Friday, June 26, 2015

Definition of Civic Engagement

Civic Engagement aims to improve the quality of life in communities through both political and non-political processes. Within institutions of higher education, there is collaboration with larger communities, local or national, for mutually beneficial exchanges. 

Examples include working with non-profits on local community issues, fundraising for charity, and volunteering. Partnership and reciprocity are the most important aspects of civic engagement. It goes beyond contributing one’s time volunteering. It requires a long-term investment and commitment from people volunteering at local organizations or non-profits to improve or introduce changes in their community by helping local organizations with their current and future needs. It also requires an understanding of these organizations and what they need to become successful and effective within their communities. One can only learn this through consistent interaction and involvement with local organizations. Volunteers need to understand and reflect on how their contribution and support can help the community by conducting projects that bring about real change and encourage long-term sustainability to the community. 

Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) defines Civic Engagement as “working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference.” While Civic Responsibility and Higher Education edited by Thomas Ehrlich defines Civic Engagement as “A morally and civically responsible individual recognizes himself or herself as a member of a larger social fabric and therefore considers social problems to be at least partly his or her own; such an individual is willing to see the moral and civic dimensions of issues, to make and justify informed moral and civic judgments, and to take action when appropriate.” 

Civic Engagement is more than about volunteering or “doing service” since it aims to foster civic responsibility and build a citizenry aware of the issues in their community. We need to ask ourselves what are we doing to build a better community. Take the first step by learning your community’s history and researching a local non-profit that fits your particular interests.

Excerpt from Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, edited by Thomas Ehrlich, published by Oryx Press, 2000.

About the Author

Zoey B. Davis

Author & Editor

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