Giving Compass' Take:

• Angela Glover Blackwell shares her insights into the diverse activists working to engage the political process and how this can lead to a robust and authentic civil society in America. This article is part of the Civil Society for the 21st Century series, produced by Independent Sector and Stanford Social Innovation Review.

• How can philanthropy support diverse civil society? What are the consequences of an unengaged population?

• Find out how civil society acts as an immune system for democracy.

For years intellectuals have wrung their hands about how to sustain a vast, vigorous civil society in an increasingly diverse nation. But today, millions of people—activists of color, youth, and women especially—are taking multi-pronged action to defend civil rights, democratic values, and norms of decency.

In my 40-plus years as a professional in civil society, I have never seen such an energized populace working to advance America’s highest ideals of justice, inclusion, fairness, and opportunity for all. Now a deeper, more exhilarating question arises:

Can robust civic engagement, grounded in the quest for full inclusion and equity, produce an authentic, modern-day civil society that redefines the public good and ushers in a 21st-century social compact?

Civil rights laws tamped down bald discrimination and the most vicious displays of prejudice, at least until recently. Yet the entrenched structures of racism maintain two separate and shamefully inequitable societies: one, largely White, characterized by opportunity; the other, disproportionately of color, characterized by poverty and nearly frozen mobility.

The recent wave of protests and resistance efforts have gotten most of the attention, but in my travels around the country, I also see innumerable examples of low-income people, people of color, and youth working to build communities and a nation that work for all. These communities need more than glee clubs, garden societies, and philosophical discourse to improve and enrich lives.

Efforts like these define what government and the business sector should be doing in a diverse nation with epic inequality, and barriers that prevent millions of people from participating in economic, political, and civic life. These efforts, fueled by the radical imagination of contemporary civil society stewards, are modeling what society must do: authentically engage diverse communities to articulate problems, determine priorities and solutions, and create a just, inclusive nation—an America that shows the world what equitable democracy looks like.

Read the full article about authentic civil society by Angela Glover Blackwell at Stanford Social Innovation Review.