Investing in Democracy: Engaging Citizens in Collaborative by Carmen Sirianni

By Carmen Sirianni

The future health of yank democracy finally depends upon our willingness and talent to interact as electorate and stakeholders in our republic. executive regulations frequently fail to advertise such collaboration. but when designed appropriately, they could do a lot to reinforce civic engagement. that's the imperative message of Carmen Sirianni's eloquent new book.

instead of motivate voters to have interaction in civic task, govt frequently places stumbling blocks of their approach. Many corporations deal with electorate as passive consumers instead of as group participants, overlooking their skill to mobilize resources and networks to resolve difficulties. Many citizen tasks run up opposed to inflexible principles and bureaucratic silos, inflicting all however the such a lot committed activists to lose center. The unfortunate—and unnecessary—result is a palpable decline within the caliber of civic existence.

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Finally, of course, government is accountable to the general public, however complex and challenging a task such accountability has become, whereas private foundations are accountable first and foremost to their boards. If a foundation board chooses to invest in programs that treat people as recipients of charitable services and as communities defined by their deficits, we may complain and criticize and try to induce changes in practice. When our government fails to invest in the tools we need to be effective citizens and to enable our collaborative public work, or even worse to impede it, we have every right and responsibility to hold such a government accountable.

Let me here make only a few basic points. First, democratic government has a fundamental and fully legitimate interest in its citizens’ having the requisite civic skills, networks, and deliberative forums needed to sustain a self-governing republic—at least if, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin upon exiting the Constitutional Convention in 1787, we wish to keep it. We may test—and contest—what a selfgoverning republic means for a complex polity in a globalizing world of the twenty-first century and how direct civic engagement can and should be properly interwoven with democratic representation, bureaucratic administration, and other tools of governance.

65 In Seattle, collaborative approaches emerged over two decades from the complex interplay of local neighborhood activism and environmentally sustainable city planning, mandated by state law (chapter 3), which find important complements through the design of the Puget Sound National 01-0312-9 CH1 1/29/09 5:23 PM Page 29 Government as Civic Enabler 29 Estuary Program and various collaborative salmon, shellfish, and other restoration projects and networks. These, in turn, helped shape the design of a new state office with a broad civic structure and strategy (chapter 5).

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