FirstEval-Melissa Kovacs


Civility – Politics, Communities, and the Economy

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Phoenix and Arizona State University were honored to be the host of the National Conference on Citizenship’s (NCOC) 66th annual conference this week, the first to be held outside of Washington, D.C.  Many fascinating discussions were held, including yesterday’s panel on civility and political discourse and today’s panel discussing data, education, and dialogue. 

Yesterday, former Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah and AZ State Senator Kyrsten Sinema offered reasons why our level of civility in politics has changed.  Both elected officials noted a lessening of the tendency to sit down and share a “beverage” after the legislative day’s work is done – most legislators travel back to their homes on weekends or are encouraged by party leadership to not associate with the opposite party.  Yet, forming relationships is a necessary building block to civility and working together, Sen. Sinema noted.  She referenced her own experience of taking to heart this simple idea – that successful human relationships are grounded in civility, and, with civility, legislative compromise is achievable. 

This morning’s panel members noted that data is revolutionizing civic engagement.  Data can motivate and mobilize communities to better understand a problem and help define issues, according to Trish Tchume of Demos.  This was one of the key purposes of measuring civic indicators on an annual basis, as NCOC’s Civic Health Index does, including political involvement measures, social capitol measures, civic learning, and volunteering. 

Yet the quote “what gets measured gets done” resounded throughout the discussion, as mobilization, understanding of the issues, and civic engagement all stem from a basis of clear measurement of social problems. 

Finally, a new NCOC report links the very timely topic of economic growth and employment with civic health.  The study “finds that five measures of civic engagement – attending meetings, helping neighbors, registering to vote, volunteering and voting – appear to help protect against unemployment and contribute to overall economic resilience.” 

In all, civility is not only vital to successful political outcomes and political participation, but it crucially keeps communities healthy both economically and socially.

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