Giving Compass' Take:

• The Aspen Institute interviews Maria Hadden, Executive Director of Our City Our Voice to understand her perspective on civic engagement and it's significance in the nonprofit sector. 

• How is civic engagement tied to philanthropy? 

• Read the Aspen Institute's interview with Grayce Liu,  General Manager for the City of Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, about the role of dialogue in civic engagement. 

Maria Hadden is the Executive Director of Our City Our Voice, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to support civic engagement processes and organizing with the goal of building community capacity to advance transformative social justice and democratic practice in the United States.

This interview is part of the Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation’s series of conversations with inclusive innovation practitioners.

Jennifer Bradley:  How do you define civic engagement?

Maria Hadden:  Civic engagement is a broad umbrella of activities.  It is people doing things that are contributing to the social fabric of society.

JB:  Why does civic engagement matter?

MH:  Without civic engagement, without these activities, without people fostering spaces so that these activities can happen and continue, we lose the ability to communicate, to share information, and to maintain some of the prerequisites for healthy democratic societies.

JB:  Where is civic engagement most difficult, and how do you deal with that?

MH:  It’s not difficult to have a good civic engagement project, and it’s not difficult to have a good civic engagement program.  The difficulty is maintenance–what does ongoing civic engagement look like, how is it responsive, how is it flexible?

JB:  How do you measure success?

MH:  The communities set the success metrics for themselves, because they have different starting points: Are you designing a process or a program, or do you want more people engaged, or more people engaged in different ways, or different groups of people, like more young people, engaged?

JB:  Are there things that are important to know about civic engagement that did not come up in the questions so far?

MH:  Touching on the idea of meaningful engagement, I’d say, especially from a decision maker or leadership perspective, it’s really important for sustainable civic engagement to have meaningful outcomes.

Read the full article about civic engagement by Jennifer Bradley at The Aspen Institute