During these turbulent times, we have all grown to understand how elections can emotionally become draining. It can build a fear in us that can become overwhelming in wondering who will be our next representative. However, don’t forget that you are the most important representative. You have the power! Civic engagement is more than voting; “it 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).
Civic engagements encompass a range of activities, from individuals volunteering to organizational involvement to electoral participation. Yes! Every time you take part in a trash pickup, delivering food to families in need, or creating a community garden, you are actively engaging in a civic act.
How do you foster civic engagement?
When neighbors build relationships amongst one another, the experiences increase the social capital of the community. Social capital is “networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit” (Civic Participation). For example, if you were to discover you lived next to a doctor who shared friendly tips on how to stay healthy, you now became more aware of opportunities to be physically active. Thus, wanting to share said tips with others in the community, expanding the communities social trust and health. Additionally, through an increased level of social capital, individuals are also building a sense of purpose that can produce a more profound connection for civic participation. People are more inclined to support traditions and social norms that intimately connect to their personal beliefs and values, ultimately forming a stronger community.
In addition to social capital are neighborhood civic associations. A neighborhood civic association is a group of residents who work together through volunteer efforts on a specific purpose. For many, it is to improve the quality of life for residents residing within a distinct neighborhood. For example, within Mid City, the Capital Heights neighborhood created a Civic Association. Through their joint efforts, they orchestrated an annual Halloween event, and they also raised money to build a pocket park within the neighborhood to foster a meeting ground for residents to build community
Don’t forget to volunteer!
Due to Covid-19, community projects are hard to do, but it is not impossible. Take part in donating food to families or grocery shop for the elderly. During the height of the pandemic, residents in Ogden Park, a Mid City neighborhood, banned together to create a support system for the elderly within their community. Residents grocery shopped and handled simple day to day task that would prevent their elderly neighbors from leaving their house. Simple volunteering tasks can foster civic engagement and promote unity within the community.
Last but not least, spread the knowledge.
Take advantage of all training, webinars, and boot camps that educate, and expand how you can advocate for your community. Last year, we partnered with the City of Baton Rouge to spread awareness of economic blight. In this one-day seminar, we educated residents on how to identify, clean, and report economic blight. Also, we shared ways on how the city is working to correct economic blight across the community.
There is plenty of work to be done, and the election season should not be the only time we flex our voice. If you need assistance in fostering civic engagement within your neighborhood, reach out to Symphony Malveaux, our Community Relations Coordinator. Also if you are interested in serving as an Americorp Vista member that serves as a catalyst for change, providing organizations help to move their mission forward, contact Terrell Gill our Program Director.