Cities today are driving societal change at local, state, national, and global levels; and communities and organizations are elemental components of cities. How can we apply civic stewardship to foster vital communities and realize cities' potential for equity, creativity, and wellbeing?
Over the last 50 years, we have made little or no progress in the U.S. on many civic outcomes: Rates of poverty, drop-outs, disease, homelessness, and crime are about what they were in 1970; and this is particularly salient in distressed urban neighborhoods. An underlying cause is the persistent misalignment between institutional policies and programs on the one hand, and community needs, aspirations, and practices on the other.
Civic stewardship enables communities to join with institutions as equal partners to co-create and jointly implement systemic solutions at neighborhood and citywide levels. It provides a platform of "stewardship capabilities" to promote civic innovation and collaboration. These capabilities include: leadership development, community measures, civic technologies, participatory design methods, knowledge management, and social impact investing.
We have launched an initiative in Boston to develop the approach and seed new initiatives with partners throughout the metro area. Given its potential impact on civic wellbeing, and the growing influence of cities worldwide, the time is ripe for transformative civic stewardship.
To learn more about our effort to build a community of practice on "community engagement for racial equity," see Bridging Communities.