It can be meaningful + fun to stay engaged with each other as we head into this election season. Collaboration becomes the strategy instead of individually winning. This season of "here come the candidates" can make it difficult to distinguish between candidates. This reality mirrors some in other parts of the world where so many people campaign for a more sliced up piece of the pie. This reality also suggests a symptom of a larger challenge, or the lack of unity as people become more insular to their regions + cities, + their candidates, to cope with the divisiveness.
Even so, respect to candidates who run with a vision, mission, + passion to serve.
Recently, my son + I read the last amendment of The Constitution at #constitutionday, a national holiday on September 17th, hosted by King County Library System and Renton Technical College. I attended the candidate forum to hear and meet the candidates for mayor + city council. I find it engaging to offer my perspective, + to ask for a meeting + conversation before + after the election to address areas that matter to me + to our city, such as with the services that I contribute. Sometimes, it helps to show up with an ask or invitation.
Extremism rises high on the point of what fragments beneath under its weight. That's why being neighborly at the local level matters. Dialogue (PDF of Theories) can facilitate what Mary Parker Follett (1918) called a foundation of democracy, neighborliness, in her book The New State. We can rekey our civic conversations towards more cooperative dialogue, + more collaborative placemaking, instead of competitive or self-serving diatribe or debate. The latter may fuel news, but the former can build bridges instead of walls (see more here, here, here, and here).
We can remember the purpose behind what we protect. Conflict arises from an adrenal reaction to when we feel threatened. We fight, flee, or freeze. It can be easy to revert to heuristics, or simplifying a complex idea to remember it, such as zeal for the 2nd amendment, or other symbols in our society to protect us from fear. Yet, salvation can come when we realize that we share a table with our neighbors. Healthy reciprocity involves sharing. We make our world better when we share. We can do so with a childlike spirit of play, curiosity, empathy, + love.
Being involved at the local level can connect you to other people in your area who care about the issues of the day, such as transforming the public health crises into solutions, such as curbing gun violence and maternal mortality and morbidities (global and United States). These changes involve committing to engage with communites who face these daily realities to up our collective understanding to a whole new level in a divisive era.
I'm passionate to engage in civic campaigns + efforts in my city since I was a teenager in high school, + again when I moved back after undergraduate graduation in 2001. We can, as my research has shown, paint large visions at the local level.
We can better unify by integrating each other + our ideas for solutions. Dialogue needs to be integrated + solutions-based. We can "paint big visions at the local level" (Rosko, 2017).
Each of us can improve the state of affairs. Register to vote, and volunteer, too. Cities carry a pressured burden in the lack of national unity or resources. We can support the quality of life of our neighbors by being involved. This can mean simply checking in on your neighbors regularly, or getting to know them, or walking, hiking, or running groups, or volunteering with park improvements or clean ups. You can bring family + friends, or make new ones, to make it fun.
Project for Public Spaces (PPS) offers principles to guide placemaking efforts, such as for community and innovation. For example, placemaking for community means depending on the people of the community as the experts, creating a place instead of a design, finding partners, observe how people use place, have a vision, start with what is light, quick, + cheap, triangulate, persist through resistance, combine form to support function, recognize the real issue (it's not money), + continue placemaking because the work doesn't end (source).
We need to transition from talking about growth and development, + sustainability, to placemaking for building healthy futures. At least be honest + clear what those terms mean, + understand how the translation changes for constituents. For example, growth as construction for more revenue can mean more worry for residents over population density, cost of living, mobility, + environmental impact, among others. I encourage civic leaders to familiarize themselves with placemaking, and all of us can attend events or contribute to where we call home.
Healthy cities matter. Our national unity matters. Healing of harms matters, and so does envisioning what we want better. My consulting and research empowers people to align their ideal visions with the hands and heart of the matter.
My faith teaches that it goes well with our city, and subsequently ourselves, when we put down roots + support its welfare, too. We all share a responsibility for a unified strategy to improve the state of affairs of "We" in "We the People..."
Follow these organizations for civic engagement: Center for Courage and Renewal, Desmund Tutu Center, Clinton Presidential Center, Obama Foundation, Preemptive Love Coalition, #LoveAnyway movement (host a community dinner!), + a host of many more centers for civic engagement here. Comment below if you know of one that you want included.
What does civic engagement mean to you?
Dena Michele Rosko, PhD, MA, CLCM encourages and inspires people to develop cultures of heritage in their ministries, partnerships, and organizations by writing, publishing, and training creative content about heritage theology, formation, and care across multiple genres, by facilitating groups, workshops, and retreats with dialogue and heritage circles, and by consulting and coaching leaders, advocates, carers, and families. The gospel promises a beautiful story of a shared heritage together in Christ that can bless and light the world!