New Research Brief: "Civic Wealth: A Framework for Understanding Civic Engagement"

Friday, December 8, 2017
Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, Scholars Strategy Network and Insight Center for Community Economic Development

Civic Wealth: A Framework for Understanding Civic Engagement provides a foundation for a structural analysis of political inequality, introducing the concept of “civic wealth” to offer a more holistic and complete picture of political engagement and disengagement. The authors initiate an exploration of this concept in hopes of adding to a growing body of work aimed at increasing civic engagement among those most excluded, disenfranchised, and devalued by our current political system. Civic engagement and political participation cannot be “mobilized” by sporadic, election-oriented efforts. Instead, the authors assert we must develop strategies that take into account the outcome of historical processes and institutions that have incentivized and facilitated participation for some communities and not others.

Co-authored by Avi Green of the Scholars Strategy Network (SSN), Jamila Michener of Cornell University, Shauna Shames of Rutgers University, and Jhumpa Bhattacharya of Insight Center for Community Economic Development, the report traces the failures of past measures of civic engagement to explain persistent inequities, especially racial inequity, and moves to introduce the concept of "civic" wealth as a productive corrective. 

Drawing on the broader concept of civic wealth—and using economic wealth as a model—the authors make the case that understanding the full story requires attentiveness to both assets and liabilities. Read the report to learn how civic wealth functions as a composite measure that incorporates both assets and liabilities into a single number or score, and constitutes a larger set of material, ideational and institutional resources that report authors hypothesize translate into political power and lead to crucial public policy outcomes.

Click here to view and download Civic Wealth: A Framework for Understanding Civic Engagement.