Engagement and commitment are intangibles; they come from within. It’s the culmination of the psychological, social and intellectual connection one has with matters that affect their communities.
This connection is what motivates and is ultimately the driving force behind productive, progressive change. Giving people freedom to make decisions engages and empowers them and within the local community this has to occur through mutual respect, caring and group participation. The process of empowerment does not happen alone; it’s accomplished with others. So as citizens collectively engage, change becomes a part of the culture rather than temporary solutions to permanent problems.
Active community engagement represents a certain optimism that one’s effort and dedication can and will improve the social and economic infrastructure necessary for communal stability.
When people lacking an equal share of resources gain greater access and control of those resources, individually, they gain a personal sense of efficacy. The results can be seen in a more informed citizenry, self-awareness leading to a better understanding of individual roles within the community and better utilization of individual strengths that contribute to community problem-solving.
Collectively, citizens are then able to coalesce through devotion to a common cause that expands beyond self-fulfillment. This inspired loyalty helps develop effective strategies to face challenges and strengthens resolve during times of adversity. The balance of equity and social responsibility can only occur when all social groups believe that the community as a whole is better when its moving parts are in alignment.
Enabling others to act empowers them in a way that promotes ownership of what they’re doing, thus, removing civic apathy while working to become an active part of the solution. This can also create a sense of urgency to improve conditions or policies that hinder progressive change. Oftentimes, inertia within or outside of the community takes hold, whether through resistance to new ideas from new voices or reliance on old policy embedded in the status quo. This inertia must be replaced with imperatives and communication that addresses the need for change.
When people feel as though they have the power to act on their own initiative they may become more open to see merit in the viewpoints of others. In other words, if a person is given the opportunity to freely make decisions that they feel protect their interests, they tend to be more open to compromise.
As we work to define the social and economic needs of the community, we must actively search for common ground with an open mind so as we explore our commonalities we open the door for individual and social growth.