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Civic Engagement and Social Capital

In order to be good citizens, it is important that each person be educated and informed about the public issues affecting their professional and personal lives. Also, in order to be responsible owners of an SRB, it is important that the individuals know how local, state and national laws affect their business, as well as WHO is passing such laws (i.e., politicians). It is also important that students understand the importance of their involvement in the larger community, and that those who benefit from democracy have a civic duty to participate in the process.

 

Civic Engagement - One organization that is very interested in civic engagement is Campus Compact, which is a coalition of nearly 1,000 college and university who are committed to fulfilling the public purposes of higher education. As the only national association dedicated to this mission, Campus Compact is a leader in building civic engagement into campus and academic life.

 

According to the Campus Compact website (http://www.compact.org/students):

 

“This generation of students is more involved in public and community service than has been true for decades. Indeed, students are not passive or disengaged. They have an active interest in global equity and in local community-development issues. They have an extraordinary sensitivity to multicultural issues and the importance of learning how to work with those different from themselves. Those who are privileged are uncomfortable with that privilege, and many students actively seek to improve the conditions of others.”

 

In their written annual report, SAGE teams should demonstrate their involvement in public and community service, and to show how their activities have instilled in them a greater sense of civic duty and responsibility. Some skills that students can acquire through civic engagement include political knowledge, public problem-solving, collective action and organizational skills.

 

While student interest in public and community service is high, by the time they reach voting age (assuming they live in a democratic country), many don’t vote. This comes at a time when their governments are failing to solve major problems, such as poverty, health care, unemployment, environmental degradation and drug trafficking. Voter turnout has declined almost everywhere, including in the U.S. While it is true that social entrepreneurs are filling an unmet need that historically has been viewed as government’s responsibility, it is still government’s responsibility to translate the will of its citizens into public policy.

 

SAGE believes that voting-age citizens who fail to vote in a democracy should not complain if their government is not serving them in the manner they deem appropriate. But stronger participation yields stronger government, and that is why we encourage SAGE teams to undertake projects that increase their knowledge about the importance of civic engagement.

 

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Social Capital - An entity within the community has strong social capital if it has an influential network of other members who can be trusted to work together for the common good; moreover, some of these members have access to resources that can help the network accomplish its goals.

 

An example of a local network is a city’s Rotary Club. A national network is the League of Women Voters. A transnational social movement organization (TSMO) is an international network advocating educating reform. One example of a TSMO is SAGEGLOBAL, which seeks to change high school education by providing a new structure for students to complete business and social ventures during the year, and then showcase them to a panel of influential judges at the end of the year.

 

Involvement - In completing their activities, SAGE teams should demonstrate their involvement in public and community service, and to show how their activities have instilled in them a greater sense of civic duty and responsibility. Some skills that students can acquire through civic engagement include political knowledge, public problem-solving, collective action and organizational skills.