Let’s say you’re a higher education professional. You may be a professor or an adjunct faculty member. How do you gain a place in the lives and memories of all the students you are influencing? How do you make every conversation and every meeting count and increase the quality of life of those around you without handing out money as if you were Santa Claus?
Part of the answer could be to instill a sense of engagement in the community and the neighborhood in every student. Think of it as a donation into each student’s future.
What Is Civic Engagement?
Civic engagement is the act of people working together to make improvements in their community. Often they volunteer, spending dozens of hours just for the sake of helping improve people’s quality of life. And according to Benjamin Franklin in 1746, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
Spending your time doing good things for others is never squandering your time.
Interesting Facts on Civic Engagement
Below are some statistics that you’ll find to be quite illuminating:
- According to the 2006 National Civic and Political Health Survey, 7% of 15- to 25-year-old Americans participated in 10 or more community engagement or political activities within the previous year. (youth.gov) In the same survey, about 25% of youth who had not participated in civic engagement activities within the last year did not answer any questions regarding current politics correctly. (youth.gov)
- The California Healthy Cities and Communities project found that West Hollywood students with school community gardens increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by 10%. (healthypeople.gov)
- In the 1960s, amid civil rights protests and the Vietnam war, Americans were deeply divided politically, but according to the Pew Research Center, the vast majority, almost 80 percent trusted the government to do the right thing always or most of the time. (brookings.edu)
- Today, less than 20 percent of the American public trusts the government. (brookings.edu)
- Nearly half the respondents (49%) were involved in some kind of humanitarian activity, which is the leading form of community action. (uis.edu)
Benefits of Civic Engagement Events
Here’s a list of some of the good things that can be expected from these events:
- People in the city have the chance to express their opinions, skills and knowledge to cultivate positive change.
- The changes that are made can improve the conditions of the entire city or improve the health of people in that community.
- Youth engagement events can increase the academic performance of those that are helped.
- Improved social emotional well being and psychological health
- People feel empowered when they take part in civic engagement events.
- Empathy is built by civic engagement activities.
In 1748, Benjamin Franklin was recorded to have said this statement – “When you’re good to others, you’re best to yourself.” That’s exactly what happens when people in the community participate in these events.
Examples of Civic Engagement Activities
- Volunteering to help during an election – Election services always need volunteers to count votes, distribute ballot papers, seal ballot boxes, and cross-check voters against the electoral roll. Students would be able to engage with the community, witness the election process in person, and gain experience working with other people.
- Helping youth better their reading literacy or math scores – These tutoring opportunities help the tutors as much as the tutees. Students who tutor in their spare time get to be involved in the local community, improve their interpersonal skills, and develop their teaching and presentation skills, while the youth get to improve their reading, writing and mathematical ability for free (or a lower fee), which will in turn help them progress in life.
- Planning a community festival – This helps students discover and develop their event-planning skills, and learn all about ticketing processes, crowd management, event design and architecture, event marketing, etc. Helping to plan a community festival also helps students get more involved in the community and feel less isolated, especially during college and university years when they’re expected to be more independent.
Some other ideas include:
- Community gardening
- Assisting in a health research project
- Giving a donation to a charity
- Creating a business opportunity for the neighbourhood
- Helping immigrants with their citizenship
- Standing against a moral issue such as adultery and for better family life
- Helping students better their human quality of life by assisting them with finding employment
- Acting as an advocate for a nonprofit organization
- Taking part in a protest of an injustice on a community or neighbourhood level
- Assisting with administration for a support group
- Planning a community festival
- Helping a parent in whatever way possible
- Using your motivation skills in areas of ethics during conversations
- Explaining legal liability and perhaps law issues or policy to someone that doesn’t understand them
- Helping out a community member after a major disaster
- Lending a hand to someone with old age
- Assisting a family that lives in a rural area to solve one of their problems, such as finance
- Creating more beauty in the natural environment of your community
- Fundraising for a local charity
- Helping law makers define a better strategy for recreation areas in your city
- Creating a holiday event for a local nursing home
- Asking students what can be done from their perspective for community activism, and what would be the topic
- Reporting a new incentive program to the local news station to get the word out about a particular cause.
- Working with children to increase their artistic skill
- Help prepare the residents for the next election in the United States so that they know the issues.
How Do I Plan a Civic Engagement Event?
Let’s say you want to create some civic engagement events for the youth in your community. Here are some of the steps you might take:
- Do a survey of the area to see what’s needed. Check with the local churches (all religions), schools, public health clinics, and nonprofit organizations to see what has been done already. This way you can eliminate the possibility of duplication. Check with them on the amount of volunteering that they usually get for their youth projects, too. Talk with their project management team, their leadership, and the fundraising efforts.
- While talking to those people in the community, set up another meeting where you can both do some brainstorming and problem solving. What do they feel are the needs of the youth right now based on their experience? What is the biggest worry of the youth? Does poverty play a role in their issues? Would the young men and women find the new ideas discussed to be of interest to them? What is their opinion?
- Ask them if they would like to participate in any way in the new project. Ask for their partnership in any aspect of the project – the construction of the project, the development of guidelines, fundraising, provide knowledge and research to the team, supply resources such as a computer program or software, help secure volunteers, and follow-up of the event.
Engagement Marketing: How to Get the Word Out About Your Civic Engagement Event
Organizations utilize a type of marketing strategy called “engagement marketing” when it’s time to promote their events. Engagement marketing is the use of any and all types of different social media for the purpose of promotion of that event. They will send out an email to their email list, create a Twitter campaign, use Pinterest, get on TikToc, Youtube, hit the major media such as NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and top radio shows, and may even utilize the oldtime copywriting letter formats that are mailed or delivered door-to-door. When all types of social media are used, there’s a greater chance of engaging in greater numbers of people.
What Nonprofit Organizations Can You Form Partnerships With for Your Civic Events?
Two nonprofit organizations that accept volunteers include the Red Cross, a health organization where you can give blood donations, and Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for people. You may have also heard of Doctors Without Borders, which sends compete medical teams to other countries, usually to do surgery.
For the more politically minded, visit the US Election Assistance Commission.
Do you have any ideas on what type of civic engagement event you can participate in this month? The beauty of these events is that you don’t have to be the one that starts them; there are many that are already planned in your community for every month.