November 30, 2018 by Diane Gavarkavich and Charles Thomas
Photo by Katie Wheeler on Flickr.
Charlotte boasts a demographically diverse population, well-educated residents and a thriving economy. Home to the largest population in the state, the Queen City also serves as the economic epicenter of the state. Nevertheless, our community is paradoxical in many ways, with social, economic and political barriers that hinder equitable growth, opportunity and prosperity for those who live here.
Despite the array of sports, hospitality, entertainment and industries that drive the local economy, Charlotte is home to high levels of residential and school segregation that perpetuate a system of uneven distribution of public resources, educational attainment and economic opportunities. Charlotte holds the dubious distinction of being 50 out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in terms of intergenerational economic mobility.
Our community has been in conversation for years about how these challenges affect us all.
A less-discussed topic within this conversation is how these challenges influence civic life. From October 2016 through June of 2017, a team from the UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute and Johnson C. Smith University used a mixed-methods approach to explore how the local landscape influences civic engagement.
Our research built on user research conducted on a national scale by the Google Civic Innovation Team in 2014. In particular, we sought to further the understanding of a population called “Interested Bystanders,” or people who are paying attention to the issues around them, but not acting on those issues.