Archives for the month of: September, 2011

A report released today by the National Conference on Citizenship, CICLE (the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), Civic Enterprises, Saguaro Seminar, and the National Constitution Center suggests that “levels of civic engagement in 2006 and 2008 strongly predicted how well states and large metro areas would weather the unemployment crisis of 2006-10.”

This is an exciting report. There is a great deal of research that suggests that higher levels of civic engagement are associated with greater “resiliency” by communities.

According to CIRCLE researchers:

The report carefully notes that we cannot tell for sure whether civic engagement lowers unemployment; other explanations are explored. However, the statistical relationships are notably strong and deserve much more attention by economists, policymakers, and the public.

The statistical analysis itself cannot explain why civic engagement may be an important factor in avoiding unemployment, but other research lends support for several hypotheses:

  • Participation in civil society can develop skills, confidence, and habits that make individuals employable and strengthen the networks that help them to find jobs
  • People get jobs through social networks (online and offline)
  • Participation in civil society spreads information relevant to investors and workers
  • Participation in civil society is strongly correlated with trust in other people, and people who trust others are more likely to invest and hire
  • Communities and political jurisdictions with stronger civil societies are more likely to have good governments
  • Civic engagement can encourage people to feel attached to their communities

I am proud of my past association with the National Conference on Citizenship: I was the chief writer and my company, the Mannakee Circle Group, was a partner in the development of last year’s Maryland Civic Health Index.

Facebook has just unveiled a new feature they call “Subscribe.” Essentially, you can now follow people without friending them.

I created this quick screencast to show how it works. It’s totally simple:

The Great Recession officially began December 2007.

Here is the impact of the last few years, as released by the Census Bureau today:

Sad Face

'Sad Face'

Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 ─ the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate.  There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.

The number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 49.0 million in 2009 to 49.9 million in 2010, while the percentage without coverage −16.3 percent – was not statistically different from the rate in 2009.

Lower income, more poverty, more uninsured.

Photo: Naughty Architect (Flickr)

I created a Prezi that goes through the process I use to frame issues for public deliberation, and filmed a video that walks through it. I thought this might be helpful in talking to colleagues about how I go about doing my work — it is not the only method to frame issues, but it has been working for me.

(It may also help me explain to my friends just what it is I do!)

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The Prezi itself is available for you to play with here.

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I am delighted to announce a new issue book developed by the Kettering Foundation for the National Issues Forums titled: A Nation In Debt: How Do We Pay The Bills? This issue guide, authored by my good friends and colleagues Tony Wharton and Noelle McAfee, is the latest in the issue book library of which I am Executive Editor.

Click to download from the NIFI website

We worked very hard getting this guide finished — researching, writing, testing and re-testing. I am really proud of it.

The new guide is available to purchase for download or as a hardcopy at the National Issues Forums Institute website.

The following is from the introduction to A Nation in Debt: How Can We Pay the Bills?

It’s become apparent to many Americans that if we do not act decisively on the nation’s debt soon, our economy will be seriously hobbled and we will dump an unsustainable burden on our children and grandchildren.

“What’s decided (or not decided) over the next few years will spell big changes for the way we live our daily lives,” write Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson in Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis. “How the country solves or doesn’t solve this problem will affect our paychecks, our investments, our mortgages, our kids’ prospects in life, what kind of health care we’ll get, our chances of ever getting to retire-even whether we live in a country that’s fair, stable and prosperous.”

This 12-page issue guide presents an overview of the problem and three options for deliberation.

Option One: Agree to Make Sacrifices Now – We need to compromise on our differences and act now to reduce the national debt.  If this generation doesn’t make needed sacrifices, we’re simply passing the burden to the next generation. It’s time to face this urgent problem.  We need to raise taxes and cut spending; neither will get the job done alone.

Option Two: Strengthen Checks and Balances – We cannot just hope that personal discipline and basic legislative safeguards will control the urge to spend.  Citizens willingly accept more benefits than government can afford and leaders are too willing to help us dig this hole.  Our top priority should be to make systemic changes to increase fiscal responsibility.

Option Three: Invest in Growth First – We need to encourage economic growth and invest in research, development, infrastructure, and science education.  Growing the economy will boost tax revenues, make the debt more manageable, and will be better for the country in the long run.  Drastic cost-cutting measures would likely harm the economy as it tries to recover.