Research on Civic Capacity: An Analysis of Kettering Literature and Related Scholarship

Full Description

This Kettering Foundation working paper synthesizes recent work by the foundation and related scholarship on the topic of community and analyzes the literature through a conceptual framework that has been developed through the foundation’s research. The central theme of the research reviewed here is the “civic capacities” of communities: the characteristics of communities that allow them to come together across their differences to face their challenges. These civic capacities have to do with how a community functions politically, that is, how well different sectors of a community—businesses, government agencies, schools, civic organizations, diverse groups of citizens, and so on—recognize interrelated interests so they can function together.

Civic capacities are distinct from, and complementary to, technical capacities of institutions and organizations, such as money, communications technologies, scientific planning, and administrative efficiency. While important in their own right, technical capacities are apolitical in nature, in the sense that they have little direct effect on the political work of bringing diverse groups together to make difficult choices and act collectively. Technical capacity is an important resource in getting things done, but it is most effective when joined with civic capacity, so that all the different entities in a community are brought into coordination with one another. Ideally, a community will be strong in both its civic and technical dimensions.

Topics covered by this working paper’s authors—Kettering Foundation program officer Derek Barker, Kettering research associates, and independent scholars—include:

  • Civic and Technical Capacity
  • Community Decision Making: Practices and Techniques
  • Civic Innovation and Leadership
  • Community Resilience in the Face of Natural Disasters
  • Higher Education Institutions and Civic Capacity
  • Schools, Community, and Education as Coproduced

Item Details

Page Count: 
Published Date: 
Theory and Practice

Related Research