Why I banned "Civic Engagement"
Meantime, we find ourselves in endless, mind-numbing meetings where we examine every element of our civic engagement work. But the real work doesn’t happen in our conference rooms, but in communities. And yet such navel gazing can blind us to the realities of communities, the challenges we must take on, and the true power we must exert to create a new force for change in communities. Endless talk and countless deliberations won’t get us there.
In my own work, the focus is on deeply understanding about people’s lives and the context of communities so people can be more strategic in their efforts to spark and mobilize change. It is about the dynamics of communities and the very conditions that enable or stymie change – such as the leaders, networks, relationships, norms, and boundary spanning organizations that underpin change. It is about how each of us must step forward to root our efforts in community and stay true to ourselves. This isn’t about civic engagement; it’s about how we see and engage with the world around us.
So you won’t find the term ‘civic engagement’ on our web site, in our literature, throughout our work. I don’t talk about it in speeches anymore. I’ve banned it, plain and simple. For too often our obsession with ‘civic engagement’ causes us to take our eye off what really matters: people and impact.