Civic engagement is one of the key ingredients to building strong and vibrant communities. When people are involved in civic life, they have a say in the decisions that impact them and their community. And when institutions of higher education cultivate civic engagement in their students, they prepare them for lifetimes of engaged citizenship.
However, civic engagement does not just benefit students: it strengthens institutions and their surrounding communities. That means better outcomes for people living in and around universities and colleges — and a true realization of higher education's responsibility to promote the public good.
What Is Civic Engagement?
Civic engagement is the process by which individuals and groups collaborate to identify community issues, make decisions about common concerns and take action to improve lives.
In other words, civic engagement is about people coming together to make a difference. It is about actively participating in civic life and working together to make your community a better place.
At a college or university, civic engagement might take the form of designing a community-engaged research study into local health outcomes. Alternatively, you may commit resources and programming to encourage students to participate in democracy by voting in local, statewide and national elections.
How Does Civic Engagement Transform Community Relationships?
Colleges and universities can build strong, reciprocal relationships with their local community by promoting civic engagement among students, faculty and staff and prioritizing it in administrative decision-making.
Civic engagement can be transformational for the institution and the community. It builds capacity for campus-community partnerships that funnel resources towards community challenges and efficiently employ shared resources. In turn, this creates better outcomes for students, who benefit from a deep relationship with the community where they work and study.
Here are four ways that civic engagement can transform community relationships.
Civic Engagement Brings People Together
From sitting together at a city council meeting to volunteering at a day of service, civic engagement brings together people who might not have ever met. Meeting people with varied experiences promotes empathy and deepens your understanding and appreciation of different perspectives.
When people come together to work on a common goal, they get to know each other better and develop relationships. And when they meet that common goal, transformational change happens — from moving the needle on food and housing security to electing leaders committed to promoting positive social change.
Civic Engagement Builds Trust
It is no secret that town-gown relationships can be fraught. Local communities often feel shut out of campus life. Civic engagement can help build trust between higher education institutions and community partners.
When people collaborate, they learn to trust and rely on each other. That trust can improve communication between the campus and the community. That means that when campuses plan their next capital project or create a new student engagement strategy, they know who from the community needs to be at the table — a win for everyone.
Civic Engagement Addresses Community Challenges
Civic engagement aims to build on community strengths and address community challenges.
Communities can make a real difference in people's lives when they come together to identify problems and find solutions.
Leaders can arrive at more efficient solutions by creating avenues of collaboration between the campus and the community. For instance, if a community organization already has a program to teach local students how to swim, the local university can encourage student-athletes to participate rather than developing their own program from scratch.
Civic Engagement Has a Ripple Effect
When people are actively involved in civic life, they develop a sense of pride and ownership in their community. And when colleges and universities commit to supporting and engaging with their local communities, students take note.
Students who see this work in action will not only benefit from a positive experience in their local community. They will also carry that culture with them for the rest of their lives. That means a lifetime of volunteering, voting, advocating for positive change and inspiring others to do the same.
Tracking Civic Engagement with GivePulse
GivePulse connects people from all walks of life with opportunities to help their communities thrive. We provide an all-in-one platform to manage service-learning courses, communicate with and manage community partners, list volunteer opportunities and schedule and track volunteers.
For institutions of higher education, GivePulse's civic engagement platform helps faculty and staff streamline the logistics of managing higher education community partnerships and tracking student engagement in service-learning.
When it comes to demonstrating institutional impact, GivePulse has powerful tools to track and measure engagement. When students sign up for service opportunities, community partners can easily track their participation and share real-time data with program administrators. GivePulse also builds in easy ways to collect qualitative data, like student and partner reflections and feedback via customizable surveys.
While civic engagement is not a cure-all for every community issue, it can be a powerful tool for positive change. When facilitated correctly, civic engagement can help build trust and foster collaboration between institutions and community members.
Ready to see how GivePulse can help launch your civic engagement strategy? Schedule a demo with our team today.
GivePulse's mission is to enable everyone in the world to participate and engage in lifting their community to new heights. We do so by providing a platform to list, find, organize and measure the impact of service-learning, community engagement, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and volunteerism.
Founded in 2012 in Austin, Texas, GivePulse works with 650,000+ groups, including colleges and universities, nonprofits, businesses, K-12/school districts and cities and municipalities. Together, we connect millions of people in an effort to create positive social change.
Start making a difference today by visiting www.givepulse.com.