CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

Why Looking Locally is Important

June 9th, 2011
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At CIRCLE, we study the civic engagement of young people– most often on a national scale – because accessing data  with civic outcomes which is representative at all geographic levels is often difficult.  We’ve done work on how federal policy can play a role in engaging Americans nationwide, but understand that learning from case studies from a range of geographic contexts is important and valuable to look at – including metropolitan and local areas.  Looking locally is important in order to build lessons on how to develop civic culture.

For instance, a report by the National Conference on Citizenship and its Florida and Minnesota partners released a report called the “A Tale of Two Cities” (co-authored by CIRCLE’s Peter Levine and Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg) discusses the role of civic culture in developing engaged citizens in Minneapolis-St.Paul and Miami. Civic culture, generally, is a “widespread sense of civic empowerment, or agency, along with the belief that people can work across differences to shape their common future.” The report suggests that civic culture does make a difference, despite demographic differences.

It’s challenging to point to exactly what creates a strong civic culture. State and local policies, for one, may promote a more civically-minded culture. Furthermore, community-based organizations could provide models for which other localities can learn from and can also contribute enormously to the local civic culture. As we continue to study the effects of organizations such as Building Impact and United Teen Equality Center (UTEC), it will be interesting to keep in mind how these organizations not only influence the youth and/or residents that participate in their program, but also, how these organizations influence a civic culture that may or may not have existed before.

–Surbhi Godsay

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