Robin F. Bachin is the Assistant Provost for Civic and Community Engagement and the Charlton W. Tebeau Associate Professor of History at the University of Miami. Connecting the academy and the public has been central to Bachin’s academic career, and shaped her desire to found the Office of Civic and Community Engagement at UM. She also has worked on several projects that promote affordable housing and urban revitalization in South Florida.

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?

Robin Bachin: Civic engagement is when people take an active role in the life of their communities. There are a variety of components to that. First is being aware of the issues that your community is confronting, but also being able to step back and analyze the dynamics and structures that have created that issue. What goes along with that is a sense of empathy, understanding that you need to be able to empathize with the conditions of people who might be different from you. Second is defining expertise broadly so that we look at situations from multiple perspectives.

JB: Why does civic engagement matter? 

RB:  Civic engagement is the foundation of a democratic society. There are two related but often competing components to a democracy. One is individual liberty, and the other is the public good. How do you balance those two? The way to effectively do that is for people to take an active role in shaping their communities.

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