Diagnosing Civic Health: Difficult but Critical

Defining indicators to measure civic health.

Jun 24, 2015 | BLOG POST

By Randall Reid, ICMA Staff

Civic health indicators are a topic of interest among communities concerned with the quality of life of their citizens. The term broadly implies the measurement of community well-being. With the recent focus on civic upheaval and controversies over policing practices and violence in both small and large communities, many public officials seek to better understand the alienation and social inequity that exist in our communities.

It is no small task to measure the well-being of a diverse community, but that may be critical for managers of the future if current trends of polarization and economic disparity continue. The National Civic League provides the Civic Index as a tool to help communities assess their civic health. And the National Conference on Citizenship focuses on community attributes such as these from which to develop civic health metrics:

Service and Volunteering: To what extent are citizens stepping forward, engaging in service to and with fellow community members?

Group Membership and Leadership: To what extent are citizens joining organizations and other groups that meet on a regular basis? How many are stepping forward to lead community activities?

Connecting to Information: To what extent are citizens getting informed, by print or broadcast news and online sources, as well as discussions with neighbors and friends, about community issues and politics?

Social Connectedness: To what extent are citizens inclined to interact with neighbors, working together informally to fix things in their communities or even to just get to know each other?

Political Action: To what extent are citizens voting and taking other political actions beyond voting or meeting with office holders, writing letters to the editor, blogging about civic issues, or attending rallies, civic demonstrations, or public meetings.

ICMA is working with communities to assist in the development of civic health metrics in Florida in cooperation with the Bob Graham Center at the University of Florida, the Florida League of Cities, and the Florida City and County Management Association. Literature on the subject includes the Boston Indicators Project and The Tamarack Institute’s “Approaches to Measure More Community Engagement” for those interested in the topic.


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