Gov: Civic Participation


Civic participation is essential in a democracy. Citizens who get involved in civic and community groups help to strengthen civil society. At the same time, they tend to become more engaged in the political process. Most people fall into one of four broad categories of civic engagement. Electoral specialists are those whose main engagement is through the election process. People in this group vote, volunteer in political campaigns, and try to persuade others to vote as well. Civic specialists focus on improving their communities and helping others. They join local civic groups, support nonprofit organizations, and take part in fundraising activities for worthy causes. Dual activists are made up of people who engage in both electoral and civic activities. They may be found passing out leaflets in a political campaign one day and volunteering in a shelter the next. The disengaged is made up of people who are not significantly engaged in civic life. They don’t vote or pay attention to civic affairs.

Civic engagement takes many forms:

  • writing a press release
  • writing a letter to the editor
  • communicating with a public official
  • organizing a letter writing campaign
  • testifying before a public body
  • creating an issue ad or web site
  • giving an interview or speech
  • writing and circulating a petition
  • creating and conducting an opinion survey
  • joining a campaign or interest group
  • organizing a fundraiser
  • sponsoring a ballot initiative or referendum
  • organizing a protest or boycott
  • running for public office
  • starting an interest group

Craig Kielburger set out to change the world as a wide-eyed, 12-year-old full of hope and vigor. Kielburger knows now there are some things you can’t change, but that hasn’t dampened his spirit or his commitment to Free the Children, the charity he founded in his parent’s living room. Kielburger’s charity is now in 45 countries and takes in $30 million per year. It’s the largest organization of children helping children in the world. It all began in the 1990s when he read about a boy in Pakistan who was killed for trying to stop child labor. He knew he had to do something about it. So, he went to Asia, and with the help of activists and government officials, helped shut down sweatshops and brothels manned by children.

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