Civic Engagement

Civic engagement involves using knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to address social issues and improve communities through political and non-political means. It reflects a deep commitment to societal well-being, involves diverse voices, and is aimed at shaping societal decisions and policies. Civic engagement nurtures belonging and civic muscle and empowers people to tackle collective challenges and improve vital community conditions. Active participation in civic life builds essential civic infrastructure and facilitates collaboration and collective action across diverse groups and sectors. 


Civic engagement encompasses a broad spectrum of activities individuals undertake to participate in and contribute to their communities, ranging from volunteering and voting to advocacy and activism. Its impacts are significant and far-reaching, shaping the fabric of society by promoting social cohesion, strengthening democratic processes, and driving positive change at local, national, and global levels. Through civic engagement, individuals exercise their rights and responsibilities and play a role in shaping the collective future of their communities.


Social and political movements like the Civil Rights Movement and the mobilization of labor unions have shaped the landscape of civic engagement in the U.S. Advocates have fought for and secured rights such as voting, freedom of speech, and assembly, laying the groundwork for current civic participation. Marginalized populations, including the BIPOC community, low-income communities, immigrants, and youth, are often disproportionately impacted by barriers to civic engagement, such as voter suppression, lack of access to information, and systemic inequalities, which has led to lower levels of civic engagement, as community members are marginalized and disenfranchised from government processes.


Decreased civic participation can exacerbate disparities in access to resources and representation and result in policies and decisions that do not reflect the needs or interests of marginalized communities. 


Civic engagement in the U.S. faces challenges such as declining voter turnout, growing political polarization, and threats to civil liberties. These have been attributed in part to inadequate civic education in schools and significant disparities in civic learning opportunities for low-income and marginalized students. Civic education, which provides individuals with the knowledge and skills to participate in civic life actively, faces increasing controversy despite its critical importance, indicating the barriers to engaging youth


Addressing barriers to civic participation can advance equity by ensuring access to resources and opportunities for engagement and amplifying historically marginalized or underrepresented voices in decision-making processes. Efforts to improve civic engagement should prioritize inclusive practices and actively work to dismantle systemic barriers.


High levels of civic participation contribute to a representative and responsive government, ensure that policies and decisions reflect communities' diverse needs and interests, and promote social justice. It fosters a sense of community ownership and accountability. It builds civic muscle, which contributes to the long-term stability and effectiveness of democratic systems and co-create a vibrant and transformative collective future.


Local communities and changemakers can leverage civic engagement to advance health equity by prioritizing community-driven approaches that address social determinants of health, promoting civic participation in decision-making processes related to health equity, and fostering partnerships between healthcare providers, community organizations, and civic leaders to develop inclusive policies and programs that promote equitable health outcomes for all residents.

Resources & Tools


Screen capture of States Have Added Nearly 100 Restrictive Laws Since SCOTUS Gutted the Voting Rights Act 10 Years Ago webpage
States Have Added Nearly 100 Restrictive Laws Since SCOTUS Gutted the Voting Rights Act 10 Years Ago
Resource
Brought to you by Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law
First page of A Guide to Nurturing Community Dialogue document
A Guide to Nurturing Community Dialogue
Resource - Guide/handbook
Screen capture of 1:1 Conversations webpage
1:1 Conversations
Resource - Website/webpage
Screen grab of Healthy Voting
Healthy Voting
Resource - Website/webpage
Screen grab of Civic Engagement and Health Slides
Civic Engagement and Health Slides
Resource
Brought to you by VotER
Screen shot of the Living Room Guides homepage
Living Room Conversations
Resource - Guide/handbook
Screen grab of Health is Always on the Ballot
Health is Always on the Ballot
Resource - Blog
Brought to you by de Beaumont Foundation Inc.
Screen shot of With Malice Toward None
With Malice Toward None
Resource - Website/webpage
Screen grab of Advancing Health Equity Through Voter Participation
Advancing Health Equity Through Voter Participation
Resource - Blog
Brought to you by Network for Public Health Law
Screen capture of Voting Restrictions and Public Health: An Analysis of State Variation 1996–2020 article
Voting Restrictions and Public Health: An Analysis of State Variation 1996–2020
Resource - Journal Article
Brought to you by SAGE Publications
Screen capture of Why and How Should Public Health Promote Voting?
Why and How Should Public Health Promote Voting?
Resource
Brought to you by Wolters Kluwer
Screen capture of What is Listening? webpage
What is Listening?
Resource - Website/webpage
First page of Play, Read, and Vote for Health
Play, Read, and Vote for Health
Resource - Journal Article
Brought to you by AJPH
Cover page of Mapping Civic Measurement: How Are We Assessing Readiness and Opportunities for an Engaged Citizenry? report
Mapping Civic Measurement: How Are We Assessing Readiness and Opportunities for an Engaged Citizenry?
Resource - Report
Brought to you by The Institute for Citizens and Scholars
First page of Addressing Health Disparities Through Voter Engagement article
Addressing Health Disparities Through Voter Engagement
Resource - Journal Article
Brought to you by Annals of Family Medicine
Screen capture of Voting Rights Lab webpage
Voting Rights Lab
Resource - Data Bank/repository
Brought to you by Voting Rights Lab
First page of Voter Conversation Starters
Voter Conversation Starters
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by VotER
Colored background pattern
Talking to Skeptical Voters
Resource
Brought to you by VotER
Screen capture of What Are Dialogue and Deliberation? webpage
What Are Dialogue and Deliberation?
Resource - Website/webpage
PDF Cover: Conversation Guide: Civic Renewal
Conversation Guide: Civic Renewal
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by Living Room Conversations
Screen capture of Building Trust in Dialogue blog post
Building Trust in Dialogue
Resource - Blog
Purple States of America
Resource - Map
Screen capture of Community Dialogues blog webpage
Community Dialogues
Resource - Blog
Screen capture of the Action Guide for Building Socially Connected Communities webpage
Action Guide for Building Socially Connected Communities
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by Foundation for Social Connection
Screen capture of Impacts of Adolescent and Young Adult Civic Engagement on Health and Socioeconomic Status in Adulthood webpage
Impacts of Adolescent and Young Adult Civic Engagement on Health and Socioeconomic Status in Adulthood
Resource - Journal Article
Brought to you by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Cover page of Civic Engagement and Civic Infrastructure to Advance Health Equity
Civic Engagement and Civic Infrastructure to Advance Health Equity
Resource
Brought to you by National Academy of Sciences
First page of Mini-Manual for Conversation Café Hosts document
Mini-Manual for Conversation Café Hosts
Resource - Guide/handbook
Screenshot of the front page of Why Civic Engagement Matters
Why Civic Engagement Matters
Resource - Report
Screen grab of What is Dialogue?
What is Dialogue?
Resource - Blog
Screen grab of Voting and Health: Evidence and New Tools for Action
Voting and Health: Evidence and New Tools for Action
Resource - Webinar
Brought to you by National Academy of Sciences
Screen capture of Data Chats as an Organizing and Capacity-Building Process webpage
Data Chats as an Organizing and Capacity-Building Process
Resource - Blog
Brought to you by Medium
Screen capture of Dialogue to Change webpage
Dialogue to Change
Resource - Website/webpage
Cover page of Guardian of Democracy resource
Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools
Resource - Report
Brought to you by Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools
Three youth talking Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash
Bright Spot: YES! Youth Empowerment Model
Resource - Model Policy
Brought to you by 100MHL
Screenshot of the front page of Civic Participation
Civic Participation
Resource - Report
Screen capture of Churches Don’t Have to Be Accessible. That’s Bad News for Voters. article
Churches Don’t Have to Be Accessible. That’s Bad News for Voters.
Story - Written
Brought to you by Mother Jones
mural of colorful puzzle pieces Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash
All-America City Award Finalists Stewardship in Action: Franklin, Tennessee
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 09/19/2020
Screen capture of At Height of Pandemic, More Than Half of People Age 16 and Over Helped Neighbors, 23% Formally Volunteered story
At Height of Pandemic, More Than Half of People Age 16 and Over Helped Neighbors, 23% Formally Volunteered
Story - Written
Brought to you by Census Bureau
Published on 01/25/2023
Screen capture of Shaping a Thriving Future: The Power of Belonging and Civic Muscle article
Shaping a Thriving Future: The Power of Belonging and Civic Muscle
Story - Written
Brought to you by Bridge Alliance Education Fund
Published on 04/15/2024
Screen capture of America Must Face Its Civic Crisis article
America Must Face Its Civic Crisis
Story - Written
Brought to you by TIME
String art on a white background Photo by Omar Flores on Unsplash
All-America City Award Finalists Stewardship in Action: Muncie, Indiana
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Initiatives
Published on 08/23/2020
Screen capture of How Civic Infrastructure Grows the Local Economy article
How Civic Infrastructure Grows the Local Economy
Story - Written
Brought to you by Medium
Published on 08/24/2022
Screen capture of What’s in Michigan’s Push To Expand Voting Rights article
What’s in Michigan’s Push To Expand Voting Rights
Story - Written
Brought to you by PBS
Attendees in a meeting room
Vital Village Network: Service Learning and Leadership Model
Story - Written
Brought to you by 100MHL
Blue banner with the All-America Cities icon and titles that read
Commons Good Podcast: Tab Brockman and Chris Jung
Story - Audio
Brought to you by Community Commons
Screen capture of Want to Help Communities Thrive? Invest in Residents Eager to Disrupt the Status Quo. article
Want to Help Communities Thrive? Invest in Residents Eager to Disrupt the Status Quo.
Story - Written
Brought to you by The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Published on 03/14/2023
Screen capture of How Disabled Voters Are Accessing Democracy article
How Disabled Voters Are Accessing Democracy
Story - Written
Brought to you by Yes! Magazine
Screen capture of AI-Assisted Sensemaking webpage
AI-Assisted Sensemaking
Story - Written
Screen capture of Americans Are Volunteering Less Than Ever article
Americans Are Volunteering Less Than Ever
Story - Written
Brought to you by Bloomberg L.P.
Published on 01/15/2024
seed packets in a pile photo by Stacy Wegley
All-America City Award Finalists Stewardship in Action: Pitt County, North Carolina
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 09/22/2020
Screen shot of the headline of the story
The Ins and Outs of Your City Budget
Story - Written
Brought to you by CityLab
yard sign that says I am so going to vote
Belonging & Civic Muscle after November 3rd
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Screen shot of the headline of the story
Census Response, Civic Engagement and COVID-19
Story - Written
Brought to you by U.S. News
All-American City Award logo
All-America City Award Finalists: Stewardship in Action
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
ncl logo with quote from story
National Civic Review: Thriving Together Pathways to Renewal
Story - Written
Brought to you by National Civic League
photo of election polling station doors Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash
Voting Maps and Data Resource Collection
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
spray painted hearts graffiti art Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash
All-America City Award Finalists Stewardship in Action: Rancho Cucamonga, California
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 09/20/2020
Teal background with headshot of Justice Horn and text that reads
Commons Good Podcast: Justice Horn, All-America City John Parr Youth Award Winner
Story - Audio
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 05/18/2022
Screen grab of Vote For Health
Vote For Health
Tool - Toolkit/toolbox

Data & Metrics


Hero image of Public Health and Equity Resource Navigator
Public Health and Equity Resource Navigator
Library
Published on 10/22/2021

 Related Topics


Card image
Belonging and Civic Muscle