By Renee Baharaeen, AASCU Civic Engagement Intern and Truman State University Student
Our friends at the National Issues Forums Institute bring you a new 16-page issue guide, titled Bridging and Bonding: How Can We Create Engaged Communities in a Time of Rapid Change?, was created by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in collaboration with the Kettering Foundation and Franklin Pierce University.
As time has progressed, Americans are now beginning to work longer and harder than they have historically. With a societal focus shifting towards the importance of income, a decrease can be seen in civic engagement activities and volunteering. Changes also show a decline in community “social capital”, or connecting with others. Additionally, emerging trends reveal technology and entertainment are becoming more prevalent in society and causing changes in communication practices.
This guide presents readers with three ideas on how to revitalize the importance of an engaged community in a rapidly changing time.
Option 1: Embrace the Change and Affirm Differences
The first option focuses on accommodating a diverse population. Diversity is increasing in America, and it is important to understand and accept the changes. However, this option also comes with a risk that more traditional members of civic organizations will resist new changes. Additionally, this option could potentially create weaker relationships due to a lack in the quality of communication practices.
Option 2: Strengthen and Renew Traditional Ways of Connecting
Option 2 encourages creating ways for community members to bond in person. It is based on the idea that physical contact is how individuals create strong relationships. Focusing on the community will put an emphasis on cultural importance, giving everyone a role to play. On the contrary, this idea can also create fragmented communities, not encouraging communication with others outside of the local population. Additionally, resources spent on cultural efforts may take away resources from other societal concerns such as poverty, education, and health care.
Option 3: Meet People Where They Are
The final option is to understand and accept the social and economic circumstances of individuals. While time may not be an affordable option, people may be willing to contribute to their community in other ways such as donating money. It is important to consider, however, that this option may encourage economic and professional development emphasizing individualism rather than collectivism.