A just published report by the National Conference on Citizenship raises some interesting questions about the apparent link between communities that are scored as having high levels of civic engagement and their lower levels of economic distress.
Although far from a definitive scientific study, the question is an interesting one – what would cause an effect between civic engagement and economic outcomes? The NCOC suggests the following:
• Participation in civil society can develop skills, confidence, and habits that make individuals employable and strengthen the networks that help them find jobs. 59% of volunteers in national service programs believe their volunteer service will improve their chance of finding jobs, perhaps because it helps them learn marketable skills or because it broadens their professional contact networks, or both.
• Participation in civil society spreads information. Volunteering, attending meetings, and working together with neighbors on community problems are valuable ways of learning about local issues, which can help citizens hold their government accountable—not to mention lead to new employment opportunities and business relationships.
• Communities with stronger civil societies are more likely to have good government. Active, organized citizens can demand and promote good governance, and serve as partners in addressing public problems. For example, states with more civic engagement have much higher performing public schools, regardless of demographics, spending and other factors.
An informed, engaged public acting with a belief that they can make a difference in society. I can believe that those communities do have better schools, better government, and better communities than those that are disengaged and indifferent or pessimistic.
Read more and download the report here.