Democracy as Problem Solving: Civic Capacity in Communities Across the Globe

By     Sep 21, 2011

NAS team

This post was the result of the efforts of several members of the staff

Making change in communities requires civic capacity. Power is wielded not only by elected politicians, but also by the concerned citizens who work together to address local issues. The more social capital (connections within and between social networks) present in a community, the greater the possibility for collective action against pressing problems.

We know that nonprofit organizations fit into this equation, as public participation creates bonds amongst community members, engendering tolerance and agency (capacity to act). Furthermore, leaders must know who their organizations are serving and what the concerns of those people are. The organization might not be explicitly involved in tackling problems, but the democratic nature of nonprofits spurs leaders to think about their mission in the context of local issues.

This piece is a bit of an outlier on our list. As Briggs notes in the introduction, it is written for scholars of civic life and social progress so it is slightly less accessible than other selections. However, Briggs’ insights draw upon not only his own international field research, but also some studies by ubiquitous authors such as Robert Putnam. You will come away from this selection with new ideas on your role as a leader in your community.

Available online »

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