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America + Civic Language

October 18, 2022

The words Americans use to describe, debate, and examine our civic values, ideals, and practices are also the words we use to connect, share, and co-create our community and national future. What can we know about how aligned we are on our language choices related to our civic lives? Perhaps another concern underlies this question: are we talking past each other about values we think we share? This was the core inquiry that animated Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE)'s Civic Language Perceptions Project. In November 2021, PACE and Citizen Data surveyed a nationally representative sample of 5000 American voters to understand their perceptions of 21 terms that are commonly used in democracy and civic engagement work, and who they associate using those terms. In March 2022, we released the data to the public and embarked on an effort to analyze and disaggregate the data from multiple angles and perspectives. We now combine the quantitative and qualitative analysis to highlight key findings.

Infogagement: Citizenship and Democracy in the Age of Connection

September 1, 2014

Our traditional notions about the "public square" are out of date. In thinking about informa- tion, engagement, and public life, we have generally put information first: people need to be educated, and then they will become politically involved (the original title of this PACE project was, accordingly, "Information for Engagement"). But as we interviewed leading thinkers and practitioners in the fields of journalism, civic technology, and public engagement, it became clear that the sources of information and the possibilities for engagement have diversified dramatically. Instead of a linear progression from education to involvement, public life seems to seethe and spark with connections and reactions that are often unexpected and always hard to map. Our Norman Rockwell image of public life has become something more like a Jackson Pollock painting.

The New Laboratories of Democracy: How Local Government Is Reinventing Civic Engagement

May 29, 2009

All over the country, local governments are mobilizing citizens in innovative ways to set priorities, make decisions, overcome conflicts, and solve critical community problems. Local government officials, both elected and appointed, are pioneering a concept called "democratic governance," the art of governing communities in participatory, deliberative, collaborative ways. For example, as local fiscal conditions continue to spiral downward, many cities are using the opportunity to approach tough, complex and controversial budget decisions by seeking input from the community about their wants and needs, their evaluation of services, and their priorities. These local innovations are highlighted in this valuable report from PACE, " The New Laboratories of Democracy: How Local Governments are Reinventing Civic Engagement." The report traces the development of a new set of values among citizens, elected officials and public managers, one that emphasizes collaboration, deliberation, consensus-building and participation. Readers will glean fresh insights from experts and leaders in the emerging field of democratic government and learn of vibrant examples of communities that are trying new approaches to planning and decision-making.

Funding and Fostering Local Democracy: What Philanthropy Should Know About the Emerging Field of Deliberation and Democratic Governance

April 1, 2009

This guide describes strategies and stories of how local civic engagement has developed over the past decade. Written by Matt Leighninger, the director of AmericaSpeak's project Deliberative Democracy Consortium, Funding and Fostering Local Democracy: What Philanthropy Should Know about the Emerging Field of Deliberation and Democratic Governance seeks to help the philanthropic community make informed decisions about their support in the emerging field of deliberative democracy.