Defining Civic Engagement

Civic engagement is active involvement in the discourse dealing with the need to develop and utilize knowledge for the improvement of society, to use talents and offer wisdom for the greater good, and to provide opportunities for education in the spirit of a democratic society.

Civic engagement can be defined as (i) recognition of oneself as a member of a larger social fabric, (ii) seeing social problems as at least in part one's own, (iii) willingness to see the civic and moral dimensions of issues, (iv) tolerance and respect, (v) intimately connected to moral responsibility because necessarily concerned with prescriptive judgment, and (vi) viewing oneself as a member of a shared social structure and a fair target of reactive attitudes, such as praise and blame.

Civic engagement is the duty to be informed and engaged to the fullest extent possible in the life and decisions of a democratic society and its governance.

Civic engagement means that the citizenry understands their role and the contributions their individual actions make in facilitating a working democracy. A civically educated and engaged citizen will be one who is open-minded, informed and empathetic to the idea of the public good. These are people who are interested in looking for common ground that achieves actions that benefit the common good. These are people who are skilled at public debate, coalition building, collaboration, negotiation, and synthesis of multiple perspectives.

Source: Civic Engagement in Higher Education. American Association of Higher Education 2001 Assessment Conference, Denver, Colorado. Sherril Gelmon, Moderator.