What does civic leadership look like to you? Getting involved in local activism, community organizing, equity work, or politics can feel intimidating or even impossible. With so many issues plaguing our country – and so many ways to get involved – it’s hard to know exactly where and how to get started.
This month, we’re highlighting the values of civic engagement and all the ways you can get started and build an equitable future from the ground up. Starting from your own backyard!
One of the greatest barriers to civic engagement is feeling like you don’t have the skills, background, or even life structure needed for the job. For some, it’s a struggle to know where to begin and how to apply their skills and expertise. For others, there’s a disconnect between their day-to-day experiences and the impact local policy has on their lives.
“Some citizens simply aren’t aware of the magnitude of decisions others make on our behalf, and learning the rules or how systems work requires time and research,” says Nora Antoine, Director of Regional Impact for LEE’s South Dakota region. “The timing of various civic engagement opportunities may also be a barrier.”
Even those with the greatest ambitions to create change can feel discouraged and confused when it comes to local community engagement.
That’s why we provide wraparound support for all members. Whether you’re interested in running for office or bringing your community together towards a common goal, you have what it takes to make a difference for yourself, your family, and your neighbors.
Federal or statewide issues can feel vast and far away, but the seeds for change, progress, and even the status quo are planted and nourished at the local level.
Your community is the starting point for large-scale policy and mindsets, which means you are uniquely positioned to create real, lasting change. When you commit to civic engagement at the local level, you commit to the full weight of your power to better the world, create opportunity, and ultimately, increase equity for all.
“Civic engagement, at its core means working to make a difference, working for common good – where outcomes, such as laws and policies, reflect values,” Antoine says. “It entails understanding our values and aligning our values to relevant work[…] intentionally cultivating public relationships to shift systems towards fairness and greater equity.”
What do you envision for your community? How can your vision increase equity in your community? We can help you build your vision for the future and use it as a guiding source of inspiration towards the “relevant work” that meets your needs:
“Seemingly, there may be others more knowledgeable or more connected in your community,” Antoine says. “But for whatever reason, they are not stepping up. If you discover a need – fill it.”
We believe that the experts on any community are community members themselves – like you!
Just by virtue of living and breathing local life, you have a unique perspective and insight on the challenges your town, city, or county faces. And changes at the local level have the greatest impact on our daily lives, our relationships, and our ability to live our passions and fulfill our greatest pursuits.
“Public service has roots in our families and cultures,” Antoine says. “When you live in a community, I believe there is a responsibility to contribute to that community to make things better for others and for future residents. I believe living in a community requires stewardship and a level of caretaking that goes beyond transactional effort.”
When you put your vision for change into action, you not only launch your own leadership journey but can immediately touch the lives of those around you, driving change for the better from the ground up.
Whether you want to start by volunteering at local food banks, libraries, nonprofit organizations, or you have grander plans for your own civic campaign, there’s no “right” way to get involved and make a difference.
“I have the pleasure of knowing many LEE members who care about others: their families, community, and people they work alongside. Where there are good things happening – there are LEE members!”
Not yet a member, but interested in becoming a part of the LEE network? Join the LEE Movement.