Connections 2017: Experiments in Democratic Citizenship
The 2017 issue of Connections, edited by KF director of strategic initiatives Melinda Gilmore and KF program officer Randall Nielsen, focuses on key opportunities in democratic citizenship today. There are signs of renewed civic vitality in our communities, and this issue of Connections highlights such stories.
Kettering president David Mathews frames the issue in the context of Kettering’s yearlong focus on what is happening in democracy, especially people’s ability to work together to make sound decisions and exercise control over their shared future. He elaborates on four fundamental problems or challenges that are facing democracy today.
John McKnight, codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD) at DePaul University and KF senior associate, writes about how every neighborhood is rich with educational resources and identifies three of these resources: local knowledge, neighborhood associations, and local institutions.
Popular library manager David Siders describes a new experiment in civic engagement at the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, one of the busiest public libraries in the nation. The deliberative, community project invites people to consider how all citizens might use and enjoy Piatt Park, the oldest public park in downtown Cincinnati.
Denison University president Adam Weinberg reflects on the role of colleges in the work of democracy, and more specifically on the role of college presidents in leading these institutions in ways that open up space for students, faculty, and staff to be part of creating a healthy democracy. The article aims to generate a conversation and vision for a civically engaged college that contributes to democratic ways of life.
Joann Mickens, the chapter services director at Parents for Public Schools, explores how Parents for Public Schools can become a learning center that brings select chapters together to encourage democratic practices to help local chapters set direction for—and act to take ownership of—accountability for the education of the children in their communities.
Over the past 20 years, as the West Virginia Center for Civic Life has partnered with organizations that have organized community initiatives throughout the state, the center’s distinct focus has been on developing sustainable democratic practices. Director Betty Knighton reflects on that history and describes a recent initiative, “What’s Next, West Virginia?,” which explores ways to develop active citizenship in the governance of economic change.
Education specialist Kathleen Pate outlines work at the Clinton Presidential Library related to the civic education of young people, including the creation of a historic decisions issue guide and a collaboration between the library and the National World War I Museum and Memorial. She explains that by deliberating on issues in the past, young people can recognize their capacity to deliberate on the present challenges they face.
Daniel Sarewitz, professor of science and society and codirector of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes at Arizona State University, argues that on many public issues, the complexity of reality, and the mix of values and facts, is such that definitive knowledge cannot be achieved. He explains that the voices and values of everyday citizens must play a central role in the decisions that determine how technological advances affect broader society.