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Civic Engagement: An Engine for Economic Recovery?

A new report indicates that cities and states with high levels of civic health in 2006 rebuffed the economic collapse and unemployment crisis better than their less-engaged counterparts.

Submitted by: Guest Contributor

Posted: Aug 30, 2012 – 09:00 AM EST

Tags: ncoc, civic engagement, csr, jobs, economy, human resources, hr, business ethics, trust, government


By David B. Smith, Executive Director, NCoC

As Labor Day approaches and the campaign season moves into full swing, the national conversation about the economy and jobs continues to heat up. At the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), we believe that social capital is as important as human and financial capital in overcoming the nation’s economic downturn. 

We’ve got research to prove it – and more on the way.  

Civic Health & Economic Resilience

Last fall, NCoC and its partners published a report showing the strong correlation between civic health and economic resilience. In short, cities and states with high levels of civic health in 2006 rebuffed the economic collapse and unemployment crisis better than their less-engaged counterparts between 2006 and 2010.

This was true even when controlling for numerous economic variables including housing inflation, presence of oil and gas industries, and a workforce with professional degrees.

While this research showed a strong positive correlation between civic health and resiliency against unemployment, we are now investigating how and why this connection exists. With the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, we are exploring six hypotheses based on issues including:

  • Human capital: Participation in civic society can help develop skills, confidence, and habits that make people employable.
  • Networks: People get jobs through social networks, including neighbors, service organizations, and community groups.
  • Information: Better information flow makes it easier to find jobs and employees, and for citizens to communicate with government.
  • Trust: Trusting relationships are more likely to spread membership and information, and instill the confidence necessary to invest, hire, and build businesses.
  • Good Government: Communities with stronger civil societies are more likely to have good governments, which lead to higher performing schools, and inclusive and resonant public policies that affect unemployment and social services.
  • Attachment: Feelings of attachment to community increases the odds that one will invest, spend, and hire there.

NCoC report on civic engagement and unemploymentWe are also delving deeper into the role nonprofits play in the underlying economic health of communities. In many communities, nonprofits are the hub for social innovation and play a critical role in solving our nation’s social and economic problems.

There are 1.4 million nonprofits in America, employing 10.7 million Americans – over 10 percent of the workforce – and channeling almost $300 billion in investment into local communities each year.

The 67th Annual National Conference on Citizenship

We will release the new findings at the 67th Annual National Conference on Citizenship in Philadelphia on September 14, 2012.

NCoC: National Conference on CitizenshipNCoC will be joined by national and local business leaders, banking leaders, federal policymakers, local elected officials, nonprofit leaders, and academics from across the country in an effort to further explore this connection and ensure civic health strategies are included in national and regional economic development plans.

Featured speakers and award winners include:

  • Jonathan Greenblatt, Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation
  • The Honorable Norman Mineta, former Cabinet Secretary under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton
  • Bob Nardelli, former CEO of Chrysler and Home Depot
  • Nnamdi Asomugha, cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles
  • Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Christina Lurie, Owner of the Philadelphia Eagles
  • Sarah Bloom Raskin, Governor on the Federal Reserve Board
  • John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises
  • Aman Singh, Editorial Director, CSRwire

The event will also be streamed live on Friday, September 14th from 1:00pm - 5:30pm ET on the NCoC website. We will include questions from our Twitter followers as part of the conference so please join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.


Editor's Note: CSRwire's Editorial Director Aman Singh will be at the NCoC conference bringing you live updates and observations through the day. Stay tuned at #NCoC and @CSRwire!


About the Author

David B. Smith is the Executive Director of NCoC, a dynamic, non-partisan nonprofit working at the forefront of our nation’s civic life. The NCoC continuously explores what shapes today’s citizenry, defines the evolving role of the individual in our democracy, and uncovers ways to motivate greater participation.

Through our events, research, and reports, NCoC expands our nation’s contemporary understanding of what it means to be a citizen. We seek new ideas and approaches for creating greater civic health and vitality throughout the United States.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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