Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Democracy Cajoling

"In other words, Americans need cajoling. Last year, for example, 67 percent of survey respondents said volunteering was personally important to them, but only 27 percent actually do volunteer."

David Villano, "Building a Better Citizen," Miller-McCune, November-December 2009.

And then how many drop out? Does cajoling involve making concrete opportunities for civic engagement more visible and accessible? Or are we talking about a behavioral economics nudge by simplifying options or creating 'opt-out' situations?

Voting and volunteering seem quite distant from our notions of the republican citizen of self government -- or even of the heroic leaders of community organizing lore. But these activities may be more foundational and scalable -- leading to other forms of civic engagement while producing important results.

"Putnam's...latest study, based on interviews of nearly 30,000 people across the country, shows that as diversity within a community goes up, virtually every measure of civic health goes down."

This is a troubling finding, especially if one of our goals is diverse and mixed-income communities.

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