How to Be Civically Engaged
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What does it mean to be civically enaged?
Civic engagement is “working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes” (Civic Engagement)
The purpose of civic engagement is to sustain the actions described thus far in this digital toolkit! The knowledge provided thus far on the importance of voting, voting barriers, and social issues of concern require citizens like you to participate in local elections. Knowing your rights and how to find reliable media to learn more about issues are essential to being civically engaged.
Civic engagement is where all the passion developed from the knowledge and skills taught in this digital toolkit shows itself through your actions. It solidifies the sustainability of the change you make beyond the voting you do every few years. You reach out to members of community to understand what they have concerns about and share your concerns. This allows you to find share values and build a connection that can shape your community or a create a new community within your already existing community that works towards action to make true change.
The connections you make give other community members the opportunity to get involved with civic engagement. It is a process. You have to keep doing it to be engaged.
There are many methods in different levels in your community where you can help create opportunities to make these connections. You can do it through interpersonal relationships, your school, and your neighborhood and beyond.
With Interpersonal Relationships
Discussing issues in your community with your friends, family, and other community members you know is how you can start discover what’s important to your community.
Starting these conversations helps people to be more open to discussing what they see happening around them that they want to change. It’s a way to practice having conversations about big issues that can be tough to talk about in public.
You may consider talking these talking points in your personal relationships:
How did you experience voting in your youth?
What motivates you to vote or to not vote? If you don’t vote, what would get you to vote?
How fair do you think the voting experience is currently?
Considering sharing all the information that seems relevant to the individual(s) on this website in “Why Voting Matters”.
Issues of Concerns Rights, & Reliable Media
What issues are of concern to you?
How do you see these issues impact yourself and others?
Can you think of any solutions? If not, how could you find solutions?
Consider sharing all the information that seems relevant to the individual(s) on this website in “Issues of Concern”.
Knowing Your Rights
Do you know your rights when interacting with authorities?
Do you know what rights you have when protesting?
Consider sharing all the information that seems relevant to the individual(s) on this website in “Know Your Rights” and “How to Organize a Protest”.
Finding Reliable Media to Inform Yourself
How do you learn more about social issues happening around you? How do you know your sources are reliable?
What type of media do your peers use? How do they know their sources are reliable?
Consider sharing all the information that seems relevant to the individual(s) on this website in “How to Find Reliable Media to Inform Yourself”.
In what ways do you publically speak out about issues that concern you?
To what extent do you contact your representative? How does that experience go?
What communities or organizations are or were you apart of? What methods did they use to create change within their community? What did they succeed at?
Are there communities or organizations you support while not being completely apart of them? How do you support them?
Have you ever been part of a campaign? What methods did they use to create change within their community? What did they succeed at?
Consider sharing all the information that seems relevant to the individual(s) on this website in “How to Be Civically Engaged”.
Here are some ideas of how to bring civic engagement into your school!
Encourage civic engagement discussion in your classroom, regardless of the class subject
Join or make a group about a social issue you care about.
Encourage consistent required classes to discuss voting 101.
Bring established civic engagement initiatives/campaigns to your school.
Create a city’s advisory commission with student representatives.
Make voter registration required at graduation.
Create a scholarship award for civic engagement.
Emphasize interactive assignments to make civic engagement less of a spectator sport.
Assignments could include presenting a panel of student issues to city officials, or researching and presenting on the personal significance of civic engagement from your life experience.
With Your Neighborhood and Beyond
You may join an organization that will help you accomplish the goals for the issue you are interested in. This may be local neighborhood association, a student organization in your school (like your student council or a political organization), or any other local political organization that holds the same values and vision for your community.
While it’s best to organize on a local level because you’re close enough to the issue to experience it firsthand and understand it best, there will always be issues of concern the whole country experiences. All the methods discussed from here on can be applied to dealing with issues that the federal government has authority over. You can use the methods for civic engagement, contacting your representative, and protesting on a federal level.
However, the tips found on creating and sustaining an organization will still center on the foundations of building an organization at a local level because that’s the place where people find they can control most. Before going on to discuss how to make sure you’re creating an effective organization, consider all these different actions for civic engagement in relation to either level:
Methods for Civic Engagement
● Donate money to a candidate
● Make phone calls for an election
● Volunteer for a candidate’s campaign
● Door to door outreach about an issue
● Collect petition signatures
● Pass out literature
● Work with people in a neighborhood on a political issue or problem
● Active in a political group
● Protested for an issue of concern
● Attend a meeting of a local government board or council
● Contact a public official
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