| || Essays on Civic Renewal |
Civic Innovation and American Democracy
Carmen Sirianni and Lewis Friedland
Reprinted from Change vol. 29, no.1 January-February 1997, with permission from the American Association for Higher Education.
Decline of Social Capital
Civic Innovation as Social Learning
Arenas of Innovation
Community Organizing & Development
American democracy is at a critical stage of development. Trust in government has steadily declined over several decades, and ordinary citizens feel that they have been displaced by a professional political class of special interest lobbyists, polling experts, media strategists, and elected representatives unable to facilitate the kind of public conversation and community action that solves the problems of greatest concern to them.
Our political parties show signs of long-term decline in their capacity to aggregate interests, while the public lobby regulatory regime, which emerged in the late 1960s as an important democratizing response to industry capture, has revealed profound limits in its tendencies to channel "public" interests into narrow procedural channels and substantive approaches. The "rights revolution" has driven much policy innovation in ways that trump citizen deliberation and displace citizen responsibilitytwo of the essential virtues of republican democracy.
In addition, the crisis of our welfare state manifests itself in no small part as a profound disillusionment with the continued extension of professional dominance, clinical reason, and client dependency. Many civic institutions that formerly played an important role in educating citizens for public work have transformed themselves into narrow service organizations. Newspapers are in decline as key community institutions fostering local public dialogue and associational life, and the media of communication are becoming ever more fragmented as channels of democratic discourse.
The Decline of Social Capital?
There are, furthermore, important indicators of a decline in our social capital, that is, those stocks of social trust, norms and networks that people can draw upon to solve common problems. In a recent series of articles that have struck a national nerve, Robert Putnam presented evidence for the decline in social capital in the United States over the past generation or more, measured by a variety of indices of participation in church-related groups, labor unions, PTAs, traditional women's clubs, fraternal organizations, and mainline civic organizations. Putnam's evidence and explanationsthe most recent being the influence of televisionhave been contested by various scholars.
Of particular note is the evidence in other studies by Sidney Verba and colleagues and by the Roper Center that participation over the past several decades has modestly increased at the level of community and local problem solving activities, and that the decrease in voter turnout has not been accompanied by a general decrease in citizen activism, even on campaign-related activities.
There are important issues at stake in the debate over whether social capital has declined or not, but the ultimate verdict -positive or negative- will not in itself tell us what kinds of civic capacities we will need to strengthen in the years ahead if we are to confront our most pressing problems.Aggregate levels of social capital cannot directly tell us much about democratic vitality or capacities for public problem-solving. For instance, levels of church participaton in a particular community tell us little about whether that church-based social capital remains insulated or is mobilized for broader forms of community empowerment, whether it is socially exclusivist or reaches across racial and ethnic lines, and whether it facilitates constructive political deliberation of polarizes debate around moral and ideological fundimentals.
To take another example, older generations may maintain more civic involvements than the younger, but these will not necesssarily be adequate for the kinds of challenges we face as an aging society. Problems to be confronted include those associated with chronic illness, long-term care, new dilemmas concerning medical choice, increasing costs of high-tech treatment, and ever rising expectations about the quality of life in old age. Without civic innovation that mobilizes the individual and associational assets of elders in new ways, helps build intergenerational forms of collaboration and views health less as commodity to be distributed and more as public work to be shared, we are unlikely to be able to address these challenges very well.
Aggregate levels of social capital matter, to be sure. But the specific forms of civic association, and how these can be mobilized to address an increasingly complex set of problems such as these, must be at the center of our attention. Interest group lobbying, bipartisan commissions, and different financing schemes are unlikely to mobilize the kind of community assets, or generate the kind of social trust and political legitimacythat will be needed to meet what are in many ways fundamentally new challenges.
Civic Innovations as Social Learning
Here we also find a more hopeful story in our recent past, a tale of a glass half full, rather than one half empty and draining quickly. A few initial examples give a sense of civic innovation as social capital building in recent years.
- When the civic environmental group Save the Bay in Providence, Rhode Island, initiated citizen monitoring of water quality, environmental education in schools, and workplace education to reduce toxics, it not only mobilized thousands of new volunteers but developed new public relationships among environmentalists, schools, businesses, civic associations, boating and fishing clubs, and state and federal agencies. These relationships embody new forms of social capital that are quite different than earlier forms of community involvementwhich did not address complex environmental problems very well, if at all. These new forms of social capital are also quite different than conventional forms of public interest advocacy or the top-down regulatory techniques that these have generally tended to support.
- When the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) in San Antonio, Dallas, and Fort Worth developed a new job-training initiative called Project QUEST, it mobilized religious congregations across racial and ethnic lines, and incorporates relational and volunteer mentoring strategies into program design. In San Antonio alone, Project Quest resulted in some 16,000 hours of volunteer mentoring in the first two years, according to an evaluation done for the Ford Foundation.
The project also builds partnerships with local banks, industry, and state and local government and applies these to the new challenges of creating well-paying jobs for low-income communities in the difficult transition to a postindustrial economy. It thus mobilizes traditional church-based forms of social capital, but in less socially exclusivist ways than was previously typical. It also expands the range of public relationships that can be brought to bear upon a relatively new set of problems that has been resistant to industry-dominated and professionally driven solutions.
- When the Texas Council on Family Violence brought together a network of locally created shelters around the state and helped draft a state funding law that requires the continual mobilization of community assets and volunteer efforts, it developed and diffused new practices that empower women to confront an age-old problem that has been masked by traditional forms of social capital. In addition, it built educative relationships with criminal justice and social welfare agencies that have often collaborated in masking this problem, and resisted the tendency of bureaucracies to construct a new population of dependent clients.
In each of these three cases, grassroots organizers have substantially revised and refined their practice over two decades or more. Save the Bay began 25 years ago as a homeowners' association, and then became a state-wide citizen-action group contesting the siting of an oil refinery and nuclear power plant. Having established and expanded its power in the legal and regulatory arenas, Save the Bay gradually transformed its mission in terms of civic education and the collaborative development of alternatives for using the bay in an environmentally responsible manner that is sensitive to economic growth. It now seeks to identify common values and interests as much as possible.
The social learning "on the ground" of Save the Bay and similar groups in the National Estuaries Program and other watershed projects around the nation has facilitated policy learning within the Environmental Protection Agency and academia about how to effectively address environmental problems within communities. Instead of a media-specific, command-and control approach, these groupswhich have been networking for over a decadehave shown that a placebased approach generates a deeper sense of ownership and responsibility among local estuarine consituencies.
Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) began in San Antonio over two decades ago as IAF was reflecting long and hard on the limits of the community-organizing model develped by Saul Alinsky. In the years since, COPS, the Texas IAF, and the national IAF have become a vital learning network with substantial capacities to mobilize church-based social capital. This capitol is used for larger community-building projects, to train community leaders in the arts of public life, and to engage in complex multi-sided partnerships based on relationship- and trust-building strategies virtually unimaginable at the time of Alinsky's death in 1972.
Project QUEST, the job-traing program, only became possible after successive campaigns for community empowerment that reached ever deeper into church networks and language, ever wider across denominational and racial lines, and ever outward towards building mutually accountable partnerships with government, business and educational leaders.
The Texas Council on Family Violence began in Austin two decades ago as a network of local, predominantly radical feminist shelters for battered women that operated as collectives. It faced the challenge of funding and institution-building on a scale more appropriate to the extensive nature of the problem. This required building relationships with legislators and officials at the Texas Department of Human Services and educating them about community-building and empowerment approaches that had emerged in the grassroots movement against domestic violence.
The council then helped draft the funding legislation in such a way that would require continual local volunteer efforts would be required even as the shelters modified their loosely collectivist structures. The legislation also enables the Council to serve as the major training and information resource statewide, even for Hispanic communities in those areas of South Texas where the cultural definition of the problem is very different and where shelters are run by Catholic Charitys.
Arenas of Innovation
Examples such as these may represent the cutting edge, yet their approaches are by no means isolated or exotic. Over the past several years, we have been engaged in research for a forthcoming book, Civic Innovation in America, which examines citizen participation as a complex, extended learning process, from the "participatory democracy" of the 1960s to the various community-building and civic renewal projects of the 1990s. We have examined grassroots movements, organizational and program development, and policy learning in a variety of arenasincluding community organizing and development, environment, health, human services, women's organizations, journalism, and youth.
From this reaserch we come away still uncertain about some important things, but convinced of one central point: the significant learning and innovation that have taken place over th past three decades provides substantial foundations upon which to build in the coming years. The models that have emerged, the networks that have been built, and the skills that have been developed over the course of a generation since the participatory democracy of the 1960s represent substantial capacities for renewing American democracy and civic life.
It is unclear, however, whether the increasing complexity of the problems we face are nonetheless outrunning our capacities to innovate or to educate a citizenry to effectively grapple with them. And it is still unclear how to give broader coherence to a movement for civic revitalization, bring to scale the many innovative models and projects that have emerged in various arenas, and shift policymaking in the direction of what Helen Ingram and Steven Rathgeb Smith call "public policy for democracy," or policy and program designs that "empower, enlighten and engage citizens in the process of self government."
Civic environmentalism has developed to the point where a diverse array of innovative models for collaboration and problem solving are being utilized locally. These initiatives have been so effective, a commisssioned report for Congress by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) recommends that these become a central component for rethinking the mission and structure of EPA.
The routes to civic environmentalism have been varied since the first Earth Day in 1970. Local Leagues of Women Voters, for instance, became active in the mandated citizen participation programs under the Clean Water Act in the 1970s. Despite the real limits of these programs, gained valuable experience and formed networks that enabled them to take leadership roles in common-ground consensus projects and multisided civic partnerships that were to protect groundwater and reduce hazardous waste in the 1980s and 1990s.
The grassroots toxics movement played a powerful role in mobilizing communities and securing the passage of state and national right-to-know laws, which have become important tools in developing "good neighbor agreements" and citizen advisory panels with industry. The movement also helped molivate EPA both to establish an Office of Environmental Justice that supports organizational capacity-building and community education and to sponsor "design for the environment"civic partnerships among trade associations and environmental groups to develop and disseminate alternative production methods.
State and local governments built their own capacities for environmental regulation throughout the 1970s, and when the federal role stalled in the early 1980s, there emerged what DeWitt John has called "shadow learning communities." These developed new horizontal networks and collaborative approaches among agencies, businesses, and civic and environmental groups. The U.S. Forest Service invited widespread participation in the 1970s, but when this proved ineffective in altering the adversarial paradigm, it moved to other measures. These included extensive use of dispute resolution, open planning, trust-building, and public-leadership development to engage varied constituences in active problem-solving and visioning processes. The extent of this culture change was evident at the Seventh American Forest Congress held last year.
Watershed councils and alliances; citizen watches and volunteer monitoring on rivers, lakes, and wetlands; sustainable development projects; greenspace alliances and land trusts; and civic education that nourishes a protective ethic for local ecologies are proliferately nationwide.
All of these innovations have built new stocks of social capital and trust, and have enhanced local problem-solving capacities, on a scale that neither national environmental groups nor their Congressional allies, neither regulators nor their business adversaries, would have imagined at the dawn of the second wave of environmentalism in the 1960s and early 1970s.
While there remains much need for continued Washington-based advocacy and strong federal regulationindeed, these have usually been a precondition for new approachesthe space that has opened up for civic engagement around collaborative alternatives continues to widen. It now provides a significant basis for policy learning that can point us beyond some of the core problems of the public lobby regulatory regime, which scholars such as Sidney Milkis, Richard Harris and Marc Landy have analyzed extensively.
Community Organizing & Development
In the field of community organizing and development, as well as other innovations that engage communities in a broader visioning and collaborative processes or that have built formal structures of neighborhood representation within city governance, there has also been substantial learning and capacity building over several decades. The IAF example, noted above, has other parallels within congregation-based organizing networks, such as the Pacific Institute for Community Organizing (PICO), the Gamiliel Foundation, and the Direct Action and Research Training Center (DART). Various local and regional networks and a host of other interfaith projects have adopted some of the language and techniques of IAF, the Study Circles Resource Center, and the National Issues Forums in their community and multiracial work.
Community Development Corporations (CDCs), which evolved out of the War on Poverty in the 1960s and the sustained leadership and support of the Ford Foundation, accelerated their growth in the 1970s as they became linked to various neighborhood movements and made substantial inroads into city planning and housing agencies. In the 1980s, CDSs expanded at an even more rapid rate and built a network of intermediary organizations, such as the Local Initiatives Support Corporation ( set up in 1979) and the National Congress for Community Economic Development, which enhanced their capacities and raised community development to the level of a serious movement.
Their tendency in these years to narrow their focus to "bricks and mortar" and neglect organizingpartly due to the elimination of sources of federal funding under Reagan that previously supported organizing and outreachhas shown signs of reversing itself in recent years. More foundations are insisting on these activities as a demonstration of community support and the capacity to mobilize other assets.
Mature CDCs have also been diversifying their activities through more holistic approaches to community-building, and now tackle areas such as drug problems, crime, elder and youth services, family day care networks, environmental hazards, urban reforestation, health, and teen pregnancy. Critical learning within the community-development and human-services fields, as well as rational interests in maintaining their investments in housing and effective property management, have helped to move them in this direction.
Another indicator of this learning is the growth of comprehensive community-development strategies; there are now over 50 nationwide, although they vary considerably in size and approach. The Riley Foundation of Boston, for example, has played a key role in the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative since it began in 1984. Active residents compelled the initiating group to place continued emphasis on grassroots organizing, open planning and community visioning processes. The Comprehensive Community Revitalization Program in the South Bronx, initated by the Surdna Foundation in 1992, represents yet another ambitious approach of potentially national significance.
Initiatives such as these, as well as many other community-development projects, have benefitted greatly in recent years from the work of John McKnight and John Kretzmann of the Assets-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute at Northwestern University. Community groups have purchased tens of thousands of copies of their manual, Building Communities from the Inside Out. Foundations, government agencies, and even traditional charities have begun to incorporate into their work many of the lessons of an "assets-mobilizing" approach, as opposed to a "deficits-driven" one.
The assests-based approach maps and inventories the many individual, associational and institutional assets that all communitieseven the poorestpossess, and finds new ways to mobilize them. The deficits-driven approach reflected in so many government and human service programs, on the otherhand, is heavily invested in seeing the community through the lens of what it lacks and what professionals can bring from the outside.
Substantial learning and capacity-building are also evident in those cities that provide the core sites for the National Citizen Participation Demonstration Project, funded by the Ford Foundation, and conducted by Jeffrey Berry, Kent Portney and Ken Thomson of Tufts University. In four of the five core citiesSt. Paul, Birmingham, Dayton, and Portland, Oregonneighborhood associations across an entire city were given a formal role in neighborhood and city governance in the 1970s due to extensive citizen pressure and various federal participation mandates.
In the years since, they have become effective actors on a whole range of land use, environmental, budgetary, planning, crime prevention and conflict resolution issues. They also have enhanced and supplemented other forms of self help and civic involvement outside the formal neighborhood association structure, and some are now beggining to incorporate an assets-based approach as well.
Participation within this kind of framework has nurtured efficacy, and built trust and a stronger sense of community, which, in turn, have further strengthened participation and the capacity of citizens to learn from their involvments of these four city-wide models can be applied to reforms by citizen groups and political leaders in other cities.
|Comprehensive Community |
In 1992, the Surdna Foundation initiated the Comprehensive Community Revitalization Program (CCRP) in the South Bronx. Ed Skloot, president of the Surdna Foundation, and Anita Miller, CCRP's director, developed a model for the South Bronx based on five mature Community Development Corporations (CDCs)in the South Bronx. This has enabled the CDCs to become "energetic entrepreneurs" on collaborative citywide ventures, mobilizing across many different networks in the community.
Resident participation has been extensive, and focused less on comprehensive planning, political activism and advocacy, and more on everyday efficacy and civic contribution. In CPRP's first four years the five CDCs have generated many new initiatives, including primary health care practices, a 108-bed residence for AIDS patients, a school program focused on at-risk youngsters, centers for employment training and Youth Fair Chance, a shopping center and farmers market, a Head Start center, retail franchises, lead screening programs, adult education, open space projects, a family resource center, and much more.
CCRP's quatlity-of-life physical plans, developed through extensive grassroots planning, have earned it the Presidential Award from the American Planning Association. Its Health Realization program not only provides individual treatment, but also engages people in overcoming their tendency to see themselves primarily as victims or patients and helps them identify ways in which they can contribute building the community.
The civic journalism movement began emerging after the 1988 presidential election, stimulated in part by a widespread sense among reporters and editors that election coverage, dominated by charges about the flag and the infamous Willie Horton ad, had sunk to the lowest level in recent memory.
Davis "Buzz" Merritt, editor of the Wichita Eagle, was one of the first to react, with a column calling for a "total rearranging" of the contract between journalists and candidates. Merritt wanted news coverage to refocus on the needs of citizens and their right to know what candidates would actually do once elected, rather than the strategies of candidates and their handlers. He implemented this approach in the Eagle's coverage of the 1990 Kansas gubernatorial election. Subsequent projects deepened the connection between civic life and politics with an added focus on what citizens themselves can do to solve an array of public problems.
In 1992, Wisconsin Public Television partnered with the Wisconsin State Journal to develop "We the People," which has covered elections and state issues in many innovative formats that position citizens at the center of public deliberation. Four years later, Wisconsin Public Television extended this to a national PBS series, "Citizens '96," produced in collaboration with PBS-led media partnerships in other cities, and continues the effort with this year's "Citizens State of the Union" series. The Charlotte Observer also began this approach with election coverage in 1992, but has gone on to develop projects such as "Taking Back Our Neighborhoods," an especially innovative project that has helped mobilize assets and catalyze action from many segments of the community<(see box below)
In 1993, the Project on Public Life and the Press (PPLP) was launched. Led by Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University, the PPLP was nurtured by the Kettering Foundation (especially its president, David Mathews), the Knight Foundation, and the American Press Institute. The PPLP compiled information on the emerging movement, and began to hold a series of seminars and workshops led by Rosen, Merritt, and others to develop a vocabulary for journalists who were trying to reinvent their profession. The next year, the Pew Charitable Trusts funded the Pew Center for Civic Journalism led by veteran CBS journalist Ed Fouhy. The "movement" for public or civic journalism was born.
By 1995, public journalism had been tried by at least 150 news organizations; by 1996 that number had almost doubled. Now representing the largest section within the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, it has begun to tackle the difficult questions of transforming newsroom culture. Despite harsh criticism from some leading traditional journalists, the movement has taken root within American journalism, and now focuses on how to further refine the models of media partnership in citizen-led public deliberation and collaborative problem-solving.
Although critics from The New York Times and the Washington Post, have charged that public journalism oversteps the boundaries of objectivity by advocating public involvementor worse, setting the agenda for communitiesFouhy notes that the very idea of agenda setting for citizens is repulsive to civic journalists. Helping citizens to convene to convene and to have a rich, sustained and informed public conversation about their problems, about the solutions some may have developed in other communities, and about the action strategies they may wish to consider, is part of what it means to make public life go well. Civic journalists neither advocate nor join in the action that citizens decide to take.
Charlotte Observer's Taking Back Our Neighborhoods
After experimenting sucessfully in1992 with covering elections via public television, the Charlotte Observer continued to push the boundaries of public journalism.
In 1994, the Observerled by editor Jennie Bucknerlaunched the "Taking Back Our Neighborhoods" project in response to a widespread concern with Charlotte's deterioriating, racially mixed, inner-city neighborhoods. This is perhaps the most successful public journalism project to date.
The paper, along with partner WSOC-TV, spent six weeks in each of nine Charlotte neighborhoods, during which a coordinator funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts worked with neighbhorhood leaders, citizens, and the United Way to develop a list of assets that would aid neighborhood development. Each six weeks the paper reported major coverage of each neighborhood, along with a town hall meeting conducted by WSOC-TV and WBAV, the local African-American radio station.
Community response was overwhelming. The project not only galvanized community wide awareness of the "city within a city" (CWAC), but also helped to link the health of the CWAC to the rest of Charlotte. Ties were stimulated across the neighborhoods themselves, and to neighborhoods and towns in more affluent sections of the city. Neighborhood support for community policing increased substantially. Habitat for Humanity built new homes and a day care center with volunteers from area churches. Communities were mobilized to help themselves and each other while raising areawide public deliberation to a remarkable level. A recent survey for the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 81 percent of Charlotte residents were aware of the project by name nearly a year after it had concluded.
University-based centerssuch as the ABCD Institute at Northwestern, the Lincoln Filene Center at Tufts and the Project on Public Life and the Press at New York Universityhave been important resources for many community building and civic revitalization efforts. The potential for extending their roles much further is substantial, as the articles in this issue show. Project QUEST has relied on several employment and training experts at the University of Texas to help design its program in a way that combines academic expertise with local knowledge generated through intensive house meetings.
The graduate program in community health nursing at St. Louis University pairs faculty with community organizers to enhance the capacity of poor communities to act on their own behalf to improve their health. And colleges such as St. Catherine's in St. Paul and Bennett College, an Historically Black College for women in Greensboro, are engaged in ambitious strategies to change the entire culture of their institutions around the theme of public work and effective citizenship, from renewing the art of teaching and developing collaborative governance structures to civic professional training and neighborhood-based voter registration.
Several university centers have played important roles in precipitating a national conversation on renewed citizenship,and effective public work, most notably the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, led by Harry Boyte at the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, and the Walt Whitman Center, directed by Benjamin Barber at Rutgers University. The Civic Practices Network (CPN), which we developed in 1995, extends the work of several of these national efforts through an online journal and encyclopedia in which a network of innovators and educators share the tools, stories, and best practices of community empowerment and civic renewal.
CPN is a partnership of the Center for Human Resources at the Heller School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare at Brandeis University, and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in collaboration with many other community organizing and civic renewal projects within and outside of academia. Among CPN's academic editors and contributors are those whose work focuses on the broader challenges of civic renewal and democracy, as well as on the practical issues faced by a wide array of projects on the ground.
Some work directly with community groups, others have pioneered innovative approaches for an entire arena, such as civic journalism, and still others are recent Ph.D.s and graduate students whose dissertions analyze specific cases. Undergraduates also contribute to research and production, and may intern with community partners to develop their CPN Affiliate web pages. Other editors and contributors are drawn from leading practitioners in the civic sector, as well as some from federal agencies who have directed citizen participation, dispute resolution and public-private partnership programs for more than two decades.
The purpose of this collaboration is to make widely available on the World Wide Web the broadest array of tools that can be utilized by innovative practitioners, policymakers, and ordinary citizens in every arena. These range from short narratives and practical guides for middle school and AmeriCorps youth engaged in community service to quite elaborate critical case-studies and formal project evaluations that can inform best practice, as well as bring the richness and depth of this work to university teaching.
CPN includes theoretical essays and debates, policy analyses, concepts and techniques, syllabi with hyperlinked cases and essays, and practical manuals from dozens of civic renewal and community building organizations who have joined in this effort. These include the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, the IAF, the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, the National Civic League, and the Study Circles Resource Center. (With its partner, ONline@UW Electronic Publishing Group, we also have developed extensive Websites that complement CPN for nonprofit groups such as the Kettering Foundation, National Issues Forums, American Health Decisions, the Johnson Foundation and its Wingspread Journal.)
In addition to mobilizing existing assets from academia for the broader purpose of civic renewal, CPN aims to enhance the capacities of colleges and universities themselves to educate all students in the arts of public life. It provides readily accessible case material that can support problem-solving and skill-building approaches in the classroom and in communtiy service projects, and links these to theoretical concepts.
To counteract narrow forms of professional education and practice that treat citizens as dependent clients and targets of expert intervention, CPN provides models of civic professionalism and community collaboration in many fields, such as journalism, law, medicine, urban planning, environmental affairs, public administration, business, and social work. CPN is also seeking to expand its collaboration with faculty and graduate students at other universities who bring these perspectives to their work, and who might wish to share their own case-study research, policy analyses, syllabi, and program information that can help transform university culture and training, as well as enhance those resources available for effective citizen initiatives outside the university.
Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers
The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) was built in the 1980s on the basis of a strategy of one-on-one relational organizing and an ethic of care. It attempts to make visible the relational work that (primarily) women perform;to develop an alternative language of service; and to create practices that enhance participation, mutual respect and collaborative problem solving at the workplace.
The union utilizes this relational strategy in helping the managment of complex relationships among Harvard administrators, faculty, students and others in a way that recognizes the diverse and legitimate interests of each party.The approach is one of "public service" that attempts to enhance the quality of service without assuming that the customer is always right, and solidifies workplace citizenship without assuming that the employee is always right.
The HUCTW contract contains no detailed work rules nor a broad management rights clause . Its first article states that the parties agree to "build a framework for greater employee participation at Harvard," and further authorizes local bipartite Joint Councils to solve disputes andto effect changes in policy and workplace organization by working " in the spirt of trust and cooperation to reach consensus."
The union, of course, takes up all the traditional issues of pay and benefits, as well as new ones around work and family, in addition to providing extensive training to make informal problem-solving work.
In view of the increasing centrality of service interactions to the fabric of our everyday civic cultureinteractions that tend to be structured in many ways that undermine the mutual respect and recognition among citizensthe union's startegy is especially noteworthy in its attempt to raise these issues to the level of a public conversation. In the service society, the health of our civic culture and the quality of our everyday workplace culturesthe Harvard union experience tells usare fundamentally interwoven.
A Movement for Civic Revitalization?
Over the past several years there have been signs of an emerging movement for civic revitalization that cuts across the diverse networks, arenas, and approaches we have briefly profiled. Many of the innovators we have interviewed see themselves as actively building such a movement, and still others, whose sights have been limited to a particular arena or approach, speak of the need to link their work to broader efforts. Many have come through other democratizing social movements of the last several decades, such as the environmental and women's movements, but have reworked their language and practice in the direction of broader civic discourse and collaboration, and away from some of the more self righteous or purely contestational themes in some of these movements.
The story of the former head of a major regional chapter of Students for a Democratic Society in the late 1960s is but one of many biographical paths that map civic learning over several decades. He entered the steel mills as a rank-and-file union organizer in the 1970s and has since become an official in a federal environmental agency developing innovative collaborations between industry and environmental groups to reduce toxics and to enhance community participation.
Another story is the anti-rape organizer in nursing school in the early 1970s, who later became an anti-nuclear activist blocking the entrance to a power plant. She now leads state projects that have convened tens of thousands of citizens in nonpartisan, deliberative forums on the health values to guide reform at state and county levels and in managed care systemsan approach sorely missing in our latest attempt at national health reform.
The emerging citizenship movement, as the dean of political correspondents, David Broder, referred to it in the Washington Post, has also begun to develop a common language around themes of citizen deliberation, collaborative community problem solving, and public work. The Kettering Foundation, the Alliance for National Renewal, the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, the American News Service, the Civic Practices Network, the Study Circles Resource Center and other projects have helped to diffuse these general themes and specific models across various arenas and into the mainstream media. Professional associations ranging from physical therapists and nurses to librarians and Extension Services have put these issues on their agendas, and some within them have begun to fundamentally transform professional practices to facilitate active and collaborative citizen roles.
The stodgy old National Municipal League, founded a century ago by Teddy Roosevelt and Louis Brandeis to promote professional city management, has transformed itself over the last decade into the National Civic League. Focusing on building the civic capacities necessary for good communities and good government, it has had a visible impact on thinking and practice in many cities and in other professional and civic associations.
The league has developed extensive technical support for "community visioning" projects, and has helped communities utilize the Civic Index as a tool to enable stakeholders to evaluate and enhance the community's civic capacity. Its "All-American Cities Awards," sponsored by the Allstate Insurance Company, recognize innovative ways of mobilizing civic assets to effectively combat community problems. In addition, the league has spearheaded the formation of the Alliance for National Renewal, which comprises of over 150 organizations, to catalyze broader national efforts along these lines.
The League of Women Voters has a national initiative called Making Democracy Work, which will assist local Leagues to work in coalitions in local communities on locally defined issues, and provide tools to survey local civic health and skills. The League's pollution-prevention and groundwater protection programs continue to spread across the counrty, and this spring will include some 300 town meetings on a video conference. The National 4-H, plus many other youth organizations, also have begun to focusing on building skills for community problem-solving.
A series of conferences convened at the Wingspread center by the Johnson, Kellogg, Surdna, Kauffman, and International Youth Foundations has taken up these themes, and seeks to initiate a national movement in which youth come together with adults in shared public work to rebuild America. The Rockefeller Foundation is in the process of developing a new initiative called Rebuilding American Democracy. In addition, the Pew Charitable Trusts is funding a National Commisssion on Civic Renewal, directed by William Galston, that will attempt to raise these themes to the level of serious national debate and action across partisan lines.
How all this will add up, of course, is still quite uncertain. In every arena there are major obstacles to developing new civic capacities for grappling with the complex problems we face, whether they be those of health in an aging society or work in a globalizing economy. Policy elites, public administrators, and interest groups across the political and ideological spectrum have deep resistance to formulating genuine "public policy for democracy" to enhance citizens' roles in complex deliberation and practical collaboration.
Nonetheless, over the past several decades, and especially in recent years, there has been substantial civic innovation upon which we can continue to build. The models, skills, and practical wisdom that have emerged in community-building and civic-organizing projects of many kinds are more than adequate to support a concerted and sustained process of practical educationfor youth looking for ways to make a difference, for adults exercising responsible roles in communities and institutions, and for policymakers and officials genuinely seeking constructive new ways to engage the public. . . more than adequate, that is, if we have the will to commit our associations and institutions to such a project. Institutions of higher learning can and ought to play a crucial role in this, as Zelda Gamson and the other contributors to this issue of "Change" make clear.
At the beginning of a new presidential term headed for the next millenium, we might also imagine, for a moment, the president himself as an active learner and civic educator who focuses on effective citizenship not as campaign rhetoric or occasional State of the Union fare, but as a consistent theme that is raised to prominence in all of the difficult issues we face. Across America there are inspired and innovative citizens from every walk of life who would gladly offer their public worktheir methodical civic practice over these past years in developing common ground in our communitiesas collaborative classrooms for the nation.
Belenky, Mary. A Tradition That Has No Name: Public Homeplaces and the Development of People, Families and Communites. New York: Basic Books, forthcoming in April 1997.
Boyte, Harry and Nancy Kari. Building America: The Democratic Promise of Public Work. Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1996.
This book argues powerfully that public workwork that makes things of value and importance in cooperation with othersis the taproot of American democracy. Public work occurs in businesses, schools, government services, and voluntary groups, and engages people with diverse interests and values. Boyte and Kari analyze this theme across American history, and point to many examples of the revival of public work today.
Boyte, Harry, Benjamin Barber, Will Marshall, and Carmen Sirianni. Civic Declaration: A Call for a New Citizenship, prepared for the American Civic Forum by Dayton: Kettering Foundation, 1994.
This was prepared with the collaboration of a range of other thinkers and activists across the political spectrum in an attempt to define a new "civic center" in American politics, and to develop capacities for practical civic education rooted in the best of existing models.
Civic Practices Network. on the World Wide Web at: http://www.cpn.org
CPN an online national collaborative project of more than 50 organizations, and hundreds of contributors, who exchange "best cases" and "best practices," including critical, in-depth analyses of a broad range of models and concepts. Funded by the Surdna Foundation's program in Effective Citizenship, its aim is to provide the most accessible and fullest range of resources for reflective civic practice in every arena and institution where active citizen roles are crucial for a revitalized democratic society and effective public problem-solving.
Emanuel, Ezekiel. The Ends of Human Life: Medical Ethics in a Liberal Polity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991.
This book argues that two key unresolved issues in medical ethics today, terminating care and the equitable allocation of medical resources, require that we rethink the premises of liberal political theory. The author offers as a reconstructive ideal a liberal communitarian model of community health programs, which recognizes fundamentally different conceptions of the good life among different communities deliberating about values, and yet secures individual rights and equity within a larger liberal polity. While the topic is specialized, it is perhaps the single best extended communitarian argument that grapples with the specifics of alternative (though nonutopian) institutional design, and incorporates insights from existing civic innovations in the health arena.
Etzioni, Amitai, ed.. New Communitarian Thinking: Persons, Virtues, Institutions and Communities. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1995.
This is the best current collection of theoretical writings within the communitarian tradition. It includes essays by Michael Sandel, Michael Walzer, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Amy Gutmann, Charles Taylor and others, as well as a useful introductory essay by the editor. It demonstrates the richness and depth of communitarian thinking.
Ingram, Helen and Steven Rathgeb Smith, eds. Public Policy for Democracy. Washington, DC: Brookings, 1993.
This collection of essays develops the important perspective that public policy should be designed to support self government, civic action, and complex public deliberation, and reviews the many ways that policy making driven by technocratic and clinical perspectives, and by the "rights revolution," often undermines these.
Gardner, John. National Renewal, Independent Sector and National Civic League, 1995.
This manifesto grows out of the initiative of the National Civic League, Independent Sector, and others to catalyze an Alliance for National Renewal that can bring together organizations in the voluntary sector around a vision and strategy of community building and collaborative problem solving in a diverse society.
Kretzmann, John and John McKnight. Building Communities from the Inside Out. Evanston: Center for Urban Affairs, Northwestern University, 1993.
This manual is the key text for an assets-based, as opposed to a deficits-driven, approach to community development and social welfare. It has hundreds of examples to stimulate imaginative action, and elaborate maps to help communites inventory the broadest range of individual, associational and institutional assets that can be mobilized to generate new capacities.
Mathews, David. Politics for People: Finding a Responsible Public Voice. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994.
This is the clearest and most popularly accessible account of deliberative democracy as a response to the crisis of politics and the displacement of citizens in America today. Mathews draws upon the research of the Harwood Group on citizen alienation, and the experiences of his own Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums. He presents a complex account of the conditions under which public officials feel threatened by public participation, and under which they recognize the need for public involvement. He links deliberative democracy to a broader tradition of action-oriented community problem-solving and capacity-building.
National Civic League. The Community Visioning and Strategic Planning Handbook. Denver, 1996. A useful, important manual for community visioning aimed to build new civic capacities and collaboration across all sectors in a community. Examples are drawn from cities large and small in which the National Civic League has facilitated these kinds of projects over the past decade.
Putnam, Robert. "The Prosperous Community: Social Capital and Public Life," The American Prospect Vol. 13,Spring 1993, pp. 35-42; "Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital," Journal of Democracy Vol. 6, No.1, January 1995, pp.65-78; and "The Strange Disappearance of Civic America," The American Prospect Vol. 24, Winter 1996.
These three essays represent the most accessible overview of the concept of social capital, as well as the specific arguments made for its decline in the United States in the last generation. They have also defined the public discussion of the concept. The American Prospect, numbers 25-26 (March-April, May-June 1996), contain an exchange on Putnam's arguments by Michael Schudson, Theda Skocpol, Ricard Valelly, William Galston and Allejandro Portes.
Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. The Public Perspective, Vol.7, No.4 , June-July 1996.
Characterizing this issue of the journal as "A Vast Empirical Record [that] Refutes the Idea of Civic Decline," the Roper Center reviews much quantitative data that challenges Putnam's thesis.
Rosen, Jay. Getting the Connections Right: Public Journalism and the Troubles of the Press. New York, Twentieth Century Fund, 1996.
This book presents key arguments for public journalism by one of the intellectual leaders of the movement. It also presents an analysis of the emergence of the movement, several case studies, and an extended dialogue with critics.
Schambra, William. "By The People: The Old Values of the New Citizenship," Policy Review Summer 1994, pp.32-38.
This is a concise and powerful statement of the conservative argument that "it's up to civil society" to address our social problems. Schambra argues that the project of the modern progressive liberal state is to eradicate civil society and to transfer its functions to government. It does so in the name of restoring community, understood as national community. The author also poses hard questions for conservatives who utilize the argument that "it's up to civil society" as the conclusion, rather than the beginning of the challenge of how to recreate civil society where it has collapsed, has retreated, or was never formed. A more elaborate statement of this argument can be found in Michael Joyce and William Schambra, "A New Citizenship, A New Civic Life," in The New Promise of American Life, Lamar Alexander and Chester Finn, Jr. eds. Indianapolis: Hudson Institute, 1995, pp. 139-63.
Thorson, Esther, Lewis Friedland and Steven Chaffee. Evaluation of Civic Journalism in Four Cities: Report to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Philadelphia, Pew Charitable Trusts, 1996.
This report examines the community-wide effects of civic journalism in four cities: Charlotte, NC, Madison, WI, San Francisco, and Binghamton, NY. It considers these in light of their capacities to enhance public deliberation and community networks for problem solving.
Verba, Sidney, Kay Schlozman, and Henry Brady. Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.
This is a major, systematic study of the structure of voluntary activity in America. The authors interviewed more than fifteen thousand Americans about their civic and organizational life. They then took a subsample of around 2,500 activists to try and see what characteristics separate activists from their less active fellow citizens. They find a surprisingly high degree of activity overall, but also find important inequalities among the active along the lines of ethnicity, race and, especially, class.
Walzer, Michael."The Civil Society Argument," in Dimensions of Radical Democracy: Pluralism, Citizenship, Community. Chantal Mouffe, ed., London: Verso, 1992, pp. 89-107.
A clear theoretical argument that looks at civil society as a corrective to four other approaches to the good society in political theory: the political community (Rousseau etc.), the cooperative economy (the utopian Marx), the marketplace, and the nation. Walzer argues from the perspective of one committed to equality and new forms of state action that can support democratic association-building.
Yankelovich, Daniel. "The Debate That Wasn't: The Public and the Clinton Plan," Health Affairs Vol.14, No.1, Spring 1995, pp.7-24, and symposium, pp. 24-36.
A forthright exposition of how public opinion would have to educate itself through deliberative processes if it were to come to grips with the costs, complexities and tradeoffs of national health reform, and the underlying values that should guide it. Drawing upon the work of the Kettering and Public Agenda Foundations, Yankelovich argues that this is possible over a three- to- five year extended process, but not in the kind of accelerated push that the Clinton administration attempted. Various health policy analysts challenge how and whether such deliberation is possible on such an issue
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