled to run for City Council in Red Wing, Minnesota.

She told the local paper:

“As a participant in the Red Wing Citizens Assembly, I learned a lot about residents’ concerns and the importance of doing the work to keep this city on the right track. People want their government to be responsive, accountable and accessible. I’m excited to bring a fresh viewpoint to City Council — it’s time for Red Wing to move forward.”

Here’s a few ways you can start exploring local leadership roles:

1. See what’s open

It’s an election year, and it’s likely you’ll have some seats in your community up for grabs. Find out which seats these are, and who else is running. While the deadline to file for congressional seats has passed in most states, there may be time to file for city, township, and school district offices.

2. Learn who holds local office

Even if you won’t run yourself, it’s key to know who is. These aren’t always the elections we pay close attention to, especially when the national and state elections take over our newsfeeds. Resources like Common Cause and Ballotpedia make it easy to find your local representatives.

3. Listen to your neighbors

If running for an official title isn’t your thing, check out when your local neighborhood council or community development association meets. This is a great way to find out what issues are important to your neighbors, and where the current gaps are. You could start by listening in at meetings, and eventually move up to a volunteer leadership position.

4. Tune in

Find out when your city council meets, and see if they are streamed online if you can’t attend the meeting in-person. If they aren’t, that might be something to suggest to your city to make the meetings more accessible for everyone.

5. Search

It seems simple, but just googling “get involved in [insert your city] government” will likely bring up a page full of volunteer opportunities! For instance, you might be needed to teach local community ed classes, clean up parks and trails, help out in community gardens, participate in invasive species education, or assist library staff. If your city doesn’t have a dedicated volunteer page, try contacting the department you’d want to work with directly.

Do you hold a leadership position in your community? How did you end up there? If not, what’s holding you back? Let us know in the comments.

Next week, we’ll explore how you can get ready for election season.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at www.jefferson-center.org/local-civic-challenge-2-joining-local-offices-committees-and-boards/.

Local Civic Challenge #1: Learn More About Your Local Gov

As a fantastic way to help folks further strengthen civic muscles, our friends at The Jefferson Center – an NCDD member org recently began offering a Local Civic Challenge. Every week they have a mini challenge for becoming more engaged with your local government and we will be lifting them up here on the NCDD blog. The first challenge is to get familiar with your local gov! Let us know in the comments below if you have additional great tips for getting familiar with our own city governments. We encourage you to flex those civic skills by checking out the post below, which you can find the original on the JC site here, and sign up to get it delivered to your email!


Local Civic Challenge #1: Get Familiar With Your Local Gov

To kick off the first week of the Local Civic Challenge, we want you to learn more about the ins and outs of your city government! That includes how it operates, who’s involved, and ways you can give feedback. Once you’re done, you’ll be more familiar with how the system works, and you might even have some ideas on the ways things could be improved.

Do you want the Local Civic Challenges delivered directly to your inbox? Sign up here.

1. Locate your city’s charter

In the United States, city charters usually define the organization, power, functions, and procedures of local government. Not all states allow local governments to create their own charters, so double check this list before your search.

2. Find out if your mayor is strong or weak

This isn’t a comment on your mayor’s effectiveness (that’s a different conversation), but their level of authority on local issues. In a “strong mayor” system, mayors are directly elected, and can make appointments and veto legislation. Meanwhile, most “weak mayors” are elected from within the city council, and do not have veto powers or executive authority on most matters. Yours may not be entirely one or the other, either!

3. Give some feedback

What’s one thing you think your local government is doing well? What could they improve on, and do you have any suggestions for them? Make a list, then head to your city’s website to find who to contact. Most have phone numbers and email addresses for different departments, from parks & rec to public works, so you can reach out to the right people.

4. Save the dates

If you don’t want to miss upcoming upcoming public meetings, see if your city has an upcoming events calendar or schedule published online.

5. Follow and like

Does your city or county use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? If you follow them, you can just catch important projects updates and events as you scroll! Plus, you can easily give feedback by messaging, liking, or commenting.

6. Get familiar with the voting system

Local elections in the US vary widely, but the most common are first-past-the-post voting and instant-runoff voting (often called ranked-choice voting). In first-past-the-post, the candidate with the most votes wins the election. In instant-runoff, voters rank the candidates in order of preference rather than voting for a single candidate. Ballots are counted and each voter’s top choice is recorded, and losing candidates (those with the lowest votes) are eliminated, and their ballots are redistributed until one candidate remains as the top choice of the majority of voters.

Was it difficult to find information about your city? Could your local government be more accessible? Let us know in the comments below!

Next week, we’ll explore how to join local offices, committees, and boards.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at www.jefferson-center.org/local-civic-challenge-1-get-familiar-with-your-local-gov/.

Digital Engagement Census Deadline Extended to Mon. 2/26

Shared with us by NCDD member, Tim Bonnemann on our Main Discussion listserv, the ParticipateDB 2018 Digital Engagement Census deadline has been extended until this coming Monday, February 26th. The survey, hosted by several international partner organizations, seeks to identify the digital engagement tools that people have been using and for folks to provide feedback on their experience using the tools. You can read more about the survey in the post below or find the original on ParticipateDB’s site here.


ParticipateDB 2018 Digital Engagement Census

Today, after extensive prep work since we first floated the idea back in 2016, we are excited to launch the ParticipateDB 2018 Digital Engagement Census, a global practitioner survey aimed at improving our understanding of how technology is shaping community engagement today.

Over the next ten days, we hope to hear from people working in community engagement and public participation in places all around the world to answer two basic questions:

  • Which digital engagement tools or services have you used in your work lately?
  • What were your experiences and lessons learned?

Respondents who leave us their contact information will:

  • be among first to get their hands on the interim report (to be issued later this month),
  • receive an invitation to our exclusive follow-up event, and
  • receive an electronic copy of the final report free of charge (to be issued later in March).

We are exceptionally pleased to be partnering with a group of renowned international organizations and practitioner networks in this field. This project wouldn’t be possible without their support and guidance. Thank you!

Please head to the project page for more details. When you get a chance, please take a few minutes to complete the online survey and share it with your colleagues near and far: ParticipateDB 2018 Digital Engagement Census

You can find the original version of this article at http://blog.participatedb.com/2018/02/09/welcome-to-the-participatedb-2018-digital-engagement-census/.

Learn from Iceland’s Deliberative Constitutional Change

We want to encourage our NCDD network, especially those in California, to consider registering to attend an intriguing event this June 3 at UC Berkeley called A Congress on Iceland’s Democracy. This international gathering aims to explore new approaches to democracy inspired by the deliberative process that Iceland used to create its new constitution through a mock legislative process, and we’re sure many NCDDers would take a great deal of inspiration from participating.
You can learn more about the gathering in the invitation letter below sent to the NCDD network from our friends at Wilma’s Wish Productions, whose Blueberry Soup documentary on Iceland’s constitutional transformation we previously posted about on the blog, or learn more at www.law.berkeley.edu/iceland.


A Congress on Iceland’s Democracy

We are writing to extend an invitation to an event we believe would interest you. On June 3rd, 2017, we are hosting a citizen’s gathering at the University of California, Berkeley.

This event will translate participatory discussion into concrete action proposals by organizing as a mock legislative body to develop, debate, and decide on proposals for moving forward with Iceland’s constitutional change process. The event’s structure takes inspiration from the 2010 Icelandic National Assembly and Robert’s Rules of Order.

This powerful summit will revolve around discussions on how to address the current political and social climate in the United States, using Iceland’s constitutional reform process as an example. Iceland’s new constitution was written in perhaps the most democratic way possible and we want to model this methodology and learn how it can be applied in communities across the United States and the world. Our goal is to create a non-partisan environment that will foster new approaches to democracy and a shared vocabulary.

Many prominent political figures from Iceland will be in attendance as well as many of the authors of the new constitution. Furthermore, academics, activists, startups, and journalists from all over the United States and Europe are also coming to participate in this “Icelandic National Assembly” style event.

This gathering of citizens has piqued the interest of people from all around the globe – a mass exodus of Icelanders and Europeans are flying in just to sit at these tables because they know real change is possible through dialogic methodologies. We hope this historic gathering will shape the way Americans think about democracy with a focus on the impact that dialogue can have on the democratic process on a local as well as global scale.

This conference aims to achieve exactly what many of you have dedicated your life to – reimagining democracy and the way we converse with one another about tough issues. Your passion for dialogue and democracy in addition to your excellent facilitation skills makes me believe you would be a valuable asset to this event and an excellent voice for others to engage with.

We want a broad range of perspectives present at this event, so we invite you to register to attend this citizens gathering and participate in history as it is being made.

You can learn more about the Congress on Iceland’s Democracy at www.law.berkeley.edu/iceland.

2017 Frontiers of Democracy Conference Call for Proposals

We are happy to announce that once again, the Frontiers of Democracy conference organizers at Tufts University are accepting session proposals for their annual gathering. The 2017 conference will take place, as always, at the Tufts University downtown campus in Boston, this time from June 22nd – 24th.

The annual Frontiers of Democracy conference is a key gathering for our field that brings together leading deliberative democracy thinkers, public participation practitioners, and civic educators to explore ideas at the forefront of advancing democracy. NCDD’s leadership attends almost every year, and many of our members are staples of the conference, so mark you calendars to join us!

This year, the Frontiers gathering’s framing statement highlights the global rise in authoritarianism and the challenge it poses for continuing to expand democracy:

In 2017, the frontiers of democracy are threatened around the world. Leaders and movements that have popular support – yet are charged with being undemocratic, xenophobic, and illiberal – are influential or dominant in the Philippines, Russia, Turkey, Hungary, South Africa, France, Britain, and the United States, among other countries. Meanwhile, many peoples continue to face deep and sustained repression. Social movements and networks are confronting this global turn to authoritarianism. Please join us for a discussion of what we must do to defend and expand the frontiers of democracy.

If this theme speaks to work you do or conversations you are eager to have, consider applying to host  workshops or learning exchanges of your own! You can find the form to submit proposals by clicking here.

More details about the 2017 gathering are forthcoming, so make sure to check back frequently to the Frontiers of Democracy conference website at http://activecitizen.tufts.edu/civic-studies/frontiers for news and updates. We look forward to seeing many of you there!

Missed Our “Democracy Machine” Confab Call? Hear it Now!

NCDD hosted another one of our Confab Calls last week, and it was one of our most engaging calls yet! We hosted a conversation with the dynamic duo behind the concept of the “Democracy Machine” and had a very lively discussion with nearly 40 participants about the possibilities and practicalities of building a massive, integrated, deliberative online commons. You really missed out if you weren’t there!

Confab bubble imageOur presenters were John Gastil and Luke Hohmann, who have been working together to outline the technical, organizational, and collaborative process that would be needed to begin to link and integrate the many existing online D&D tools and platforms to create a functioning digital public commons that could facilitate sustained deliberative engagement and send ongoing feedback to both government and citizens to improve how the public interfaces with the public sector. It’s hard to understate the enormity of this undertaking, but the Confab Call presentation and discussion with John and Luke was a great opportunity to wrap our heads around the idea and discuss its pros, cons, and potentials.

If you missed out on the call but still want to see and hear the presentation and conversation, then we encourage you to watch the recording of this Confab Call by clicking here. This Confab Call also had one of the most active discussions we’ve had in the accompanying chat box, and the great back and forth is also worth reading along with the presentation, so you can find discussion from the Confab Call’s chat by clicking here.

NCDD is proud to have supported John and Luke in taking another step in making the Democracy Machine a reality by hosting this first broader conversation on our Confab Call. As you can hear in the call recording, there is still a lot more work to do to make the idea feasible. But the next step that John and Luke have planned is to use their interactive session on building the democracy machine during our NCDD 2016 conference in Boston this October 14th-16th. They’ll be using the session to collect more feedback and ideas from leaders in the field and also to enlist collaborators for the future, so if you’re interested in being involved in their project, be sure to register for the conference today so that you can continue the conversation in person!

Source: Challenges to Democracy blog

If you are looking for a bit more background on the idea of a “democracy machine,” we encourage you to read about the basic concept in John’s recent post on the Challenges to Democracy blog or read his full essay, “Building a Democracy Machine: Toward an Integrated and Empowered Form of Democracy,” by clicking here.

Thanks again to John and Luke for relying on NCDD to help advance their ideas and for collaborating on this Confab Call! To learn more about NCDD’s Tech Tuesday series and hear recordings of past calls, please visit www.ncdd.org/confabs.