Bright Spots in Community Engagement

Publication Date April 29, 2013

Communities across our nation are experimenting with new ways to engage citizens in the decisions made by civic leaders from the public, private and non-profit sectors, working sometimes together and sometimes at cross purposes. Ultimately, success at making democracy work and sustaining healthy communities requires engaged individuals, organizations, and institutions. Across our country, community engagement bright spots are emerging. These initiatives foster a sense of attachment, expand access to information and resources, and create opportunities for citizens to play more active roles in setting priorities, addressing issues, and planning the longer-term sustainability of their communities.

The National League of Cities, working with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, selected 14 communities that the two institutions are engaged with to explore how well or poorly some of these experiments are faring today. This analysis then focused more closely on four communities—Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Austin—to document the lessons learned and the challenges ahead. (See Table 1 at right)

We are pleased to present the results from our scan of community engagement bright spots, drawing specifically on efforts or movements underway in communities that demonstrate the potential of inclusive, intensive community engagement. These examples highlight bold new pockets of energy emerging in different sectors that challenge conventional standards of practice, and demonstrate the use of new tools and strategies to engage people in building community and solving problems. These examples also illustrate some common challenges confronting community engagement efforts.

More on Bright Spots in Community Engagement

"Philadelphia: Civic cusion at work" by Chris Kingsley on Knight Blog (4/29/13)

"Detroit: The wild, wired west" by Matt Leighninger on Knight Blog (4/29/13)

"Strong neighborhood associations key to successful community engagement" by Elizabeth R. Miller on Knight Blog (5/2/13)

"Successful collaboration a critical element in community engagement" by Elizabeth R. Miller on Knight Blog (5/3/13)

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