In this Cousins Research Group Report, David Mathews describes two different civic engagement movements. One is underway in higher education. On campuses across the country, leadership and service learning programs are growing, and students are taught civic skills, including civil dialogue. In addition, university partnerships with nearby communities offer technical assistance, professional advice, and access to institutional resources. The other is occurring off campus, in communities that are trying to cope with natural disasters, economic change, and other problems that threaten everyone's well-being. In these places, citizens say they want to come together as communities to maintain their communities. Unfortunately, they often have difficulty finding institutions that understand their agenda.
Why are these two civic movements in danger of passing like the proverbial ships in the night? Mathews explores this disconnect, noting, "It would seem that two civic engagement movements, occurring at the same time and often in the same locations, would be closely allied -- perhaps mutually reinforcing. That doesn't seem to be happening very often." He goes on to suggest how these efforts might become mutually supportive.