From the outside, institutions may seem like they’re all-mighty, but it’s the people that make any community what it is. Waiting for the institutions to resolve the problems of the community is not an effective mindset if you’re interested in making real change.
In the healthiest of communities, each member sees the well-being and progress of their community as their responsibility. Now, a motivated individual can do quite a bit on their own, but it’s through cooperation in civic engagement activities that one can make a real difference.
Getting started is never easy. Let’s say that you are motivated and want to make a change – how would you encourage civic engagement in your community? Well, there are quite a few ways to do so, and here are the top four ideas that are consistently giving great results.
1. Focus on the Future
Preparing young people for future positions of leadership is a task that a lot of projects skip. Sure, letting someone young take charge seems risky, especially when big projects are at play. The problem is that real responsibility cannot be learned from books. It’s better to put future leaders on the spot while there’s someone to advise and supervise them. It’s better than just letting them take the reins and hoping for the best.
Keep in mind that positions of power and leadership are not the only thing that matters. Sometimes, just mingling with the youngest members of the community and asking them what they would do can change quite a bit. A lot of time, young people feel like they haven’t been heard and the sooner you start rectifying this, the better.
The most important thing you can do is help young people feel like they have a stake (ownership) in the community. Show them that their opinions matter and that their engagement makes a difference. Doing this early on will ensure prosperity and development for years to come.
2. Put an Emphasis on Volunteering
The next thing you need to keep in mind is the importance of volunteering. While volunteering is an altruistic thing to do, it’s not like the volunteer doesn’t reap any benefits whatsoever. Volunteering boosts self-confidence, and self-esteem, and helps with networking. Promoting it this way may help attract more young people.
There are a few ways to increase volunteer turnout. For instance, you could ask volunteers from the previous event to refer a friend. You can also include all sorts of social events that include volunteers. A concert at the end of the project can be one of the ways to celebrate their commitment and give something back. Most importantly, you need to make it far more accessible.
Lastly, you should never forget about promoting the altruistic side of civic engagement. After all, if the project is something that matters and makes a difference, it will attract a lot of people on its own. Regardless if it’s about fighting illiteracy, clearing a local creek, or fundraising for a local cause, people will be engaged.
3. Diversify Civic Engagement Activities
The biggest problem with civic engagement is that a lot of people can’t visualize these activities. The truth is that there are so many interesting civic engagement activities in many different formats that are worth checking out.
You should be able to choose the right type of engagement for you, depending on your interests and personality. Getting engaged in local government or partaking in the electoral process are just two forms of political civic engagement. You can also work with youth, assist public health efforts, or help the elderly in your neighborhood. Supporting nonprofit organizations or providing people with some counseling is just as important and, as such, not to be underestimated.
Since there are so many different forms of civic engagement, the simplest way to approach this subject matter would be to split them into four separate categories:
- Individual volunteerism
- Community engagement efforts
- Organizational involvement
- Government work
Each of these is unique and it would be best to partake in each of them. If not, picking the one that fits your temperament and personality type the most would help. The best way to get people interested is to present them with options.
4. Plan for the Next Event
As we’ve mentioned, the most important thing is to show that their engagement makes a difference. So, how do you do this? Well, a well-crafted marketing campaign is likely the simplest way to do so. While the event is taking place, take some footage that you will later edit and use to promote the next event.
- Show volunteers having fun
- Provide before and after photos
- Brag with statistics that came as a result of the event
Even better, you could create a story surrounding the previous event and either turn it into a video or a blog post. Keep in mind that you can promote the event while it’s ongoing via live streaming and social media. This way, you’ll create the FOMO in your audience. After all, all of these people engaged in the event are having fun, making a difference, and leading by example – why aren’t you doing the same? Here, choosing the right platform can make quite a difference.
Sure, it’s unlikely that this FOMO will move some of your audience members right away, but it might help them make a decision the next time around. The key thing to remember is that this is not the only, nor is it the most important, civic engagement activity that’s taking place. As we’ve mentioned at the start, always plan for the future.
In the end, if you have a worthy goal, people will flock to it. Still, keep in mind that with each person you persuade to take your side, you’re making an even greater difference. Getting just one more person engaged can create a chain reaction that will soon get the majority of the community on board. The most important thing is that you focus on the youngest members of your community, seeing as how they’ll be the ones to carry on the torch long after you’re gone. It’s all about making the world a better place, one community at a time.