Several weeks ago I attended the Florida Civic Advance Summit, where public, private and independent sector leaders gathered together to advance community innovation and build civic capital. Did you know that Florida ranks lowest in the US, when it comes to civic engagement, (this includes volunteerism and philanthropy) while being one of the largest and fastest growing states? The question was posed: How do we expand community service and impact for the greater good? How do we engage this large new set of residents in our state?
There were over 40 speakers, national civic experts and authors who offered ideas and innovations for enhancing civic life. The conference focused on four of the eight areas of civic practice:
1. Strengthening volunteerism and philanthropy
Reasons for big decrease:
o Economic obstacles (time and resource scarcity)
o Structure for recruiting/ engaging volunteers
o Nonprofits don’t see the value or potential of volunteers
2. Civic Education: Empowering future generations
o How do we increase the circle of care beyond your own personal bubble?
o Civics education programs are disappearing
o We must keep civics education nonpartisan/ nonpolitical.
3. Connecting Generations through community service.
o Obstacle- Older adults are our largest human capital resource yet we have difficulty keeping them motivated and engaged.
o We are lacking leadership and there is limited evidence based research on the impact of intergenerational work
o Not a clear cut plan to implement intergenerational program
o Lack of funding
4. Involving Citizens in local government.
o How do we get the word out effectively about the many opportunities for civic engagement?
o Where are the collaborative, authentic elected political leaders?
Under each area of civic practice we learned from a panel of experts, followed by civic showcase examples and finally brought the wisdom of the room together with workgroup discussions. Donavan Lee Sinn, of The Children’s Trust of Miami, shared a great community engagement project in Riverside Park, Little Havana, in Miami Florida. A group of concerned citizens wanted to change a dangerous run down park into a much needed safe space for the children and families in the neighborhood. They started to engage everyone in the community by starting out with a survey that was given to every person in that area. Not only did they get a great return on the survey but over 71% were willing to help in whatever way they could to turn this park around!
The highlight of the conference was listening to my hero and leader- Marc Freedman (founder of Encore movement), talk about “The Solution waiting to Happen”. He also mentioned our most recent national Generation to Generation campaign and the research showing the potential benefits for all generations lifting each other up. Marc’s final words: The secret of living forever… “The real fountain of youth is the fountain WITH youth”.
The Florida Civic Advance Network has created specific work groups under each of the civic practice areas. Each group will take all the incredible information gathered at the conference along with their own research and documenting of best practices and models and come up with some real solutions. I will be working with the Intergenerational Civic Engagement group over the next year and will continue to share with you what is being learned and tested across the state.
Jeff Johnson, AARP State Director has now been named as the new chair of the FCA Coordinating Council. Jeff summarized the conference quite well when he said, “This summit served to rally civic leaders from the FCA to do more to harness the power of people and tap their talent and expertise to solve problems for the good.”
The question I ask all of you…. “Have we done enough to be a part of the solution and to address the most pressing problems in our community? What are you doing to strengthen the lives, organizations or local government in your community?? It is time for all of us to step up and get involved. Find your passion or an urgent pressing community challenge!!
Encore Tampa Bay